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8 Must-Know Details on Visiting Maui After the Fires

visiting maui after the fires

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In the spirit of first-hand knowledge, our family returned from a seven-day trip to Maui on September 18th. We were looking forward to seeing friends and business owners get their take on visiting Maui after the fires. Unprovoked, they all said the same thing,

“ The best way you can support Maui is to visit. “

And Maui needs visitors. A Kahului runway has 20,000 dusty rental cars on it. We swam alone in the Pua’a Kaa waterfalls on the Road to Hana. Rental cars can be found for $30 a day. Plenty of seats open at The Hula Show at South Maui Gardens.

visiting maui after the fires rental cars

The Hawaiian owner of Da Mean Bean in Hana said, “Why did our government officials say Maui is closed?”

As West Maui was our home, it was refreshing to stay a full week in South Maui. We traveled the island from Makena to Wailuku to Hana to Kula during our stay. Here are our takeaways on visiting Maui after the fires.

Reminder: West Maui is now open as of the end of October which means you can book and stay in Kapalua to Ka’anapali. Lahaina is still closed of course. See our Maui Travel Updates for details.

Tips for Visiting Maui After the Fires

These takeaways on visiting Maui after the fires were first published in our twice-a-month newsletter. You can sign up for our Hawaii travel newsletter here !

As we love to show and tell, we also have these takeaways in a video. Watch to see what you can expect when you visit Maui after the fires.

1. What Should You Expect When Visiting Maui After the Fires?

Visiting Maui feels like a vacation to Maui. The crews on the snorkeling boats were thankful to have us visit, and so were the waiters at all the restaurants. People greeted us with aloha and were thrilled to have us on the island.

The biggest difference was the lack of crowds. As less than 40% of the daily visitor census is on the island, it was easy to walk into restaurants, book a tour, and drive an empty Hana Highway.

The University of Hawaii Economists expect visitor arrivals to reach 50% of their 2022 level by the end of this year, and to top 80% of their pre-fire levels by the end of 2024 50% of

As the fires were specific to the Lahaina area, we did not see any damage. We didn’t see the damage from the Kula fires during our trips to Upcountry to walk historic Makawao Town or volunteer in Kula. 

There are Maui Strong signs all over the island and people are grieving. That is clear from talking to locals and listening to the radio. As the recovery effort continues, workers want to work and businesses are eager to have you wait in line for shave ice.

rock with Maui Strong at a volunteer event on Maui

2. Where to Stay: South Maui is Open!

Ma’alaea to Wailea is full of vacation rentals, resorts, and hotels that are welcoming visitors. Ma’alaea and Kihei are full of vacation rentals, here are Erica’s 9 favorite vacation rental complexes in Kihei .

Wailea is home to luxury resorts. The Fairmont Kea Lani, Grand Wailea, The Andaz, and Wailea Beach Resort are some of the nicest places to stay in Hawaii.

We stayed in a vacation rental in Wailea during our stay so we were close to the famous Wailea beaches while having more space for the kids. See Erica’s 7 Best Vacation Rentals in Wailea and Maken a to get some ideas and book!

See our where-to-stay directory for hotel and vacation rental reviews on Maui.

Maui Travel Update Map

3. Save on a Trip to Maui

Since so few people are visiting Maui after the fires, supply and demand have brought down prices.

Our price research has found steep discounts if you want to do a last-minute trip to Maui. Hawaii in October is our favorite time of year to visit…

Rental car prices at Kahului Airport are less than $30 a day for a standard car in October. 

Airlines like Alaska and Hawaiian continue to offer flash sales and low ticket prices in general. Hawaiian Airlines has $200 to $350 roundtrip flights.

Vacation rentals are dropping in price as websites like Airbnb adapt to decrease demand but hotels have been reluctant to drop prices.

All the Hawaiian Islands are experiencing price drops as tourism decreases due to the fires. You can find good prices even into Thanksgiving when prices traditionally start to increase with demand.

4. Things to Do on Maui

730 square miles of Maui are open and ready to be explored. From sunrise on Haleakala to driving the Road to Hana with 10% off ( complete Road to Hana guide is here ), don’t think small when planning your trip.

Here are some of our favorite things to do on Maui:

  • 16 Things to Do in Upcountry
  • 14 Things to Do in Wailea
  • 14 Things to Do in Kihei
  • The 9 Best South Maui Beaches

maui tourism post fire

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The step-by-step itinerary takes you to all the best beaches, snorkeling spots, restaurants, and sights. You’ll get six carefully planned excursion days to help you see the can’t miss stops no matter how limited your time is.

Get all the details on our itinerary and download it for a memorable and easily planned trip to Maui.

5. Supporting Local is Easy

To run a business well on Maui, you have to live on Maui. Hence, most restaurants and shops are locally owned. Maui has many of the classic stores found on the mainland and other large brands so it isn’t hard to spot the mom-and-pop places.

We made sure to visit as many small Maui businesses as we could on this trip. Here are some recommendations.

  • Rent your car from a local company like Kimo’s or Kihei Rent-a-Car . The Huskin family opened Kihei Rent-a-Car in 1990 and rents Altimas, vans, and Jeeps at good prices.
  • The best local grindz (food) can be found at food trucks! South Maui Gardens has a new food truck park that will be going in my Maui Food Truck Guide . Here are Erica’s favorite restaurants in South Maui .
  • Local shopping can be found along South Kihei Road in Kihei, Baldwin Avenue in Makawao, or with a trip to Wailuku. 

Before you visit Maui after the fires, check out our video with more tips on shopping locally on Maui.

6. Do a Tour! 

There is nothing more local than going on a guided tour. Everything is local on a snorkel tour, especially the ones we do as they source their food and drinks locally. 

We took the opportunity during this Maui trip to go out with one old friend and one new friend.

The Molokini Crater Sunrise Deluxe Snorkel tour is one of our favorites in all of Hawaii. It leaves from Maluaka Beach in Wailea. The sunrise over Haleakala is gorgeous and having Molokini Crater to yourself is a special thing. The local Hawaiian owners are doing their best to keep their full crew employed. They have a sunset tour also!

We met Sage of Maui Sailing Canoe on Polo Beach in Wailea. Sage and his first mate Brody took us canoe sailing and snorkeling offshore Makena. The kids loved playing on the nets, we loved Sage’s Hawaiian history lessons, and a large female turtle loved hanging around the canoe.

