Is Maui Open for Tourism? Tips for a Respectful Visit
The early morning wildfire of August 8, 2023, had devastating impacts on Maui. While we may never know the exact origins of the brushfire that ignited near the town of Lahaina, nearby residents reported a downed power line as a potential culprit. Contributing to spread of the fire were the moderate drought conditions in the area, as well as strong winds affecting the island. The affected areas of Maui were primarily Kula, in Maui’s upcountry, and Lahaina. Regardless of the cause, after the smoke cleared Maui would never be the same. This article’s purpose is to answer the question “is Maui open for tourism?”. We’re not suggesting tourism is more important than the rebuilding and healing of Lahaina.
Is Maui Open for Tourism?
In the immediate aftermath of the fires, local and state government asked visitors on Maui to leave. They also encouraged people who were coming in the next several weeks to reschedule their travel or switch to another island. We were blown away by the compassion and understanding our clients had as they pivoted their vacation plans.
Although there were the inevitable voices on social media declaring Maui was not open, after a couple of weeks we began to hear from Maui locals and small business owners that Maui was indeed open for tourism! Maui residents and business owners were sounding the alarm about the second tragedy they feared was coming if Maui didn’t open back up to tourism. There were reports of hotels beginning to lay off workers, and empty restaurants and shops. Airlines scaled back flights to Maui, and unrented cars filled parking lots. The reality is that even amidst a tragic event, life still goes on, and families in Maui still had bills to pay.
However, it was always clear that West Maui, where Lahaina is, was off limits. Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island, and there was still plenty island to see and support. The two Kaanapali hotels we use in our Maui Packages are in West Maui, so they have remained closed to visitors, but we were proud to find out that in the interim they have housed displaced families from Lahaina. In the last few days, Hawaii’s governor Josh Green announced that beginning October 8, all travel restrictions to West Maui will end. So, what now? How can we balance respect and compassion for those affected by the fires, while acknowledging that Maui is open for tourism?
Tips For a Respectful Visit to Maui
- Do be sensitive to the shock and grief some locals still feel. For many, it will take time to process and heal from what happened.
- Do share aloha. Aloha is reciprocal, and now is a wonderful time to bring the aloha to Maui! A smile and kind words can go so far.
- Do spend generously. Maui took a double hit, first from the fires and then from the absence of tourism. If you are financially able to do so, please consider supporting local businesses while you’re on Maui. Tip the employees who work at your resort, valet your car, clean your hotel room and wait on you at restaurants well. Some of them may have lost family members or homes.
- Don’t attempt to go to Lahaina Town. This area remains closed to the public.
- Don’t be a disaster tourist. It’s tempting to be fascinated when tragedy strikes, but please remember what you find intriguing, others may find heartbreaking. Residents may not be ready to talk about the fires, so be sensitive about bringing them up in casual interactions.
- Don’t be offended if you encounter someone who doesn’t feel like Maui should be open. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and more than likely, it’s not about you. There are multitudes of Maui residents that are ready to welcome you to their island, so just have grace with the ones who aren’t there yet.
Now that we have established that Maui is open for tourism, we hope you will consider one of our all-inclusive Maui Packages for your Maui experience! We use many local businesses in our Packages, and they are excited to welcome you to magical Maui.