Whale season on Maui starts in December! Lahaina tour operators have moved to Ma’alaea Harbor in Central Maui. We expect a prolific whale season this year. Explore our favorite whale-watching tours on Maui to pick one for your trip.

Get this, during the Lahaina Fire one of the owners of Trilogy (a family-owned company) gave his truck to a family who was stranded at the harbor so they could escape. He hopped aboard Trilogy V and steered it out of the harbor using a compass because the smoke was so thick. Trilogy’s oldest boat sunk in the fire but the rest of their catamarans survived.

Explore all our favorite Maui tours and activities here . We have updated the Lahaina Harbor tours.

7. Consider Volunteering

Thou shalt not feel obligated to volunteer or donate when visiting Maui after the fires. The act of visiting speaks volumes in our opinion.

If you do feel inclined to volunteer at a kitchen or other event, we have a list of Maui volunteering opportunities that are possible while you are on vacation. 

We volunteered at Hungry Heroes Hawaii at their Kula Kitchen. They are a wonderful group that makes meals for people all across the island. They are an efficient operation. So efficient that they were mostly done cleaning up by the time we arrived to be the clean-up crew.

8. Consider Bringing Supplies

Folks in our newsletter community love to recommend bringing a suitcase of supplies to Maui and then going home with a suitcase full of souvenirs. That is a wonderful idea. 

Maui Food Bank has drop-off locations across the island, including Kihei Rent-a-Car and Safeway grocery stores. They also list what they need on their homepage so take a look .

Final Thoughts on Visiting Maui After the Fires

We understand that it is a complicated decision to visit Maui after the fires. There is a lot of information, some not accurate, on what is going on in Maui. We enjoyed our trip and felt we were greeted with aloha as we brought our aloha spirit.

The island is working together to support those who survived the Lahaina Fire. Our friend at Valley Isle Excursions provided some more advice when she answered, Can You Travel to Maui Right Now?

If you do visit Maui after the fires, bring your aloha spirit and have a wonderful trip!

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Thanks for reading The Hawaii Vacation Guide! I'm the co-founder, with my wife Erica, of the best Hawaii travel guide on the internet in our biased opinions. We enjoy traveling throughout Hawaii after living on Maui and Oahu. We share our adventures, travel tips and resources, and honest reviews so you can easily plan your dream vacation to Hawaii. Editing our videos, teaching the kids how to snorkel, and learning about the 'aina (land) and Hawaii culture are my favorite things to do. Have a wonderful trip to the Aloha State.

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Maui Travel Updates

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Maui Recovery

maui tourism post fire

On August 8, 2023, wildfires resulted in the devastating loss of loved ones, homes, cultural and historical sites, and businesses in Lahaina, located in West Maui. We extend our deepest condolences and heartfelt aloha to all those who have been affected by this tragedy. We also urge visitors throughout Hawai‘i to be especially mindful and respectful in our island home as our community continues through this difficult time.

The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority is continuously coordinating efforts with federal, state and county emergency management officials, as well as our community partners, visitor industry and Global Marketing Team. We are also providing updates to our travel partners — airlines, accommodations, ground transportation companies, activity providers, travel agents, and wholesalers, as well as to local, national and international media — to ensure the public is kept informed.

While some fire-affected areas remain fully closed to the public, the island of Maui and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands are open and encouraging mindful visitation.

Latest News

April 30, 2024

Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Launches New Campaigns to Stimulate Meaningful Travel Demand

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority has launched new targeted campaigns as part of its global marketing and visitor education efforts. The purpose of these initiatives is to reinvigorate responsible travel demand from key markets around the world to the Hawaiian Islands.


“The People. The Place. The Hawaiian Islands.” uplifts Hawai‘i’s musicians, lei makers, chefs, farmers, culturalists, fashion designers, and others in their sectors that rely on a vibrant visitor industry. In Japan, the “Beautiful Hawai‘i” and “Yappari Hawai‘i (“It’s Gotta be Hawai‘i”) campaigns are already underway with an integrated mix of digital and TV advertising, social media, earned media, partnerships and trade education to drive bookings.
 Learn more .

Mākaukau Maui - We Are Ready

With a deep commitment to our community’s well-being, West Maui is ready to return a comforting sense of stability to the lives of its residents. Reopening our doors is one step towards reducing the uncertainties that weigh on our shoulders. It also ensures our community has the jobs and financial opportunities to thrive. On the horizon is a new day. As one, Maui is moving forward – hopeful and optimistic that it can share its culture with those beyond our shores. Learn more at: https://makaukaumaui.com .  

Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Board Approves Action Plan to Support Maui’s Recovery in 2024

On December 22, 2023, the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority Board of Directors furthered its ongoing commitment to mālama Maui and support the island’s recovery by approving an immediate six-month action plan for 2024 to help address major challenges confronting residents, small businesses, visitor industry providers, Maui’s economy, and families seeking housing. Learn more here .   The action plan is designed to fulfill tourism’s responsibilities in alliance with the leadership established by Governor Josh Green, M.D. and within the broader scope of Maui’s recovery efforts being conducted by the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) and other state agencies. HTA’s full report identifying major strategies and not only short-term but also mid- and long-term recommendations is being provided to DBEDT in their role coordinating the State’s Economic Recovery Support Functions. Read the full report .

Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Board Of Directors Approves $2.6 Million In Funding For Maui Marketing Recovery Plan

HTA's Board of Directors took decisive action at its monthly board meeting on August 31, 2023 to approve $2.6 million in funding to launch the Maui Marketing Recovery Plan , which is centered around a new Mālama Maui campaign with heartfelt messages shared by kama‘āina of Maui. The plan's focus is to rebuild responsible travel demand from the United States market to Maui in the wake of the devastating Lahaina wildfires. Watch the board meeting . HTA staff and board members were on Maui throughout August to meet with residents and business owners and listen to them about the challenges they now face with visitor arrivals decreasing significantly since August 8. Visitors help to support the economy, supporting local shops, local restaurants, and local activities which ultimately aids in the island’s overall recovery efforts.

For Visitors

For Visitors

For Businesses

For Businesses

For Employees

For Employees

For Community

For Community

Travel trade.

Information and resources for travel advisors is available on our GoHawaii website.

Mālama Maui

NOTE: While multiple dictionary sources propose "Lāhainā" as the old pronunciation for the region, living kūpuna, mānaleo and recordings of mānaleo serve to demonstrate that the contemporary pronunciation is Lahaina. Heeding the call from the Lahaina community, HTA uses the spelling Lahaina across all platforms.

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After Maui Wildfires, Travelers Ask: Would a Trip Help or Hurt?

Residents and travelers are grappling with the propriety of visiting Maui, the epicenter of last week’s wildfires but an island heavily reliant on tourist dollars.

A spray-painted sign that reads ‘Tourist Keep Out’ posted on a chain-link fence.

By Christine Chung and Madison Malone Kircher

In the throes of responding to the Maui wildfires that razed the celebrated town of Lahaina and claimed over 110 lives, Hawaii remains mostly open for tourism, despite the misgivings of both residents and tourists.

“Do not come to Maui,” Kate Ducheneau, a Lahaina resident, said in a TikTok video that has been viewed more than two million times since it was posted on Sunday. “Cancel your trip. Now.”

“It’s just kind of a gut-wrenching feeling to see other people enjoying parts of their life that we used to welcome,” she said, adding that her home was severely damaged by fire and her family evacuated with minutes to spare.

Last week’s tragedy has intensified long-simmering tension over the archipelago’s economic reliance on tourism, a dependency that sparked anti-tourism protests in recent years and brought the state to its knees during the pandemic. Many residents, particularly in Maui, are furious over the uncomfortable, contradictory scenario of visitors frolicking in the state’s lush forests or sunbathing on white-sand beaches while they grieve the immense loss of life, home and culture . Others believe that tourism, while particularly painful now, is vital.

“People forget real quick right now, how many local businesses shut down during Covid,” said Daniel Kalahiki, who operates a food truck in Wailuku on Maui, east of Lahaina. The island needs to heal and the disaster areas are far from recovered, he said, but the tourist-go-home messaging is irresponsible and harmful.

“No matter what, the rest of Maui has to keep going on,” said Mr. Kalahiki, 52. “The island has already been shot in the chest. Are you going to stab us in the heart also?”

The devastating loss of life, and these conflicting messages, are causing travelers to grapple over the propriety of visiting Maui, or anywhere in Hawaii, in the near future, prompting them to ask if their dollars would help or their presence would hamper recovery efforts.

“If we’re in a Vrbo, is that going to take away from a potential person who’s been displaced?” said Stephanie Crow, an Oklahoman traveling to Maui this fall for her wedding.

Official guidance from the Hawaiian government has shifted in past week, first discouraging travelers from visiting the entire island of Maui, and now, from West Maui for the rest of the month . Travel to the other islands, including tourist-draws Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island, remains unaffected.

State tourism groups say that travel is encouraged to support Hawaii’s recovery and to prevent it from plunging into a deeper crisis.

“Tourism is Hawaii’s major economic driver, and we don’t want to compound a horrific natural disaster of the fires with a secondary economic disaster,” said Ilihia Gionson, a spokesman for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Vital to the economy

For those in the tourism industry, the year was off to a promising start. Visitor spending through June was $10.78 billion, a 17 percent increase compared to the same period last year, according to Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism . The pandemic’s woes were in the past.

But tension over growing tourist numbers was not. Hawaii has for decades been one of the top destinations for American and international visitors, and has struggled to balance tourism with residents’ demands to acknowledge and protect the islands’ traditional culture. Visitor-reliant countries like Jamaica, Thailand and Mexico navigate similar existential issues.

A year ago, John De Fries, the first Native Hawaiian to lead the Tourism Authority, told The New York Times that “local residents have a responsibility to host visitors in a way that is appropriate. Conversely, visitors have a responsibility to be aware that their destination is someone’s home, someone’s neighborhood, someone’s community.”

In the tourism agency’s most recent resident sentiment survey , issued in July, 67 percent of 1,960 respondents across four islands expressed “favorable” views of tourism in the state. But the same percentage agreed with the assertion: “This island is being run for tourists at the expense of local people.”

In the immediate days after the fires, frustration over visitors in Maui erupted.

“People are preying on trauma,” wrote Kailee Soong, a spiritual mentor who lives on Maui in Waikapu, on a TikTok post .

Tourists are still in stores even though resources are limited, said Ms. Soong, 33, in the video. “They are in the way right now as people mourn the loss of their loved ones, of the places that burned down, of the history that was completely erased.”

“Maui is not the place to have your vacation right now,” said the Oahu-born actor Jason Momoa in an Instagram Story. He posted an infographic that read “stop traveling to Maui,” and included guidance on how to make donations. There was fierce outcry after a Maui-based snorkeling company conducted a charity tour after the wildfires, leading the company to issue an apology and suspend operations.

“To hear that people are snorkeling in the water that people have had traumatic experiences and have died in, it’s hard to justify the reasoning behind why that would be viewed as acceptable,” Ms. Ducheneau, 29, said.

She works in property management and at a Lahaina restaurant, and noted that her family’s income is wholly dependent on tourists. Still, she said, “I just don’t think it’s an appropriate time to welcome tourism back into our area.”

The industry supplies approximately 200,000 jobs across the islands, and last year, a little over 9 million visitors spent $19.29 billion, according to the Tourism Authority . About 3 million visitors went to Maui, where the “visitor industry” accounts for 80 percent of every dollar generated on the island, the Maui Economic Development Board said .

“Just like everybody, we need to work. We just got over Covid. Things are just starting to get better. To think that everything might shut down again,” said Reyna Ochoa, a 46-year-old who lives in Haiku in North Maui and works several jobs outside of the tourism industry. “ The islands need the tourism and the income to rebuild.”

In Wailuku, Mr. Kalahiki said that his food-truck sales have dropped by half. Streets usually “popping” with tourists have been empty, he said, and there have been days when his wife, who has a beach apparel store in town, hasn’t sold a single item.

Travelers search for clarity

Then there are the travelers who have saved up for their first vacations in years, many with plans to reunite with family or to celebrate weddings and honeymoons. Many want to be respectful and are searching for clarity on what that looks like, deluging online forums to ask local residents where and when it is acceptable to visit.

Early next month, Danett Williams, 48, will spend her honeymoon on the Big Island, where fires burned in North and South Kohala.

For days, she and her fiancé went back and forth about canceling their trip, considering a road trip from their home in San Francisco instead. Ultimately, they decided their tourism dollars were helpful, as long as they stayed clear of other islands and did not take up necessary space or resources away from displaced residents, she said.

Others, like Ms. Crow, from Oklahoma, say that vendors like her wedding planner are asking her to keep their trip. In early September, Ms. Crow, 47, and her fiancé plan to get married on a beach in Kihei, about 20 miles south of Lahaina. It was supposed to be a wedding in a “happy, blissful paradise” setting, she said.

“These are first-world problems I’m dealing with. They’ve lost life, homes, income, they’ve lost everything,” Ms. Crow said.

Determining what to do has been overwhelming and conflicting, she added. And the shifting directives from officials were perplexing, she said.

‘We just need some time’

Marilyn Clark, a travel agent who specializes in trips to Hawaii, said the travel industry was in a “holding pattern” waiting for further government guidance.

Major hotels across Maui have relaxed their cancellation policies through the end of August, she said, but what hotels and vendors will offer beyond that is unclear, compounding the anxiety and confusion among travelers.

And travelers like Ms. Crow are unsure whether their presence will take away from the people who need shelter. In Lahaina alone, one official said that as many as 6,000 people may have lost their homes.

Some hotel operators say that they are offering rooms and other support to emergency responders, displaced residents and hotel staff. The state has secured 1,000 hotel rooms, most of which are north of Lahaina, in Kaanapali, said Kekoa McClellan, a spokesman for the Hawaii Hotel Alliance.

Joe Pluta, a West Maui community leader and real estate broker, is among the homeless. He is staying with his daughter after escaping the flames that destroyed his home and all his possessions.

Describing himself as a “top fan of tourism,” he however suggested that there were other ways to support Maui. The horror and grief is too raw, he said.

“This is not the proper time to come and play,” said Mr. Pluta, 74. “Come again, just give us some time. We just need some time.”

Kirsten Noyes contributed research.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation.

Christine Chung is a travel reporter for The Times. She previously covered breaking news. She joined The Times in November 2021. More about Christine Chung

Madison Malone Kircher is a reporter for The Times. She writes about the internet for the Styles desk. More about Madison Malone Kircher

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Should you visit Maui right now? What locals want from tourists as the island rebuilds

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Tourists were initially urged to stay away from the Hawaiian island of Maui in the immediate wake of a wildfire that killed at least 115 people and devastated the historic town of Lahaina.

But now, nearly three weeks after the catastrophic wildfire, officials and some locals are urging visitors to not cancel upcoming trips to other parts of the island, saying the tourism dollars are needed to keep locals employed.

“Maui update. South Maui resorts (Lahaina is West Maui) NEED visitors. Furloughs and layoffs starting because people think the whole island is closed. It is not,” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii tweeted Thursday . “If you are planning a trip to Wailea or Kihei, don’t cancel. If you want to come to Hawaii pls consider South Maui.”

Weary tourists gather at Kahului Airport to head home, two days after a wildfire devastated Lahaina.

‘Āina Momona, a community organization that discouraged visitors from coming immediately after the fire, is now offering advice to tourists who do come to the island.

Lahaina, Maui, Monday, August 14, 2023 - Lahaina residents and volunteers join hands in prayer at an aid distribution center on Wahinoho Way. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

World & Nation

Fearing economic disaster, Maui wants tourists to return. But feelings are complicated

As Maui hotel rooms sit empty after the deadly Hawaii wildfire that devastated Lahaina, some are sounding economic alarms, asking tourists to return.

Aug. 28, 2023

“If you decide to travel to Maui, behave with solace, empathy, compassion,” a recent Instagram slideshow urges. The “bottom line,” it says, is that people should “visit,” “spend” and “go home.”

Tourism has historically been a fraught subject in Hawaii and the recent fires have brought those tensions to the forefront.

But for those who do visit the island in the coming weeks and months, officials, community leaders and other locals offer some advice for being a respectful visitor and minimizing negative effects on the island:

Do not go to West Maui

The No. 1 message from community leaders and officials is that tourists should steer clear of Lahaina, which was ravaged by fire, and nearby towns such as Kaanapali and Kapalua, which are housing relief efforts and displaced fire survivors.

Don’t “rubberneck” around the affected communities, said Kainoa Horcajo, a cultural consultant and organizer with mutual aid organization Maui Rapid Response. “But the rest of the island is open and it needs support,” Horcajo added.

Kahului, Maui, Thursday, August 17, 2023 - Rochelle Valiente helps prepare her bed on the living room floor of the Relyn and Jowel Delfin. She and numerous other relatives displaced by the Lahaina fire, are living there until they find permanent housing. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

After Lahaina fire, 16 relatives crowd into one Maui house

Jowel and Relyn Delfin have taken 13 relatives into their central Maui home.

Aug. 21, 2023

Stories about tourists taking selfies in front of the destruction in the immediate aftermath of the fire compound the anger and frustration of people in the community who have already lost so much, said James Kunane Tokioka, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Tokioka reiterated the message that the rest of the island and state are open, but urged tourists to act with respect.

Popular South Maui towns such as Kihei and Wailea are far from the destruction, as is Paia on the North Shore.

Travelers are welcome in Kahului, Wailuku, Kihei, Wailea, Makena, Paia and Hana, as well as the neighboring Maui County islands of Lanai and Molokai, according to official state guidance.

Act with sensitivity and empathy

“Come with respect, humility and reverence for our Maui community, especially West Maui. There is a lot of cultural and emotional sensitivity at this time,” said Jeana Naluai, a Native Hawaiian who runs a spa in Maui’s Upcountry that specializes in traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi techniques. “The families are hurting and deserve your consideration and care.”

Trisha Kehaulani Watson, ‘Āina Momona’s co-founder, underscored the fact that many people tourists encounter — including hotel, restaurant and retail workers — may have a personal connection to the fires.

“We really need tourists to be patient and kind and compassionate and understand that people here are deeply traumatized and really beginning to cope with this,” said Kehaulani Watson, a natural and cultural resources management consultant.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by ʻĀina Momona | Moloka’i (@ainamomona)

Tourists should know that recovery remains the island’s priority and expect that some places could be short-staffed and some attractions may be closed, Kehaulani Watson said.

Gemma Alvior, a local designer who has a boutique at Maui Mall Village in Kahului, also urged visitors to “always remember to watch how you speak about your vacation because you don’t know who is listening. Everyone is emotional and hurt.”

Patronize small businesses and tip well

“Support the economy by shopping at local stores, restaurants, food trucks and shopping Hawaiian products,” said Naluai, who runs Ho’omana Spa. She suggested that tourists use the Kuhikuhi database to find Native Hawaiian-owned businesses or shop them virtually and take as many selfies as they want supporting local businesses in unaffected areas.

Many people are looking for jobs, and local businesses need to absorb the workforce until things rebuild, Naluai said. “Only thriving business can continue to offer opportunities. We all need to survive so we can continue to serve for the long haul towards restoration.”

Wildfire wreckage is shown Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. The search of the wildfire wreckage on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Thursday revealed a wasteland of burned out homes and obliterated communities as firefighters battled the stubborn blaze making it the deadliest in the U.S. in recent years. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

How to help Maui residents displaced by the devastating wildfires

Wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui have killed at least 36 people, displaced thousands of residents and destroyed hundreds of structures, including homes, businesses and a school, prompting President Biden to declare a “major disaster.”

Aug. 10, 2023

Volunteer or donate

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism urges visitors to check mauistrong.hawaii.gov for the latest Maui emergency management and recovery information, as well as information about how to help.

‘Āina Momona suggests that tourists consider volunteering with Maui Food Bank , Maui Rapid Response or Common Ground Collective.

Shelly Polson holds her dog Shadow who she found after two weeks of searching on her own in an undated photo.

Pets still wander the ruins of Lahaina. Weary animal rescuers are on a mission

More than two weeks after the fires in Lahaina displaced thousands of residents and their pets, owners continue to search and hope for a reunion.

Aug. 26, 2023

Alvior, the Pulelehua boutique designer, also suggested that people consider volunteering with the Maui Humane Society or donating goods.

“They can also bring an extra luggage full of items that are needed here. Don’t come empty-handed,” Alvior said. (Needs have shifted relatively quickly over the last few weeks, so it’s best to connect with local groups beforehand or on social media .)

Kilakila Nunes, a Maui resident whose pool services business works with local resorts, suggested that travelers consider making “a small monetary donation to a credible agency if possible” while enjoying the rest of the island.

More to Read

FILE - A man views the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 19, 2023. A University of Hawaii study examining the health effects of last year's deadly wildfires on Maui found that up to 74% of participants may have difficulty breathing and otherwise have poor respiratory health, and almost half showed signs of compromised lung function. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Hawaii study shows almost 75% of Maui wildfire survey participants have respiratory issues

May 16, 2024

FILE - A general view shows the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023. The wildfires devastated parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui earlier this month. Maui County is suing major cellular carriers for failing to properly inform police of widespread service outages during the height of last summer's deadly wildfire. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Maui sues cell carriers over wildfire warning alerts that were never received during service outages

May 3, 2024

FILE - Naldo Valentine, who lost his home to the Lahaina wildfire, puts up a light as darkness falls at a housing protest on Kaanapali Beach Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. A group of survivors were camping on the resort beach to protest and raise awareness for better long-term housing options for those displaced. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson, File)

Hawaii lawmakers take aim at vacation rentals after Lahaina wildfire worsens Maui housing crisis

April 21, 2024

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maui tourism post fire

Julia Wick is a political reporter at the Los Angeles Times. She and her colleagues won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for reporting on a leaked audio recording that upended Los Angeles politics. She was also part of the team that was a 2022 Pulitzer Prize finalist for work covering a fatal shooting on the set of the film “Rust.” Before joining the Times, Wick was the editor in chief of LAist.

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Maui’s hospitality sector navigates tourism messaging after devastating fires.

In the immediate aftermath, a number of actors including Jason Momoa called for tourists to stay away from the island, but Hawaii Governor Josh Green has since advised vacationers to avoid only West Maui: "Other parts of Maui are safe."

By Kathryn Romeyn

Kathryn Romeyn

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In the first few days after the fires swept through West Maui, largely destroying the town of Lahaina — a number of celebrities spoke out on social media to implore tourists to not come to the island, among them Jason Momoa , Mia Tyler (who evacuated in the midst of her vacation when the fires began) and Moana star Auli’i Cravalho .

“Maui is not the place to have your vacation right now,” Momoa wrote on August 12 . “DO NOT TRAVEL TO MAUI. Do not convince yourself that your presence is needed on an island that is suffering this deeply. Mahalo to everyone who has donated and shown aloha to the community in this time of need.”

Native Hawaiian Cravalho urged, “Do not travel to Hawai’i unless you are rendering aid. This has been declared a federal disaster. Your vacation can wait.”

Amid those warnings, Paris Hilton and her husband Carter Reum came under scrutiny on social media for strolling on Maui’s Wailea Beach while on vacation over the weekend, in an area that’s about 30 miles southeast of the fire-effected areas of West Maui.

The latest messaging on travel to the island came on August 16 in a press conference with Hawaii Governor Josh Green . He stressed that only West Maui should be considered off-limits to vacationers. “So what we’re saying now is travel should not be to West Maui. But the other parts of Maui are safe,” said Green. “And the rest of the state, of course, is also safe.”

“We are following direction from the state to restrict non-essential travel to West Maui for the next several weeks so that collective efforts can be focused on the community,” says Kelly Sanders, EVP of operations for Highgate Hotels, the owner. The hospitality company, which operates the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, The Twin Fin and many more, is donating $10 from every upcoming booking to the Highgate Charitable Foundation, with the goal of reaching $1 million for Maui families and community relief. “We are looking forward to welcoming guests again in the near future, as visitors will be essential to Maui’s next phase of recovery,” says Sanders.

The Hawai’i Tourism Authority says hotels in West Maui have temporarily stopped accepting future reservations, and they encourage visitors to wait until infrastructure and communications have stabilized to reach out for reservation changes. Those with travel plans in places outside of West Maui including Wailea, Kahului and Wailuku are encouraged to communicate with their hotel to ensure their upcoming bookings can still be honored. “It would be catastrophic if no one traveled to the island,” Green has said. At the August 16 news conference, he noted, “We want people to travel to the state to the extent that they’re not impacting the hard work that these extraordinary people are doing [supporting disaster relief].”

For everyone effected, it’s a jumble of emotions and responsibilities that are difficult to navigate.

Says Horcajo, “You can’t force anybody to leave and at the same time there are a lot of visitors helping in the relief efforts.” In fact, Shank says the Four Seasons had guests already staying at the property who “quickly jumped in to help with relief efforts, volunteering their time and donating resources.” Currently the resort is focused on housing displaced employees (and their families), emergency personnel and first responders, as well as donating linens and bedding, toiletries, diapers and more to local shelters on Maui.

Four Seasons is providing hundreds of daily meals to those in need in partnership with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen and are developing an Employee Pantry that will provide food, supplies and clothing to those displaced. The resort has also established an employee-focused Four Seasons Golden Rule Relief Fund to support employees in need directly, with remaining funds distributed to the Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund . Montage Hotels & Resorts, which operates the island’s Montage Kapalua Bay property, has launched the Hearts of Montage Kapalua Bay Associate Emergency Relief Fund. 

Horcajo stresses that having a major decline in tourism on Maui would be devastating to the local economy. “A complete shutdown will destroy a lot of our local businesses,” he says. “So all of those employees and local businesses that keep the economy running, everything from our grocery stories to our clothing stores, need to be supported as well.” FEMA estimates that the long-term cost of recovery and rebuilding in West Maui — where a host of historic structures were destroyed, as were the 18-room bed and breakfast The Plantation Inn and Mick Fleetwood’s longtime restaurant Mick’s on Front Street — will top $5.5 billion.

In lieu of going to Maui at this time, some travel advisors suggest visiting another Hawaiian island instead as well as donating to one of many organizations that are actively supporting the island’s road to recovery. Many celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Olivia Wilde, Kerry Washington, Kim Kardashian and Zooey Deschanel have directed fans to Baby2Baby; McConaughey personally donated $100,000 for a private air transport of emergency supplies and made a recent video with his son about the NGO’s relief work. Baby2Baby has already sent tens of thousands of diapers, wipes, formula, baby food and other basic essentials to families and, with the help of talent and businesses including Honest, Thrive Market and Hello Bello are delivering hundreds of thousands more this week.

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Maui businesses and officials plea for tourists to return after fires

Headshot of Kirk Siegler

Kirk Siegler

When the deadly wildfires ignited on Maui, tourists were turned away. Three weeks later there are now desperate pleas for them to return and visit responsibly.

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'Encouraging tourists to behave well': West Maui reopens amid backlash

Tourists were officially welcomed back to West Maui on Sunday, exactly two months after devastating wildfires displaced thousands of residents, killed 98 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.

Historic Lahaina Town – once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom – was, and is still, unrecognizable. Cleanup of debris has barely begun. 

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green announced on Sept. 8 that the unaffected areas just north from where the fire took place would reopen to travelers so “people from Hawaii and around the world can resume travel to this special place and help it begin to recover economically,” he said in a news conference. 

To kick off the reopening, five hotels and eight timeshare condos in West Maui started accepting guests and owners , starting with 3 miles of the northwestern coast.

Tourists and residents alike have been grappling with the island’s reopening plans, with some wondering if it’s insensitive to bring back visitors months after the deadliest wildfire in recent U.S. history. Besides palpable grief, residents fear the government will prioritize visitor dollars over their urgent needs, like education and housing, but what hangs in the balance is the livelihoods of many of them. 

Learn more: Best travel insurance

How important is tourism to Maui?

“Maui on its own is clearly the biggest tourism hub of the neighbors, even in comparison to Honolulu,” said Peter Fuleky, professor of economics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. While the island only accounts for 12% of the state’s jobs, it makes up one-third of the visitor spending statewide, according to a recent report by the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii. In 2021 and 2022, Maui was the most visited island over Oahu. 

Visitor arrivals on Maui in August dipped more than 60% compared to the month prior, according to data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The reopening of West Maui – home to over half of all the accommodations on the island – has been controversial as recovery from the fires has been slow and emotional for residents. Some West Maui residents accept respectful visitors looking to support local businesses and volunteer while others want to delay the reopening for more time to heal . 

Prior to the reopening, the state and county released sensitivity messaging, asking tourists to be respectful and not take inappropriate photos.

“I know we are still grieving, and it feels too soon, but the reality is there are those in our community who are ready to get back to work. Bills need to be paid, keiki (children) have needs and our kupuna (elders) face continued medical care,” Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said in a video statement . 

What does the reopening of West Maui mean?

The reopening of West Maui has been billed as a “phased setting” by Bissen. During the first phase, all travel restrictions to Kaanapali, Napili, Honokowai and Kapalua have been lifted. Hotels will open in groups . 

“No one should be discouraged or reluctant to go and support the businesses and workers that rely on tourism in West Maui for their families’ livelihood,” according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority website . 

Meanwhile, Lahaina remains closed to the public “until further notice out of respect to the town’s residents.” About two weeks ago, the first group of Lahaina residents were allowed to visit their properties and survey the damage in protective gear due to highly toxic ash.  

Even though state officials dated the reopening on Sunday, tourism recovery is expected to be “very slow,” according to Carl Bonham, professor of Economics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and founding member of the Economic Research Organization. 

An 80% recovery of pre-fire visitor levels isn’t expected in Maui until the end of 2024, according to the Economic Research Organization. 

“Even if they didn’t do a phase reopening, there’s no reason to believe there would suddenly be tens of thousands of visitors rushing into West Maui,” he said. 

The date is to help travelers plan future trips to the island. “It’s about learning some of the lessons from the pandemic where we didn’t make the announcement that we were reopening on a date in the future until well behind the point when we were ready, then it takes time for people to plan,” Bonham said. 

'We need responsible tourism': Maui businesses plead tourists to help economy after fires

Merriman’s Kapalua , an oceanfront restaurant in West Maui since 2009, is one of those businesses ready to reopen its doors. Since the fires, the restaurant has been delivering hundreds of free meals and operating as a place with free Wi-Fi for West Maui residents. When in operation, about 90% of the produce used is sourced from local farmers. 

“It’s absolutely not too soon (to reopen West Maui),” the restaurant’s owner, Peter Merriman, told USA TODAY. He said many of his employees want to go back to work. “If people feel like it’s too soon, that’s fine, they don’t have to go back to work.” 

Merriman said that without the official reopening, the restaurant would have stayed closed for a little longer, but he feels like it’s his “civic duty” for travelers to West Maui to have somewhere to go eat. “We’re probably going to lose money for the first several months we’re open, but it’s our responsibility,” he said. 

Even though his doors will be open, Merriman’s “really worried” how many patrons will even walk through his doors. “I think it’s going to take close to a year where people will feel comfortable to go to West Maui,” Merriman said. 

Jesse Imbach, a 46-year-old Maui resident, lost his restaurants in Lahaina to the fire and is looking for a new location to relaunch the business. Imbach said he’s OK with a phased reopening but worries that it will take away resources from locals or bring over “macabre-type tourists” who are interested in seeing the aftermath of the tragedy.

The day before the reopening, Bissen shared in a statement how he wants “visitors to understand that our island is making its way through a devastating tragedy.” Officials have launched several online resources for visitors to find more information about how to donate, volunteer and plan their trips to Maui, such as the Maui Strong website and the Hawaii Tourism Authority website . A list of local businesses to support can be found at Maui Nui First.  

“We should be really thoughtful about impacting the folks who are still emotionally reeling from the loss of their heritage and their livelihood, and their history and their family home,” Imbach said. “The key thing is encouraging tourists to behave well is really important, because the community is definitely still hurting.”

How soon is too soon to reopen?

To access the parts of West Maui that are reopening means people will have to drive through burn zones, which have mostly been covered by fencing. Many residents aren’t ready to enter the tragedy-stricken area yet. 

Earlier this month, people gathered at the state Capitol in Honolulu to speak out against the Oct. 8 reopening and drop off a petition with 14,000 signatures to the Governor’s office. 

One of those in support of the petition is Blake Ramelb, who was born and raised in Lahaina but lives in Napili. He told USA TODAY that the "timeline of this just felt so rushed in so many ways, two months is definitely not enough time."

"People didn’t get a chance to grieve, not only because it’s just been two months but they don't know where they’re going to live tomorrow," he said. He added that the quick reopening has also taken a toll on the mental health of many residents, who are already struggling from the tragedy itself.

The Maui City Council voted unanimously for a resolution on Friday that echoed pleas to delay the reopening, saying the two-month anniversary was not “trauma-informed.” 

“It's really hard to know what is the right decision, honestly, because you're balancing between protecting your community and people who are completely devastated, and economic, financial implications of not opening,” said Jan Jones , a lecturer and coordinator for hospitality and tourism management at the University of New Haven.

But some argue that small businesses need tourists , especially after taking a hit from the pandemic. One recent study found the island lost more than $13 million of visitor spending per day in the weeks after the fire, according to the Economic Research Organization.   

“The small businesses can’t weather another storm. They just can't,” said Jerry Agrusa, a hospitality and tourism management professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Shidler College of Business. 

Agrusa said tourists can help the island’s recovery by being mindful of where they spend their money.

“Eat lunch in a family-owned restaurant. Look for the smallest person that does tours. Look for the local guy who gives surf lessons. Look for the ones that are greatly affected, where they don't have these great companies behind them,” he said. “That would be so helpful right now.” 

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected] . Bailey Schulz is a general assignment money reporter based in Las Vegas. You can reach her at [email protected] .

Contributing: The Associated Press

8 places to visit in Maui if you want to help the island's economy right now — and where tourists should avoid

  • Wildfires on Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii destroyed homes and killed 115 people.
  • West Maui was most affected by the fires and is closed to tourists.
  • However, authorities encouraged people to visit other parts of Maui to stimulate the economy.

Insider Today

Catastrophic wildfires on Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii destroyed homes and forced tens of thousands of residents and tourists to evacuate last month. As of August 29, The New York Times reported 115 confirmed fatalities. 

Still, Maui is dependent on visitors — in 2022, 2.7 million people visited the island and spent $5.82 billion, according to a report by Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism — and in the aftermath of the wildfires, its tourism industry has suffered. 

On August 19, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green issued an emergency proclamation strongly discouraging all nonessential travel to West Maui. However, at a press conference with President Joe Biden on August 21, Green encouraged people to visit other parts of Maui in order to "to support our local economy and speed the recovery," according to a press release from the Office of the Governor .

Here are eight areas of Maui that are open to tourists, and the places that are off-limits right now.

West Maui is closed to tourists after the area was devastated by wildfires.

maui tourism post fire

Areas in West Maui that tourists should avoid include Lahaina, Napili, Kaanapali, and Kapalua, according to a press release from the Hawaii Tourism Authority .

However, Green said that other parts of the island need visitors to stimulate the economy. The Hawaii Tourism Authority urged tourists to be "especially mindful and respectful in our island home as our community continues through this tragedy."

But Maui officials are encouraging tourism on other parts of the island to revive its economy. Other places to consider visiting include Kahului in Central Maui.

maui tourism post fire

Kahului doesn't just house the island's main airport — it's also a cultural hub.

The Maui Arts and Cultural Center, located in Kahului, features live-music performances and films. The center will host a series of benefit concerts and events to support victims of the wildfires in September and October, according to its official website .

You can also find crafts by local artisans, as well as souvenirs and knick-knacks, at the Maui Swap Meet flea market on Saturdays, according to the market's Yelp page.

Wailuku in Central Maui features 'Īao Valley State Park and its famous 'Īao Needle landmark.

maui tourism post fire

Once a historic battlefield and burial ground for Hawaiian chiefs, the highlight of the 4,000-acre park is the 'Īao Needle, a 1,200-foot rock overlooking the valley, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority .

In Southwest Maui, Kihei's Maluaka Beach is also known as "Turtle Town" for its abundance of sea turtles.

maui tourism post fire

Kihei offers opportunities for snorkeling to catch a glimpse of Hawaiian green sea turtles without the crowds often found on Oahu, Hawaii Magazine reported. Tourists should respect the wildlife by remaining 10 feet away from turtles at all times.

Wailea in South Maui is the island's luxury resort capital with 1,500 acres of beaches and hotels.

maui tourism post fire

Season one of "The White Lotus" was filmed at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. The resort is donating a portion of the cost of some room packages to community relief funds and encouraging guests to donate to a fund supporting hotel employees who were impacted by the wildfires, according to its official website .

The area also features five beaches, golf courses, and high-end shopping at The Shops at Wailea, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority .

Makena's Big Beach in South Maui stretches for nearly two-thirds of a mile along the coast.

maui tourism post fire

At 100 feet wide, Makena Beach State Park is one of the largest beaches in Maui known for its white sands, according to Hawaii Guide .

Makawao, located in East Maui, is known for its community of artists and Hawaiian cowboys called paniolo.

maui tourism post fire

The Makawao Rodeo, Hawaii's largest paniolo competition, takes place in Makawao every year on July 4. The town also has various galleries, artist studios, and the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority .

"We recognize the power of the arts in healing and mental health. For this reason, the Hui is OPEN and offering regularly scheduled classes, which we hope will provide a positive and healthy respite for all those who need support," the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center wrote in an Instagram post after the fires.

The 52-mile road to Hana in East Maui is a tourist attraction in itself with numerous waterfalls and scenic views along its hairpin turns.

maui tourism post fire

After completing the treacherous drive to Hana, tourists can visit Hawaii's largest Hawaiian temple at Kahanu Garden, one of five gardens that make up Hawaii's National Tropical Botanical Garden, and the black-sand beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park.

"Our hearts continue to be with all those affected by the wildfires on Maui and Hawaii Island," the National Tropical Botanical Garden wrote in an Instagram post . "Just like an unforgettable fragrance, every act of aloha surrounds and uplifts families and communities in need. When we support one another, hope blooms."

Paia on Maui's North Shore is known as the windsurfing capital of the world.

maui tourism post fire

The large waves at Ho'okipa Beach attract windsurfers and kite surfers from around the world, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority . For those less inclined towards water sports, Paia also features several Buddhist places of worship including the Maui Dharma Center and Paia Mantokuji , which is holding an auction to raise money for the wildfire relief effort until September 2.

maui tourism post fire

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Things to know about aid, lawsuits and tourism nearly a month after fire leveled a Hawaii community

Image

FILE - A man views the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. Nearly a month after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century killed scores of people, authorities on Maui are working their way through a list of the missing that has grown almost as quickly as names have been removed. Lawsuits are piling up in court over liability for the inferno, and businesses across the island are fretting about what the loss of tourism will mean for their futures. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

FILE - The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street, Aug. 8, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Nearly a month after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century killed scores of people, authorities on Maui are working their way through a list of the missing that has grown almost as quickly as names have been removed. Lawsuits are piling up in court over liability for the inferno, and businesses across the island are fretting about what the loss of tourism will mean for their futures. (Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP, File)

FILE - A girl rides her bike past a sign that says “Tourist Keep Out,” in Lahaina, Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023. Nearly a month after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century killed scores of people, authorities on Maui are working their way through a list of the missing that has grown almost as quickly as names have been removed. Lawsuits are piling up in court over liability for the inferno, and businesses across the island are fretting about what the loss of tourism will mean for their futures. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

FILE - A missing person flyer for Joseph “Lomsey” Lara is posted on the door of a business in a shopping mall in Lahaina, Hawaii, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023, following wildfires that devastated parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui earlier in the month. Nearly a month after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century killed scores of people, authorities on Maui are working their way through a list of the missing that has grown almost as quickly as names have been removed. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

FILE - Crosses honoring victims killed in a recent wildfire are posted along the Lahaina Bypass in Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 21, 2023. Nearly a month after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century killed scores of people, authorities on Maui are working their way through a list of the missing that has grown almost as quickly as names have been removed. Lawsuits are piling up in court over liability for the inferno, and businesses across the island are fretting about what the loss of tourism will mean for their futures. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

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HONOLULU (AP) — Nearly a month after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century killed at least 115 people, authorities on Maui are working their way through a list of the missing that has grown almost as quickly as names have been removed .

Lawsuits are piling up in court over liability for the inferno, and businesses across the island are fretting about the loss of tourism.

Government officials from Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen to President Joe Biden have pledged support , and thousands of people have been put up in hotels and elsewhere as they await clearance to visit and inspect the properties where they once lived.

A look at things to know about how the recovery in Lahaina is taking shape following the Aug. 8 disaster:

HOW MANY PEOPLE DIED?

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The official confirmed count stands at 115 , a figure that has not changed since Aug. 21. But many more names remain on a list of people who are considered unaccounted for, and it is unclear whether the toll of the deceased will rise — or whether it will ever be known how many perished.

Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier has repeatedly pleaded for patience as authorities try to verify who is missing, who has been accounted for and who has died.

Officials have also sometimes clouded the situation. Police on Aug. 24 released a “credible” list, compiled by the FBI, of 388 missing people for whom authorities had a first and last name and a contact number for whoever reported them missing.

Many of them, or their relatives, came forward to say they were safe , resulting in the removal of 245 names on Friday. Some others are known to have died in the fire, but their remains have not yet been identified.

Gov. Josh Green had said the number of missing would drop to double digits with Friday’s update, but when police released it, there were 263 newly added names, for a new total of 385.

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Crosses honoring victims killed in a recent wildfire are posted along the Lahaina Bypass in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Over the weekend Green posted a video on X , formerly known as Twitter, seeking to clarify, saying, “The official number has been 385 ... but there are only 41 — 41 active investigations after people filed missing persons reports.”

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?

Formal investigations will aim to determine the cause of the fire and review how officials handled it. But about a dozen lawsuits have already been filed blaming Hawaii Electric Company, the for-profit, investor-owned utility that serves 95% of the state’s electric customers.

Among the lawsuits is one by Maui County accusing the utility of negligently failing to shut off power despite exceptionally high winds and dry conditions.

Hawaii Electric has said in a statement that it is “very disappointed that Maui County chose this litigious path while the investigation is still unfolding.”

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The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP, File)

Other lawsuits have come from residents who lost their homes. On Monday, the father of Rebecca Rans, a 57-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis who died while trying to escape the fire, sued Maui County, the state, Hawaiian Electric and the state’s largest landowner, Kamehameha Schools, a charitable trust formerly known as the Bishop Estate.

The lawsuit alleges that the county and the Bishop Estate failed to maintain their land by mowing or otherwise removing the dry, invasive grasses that have taken over former sugar and pineapple plantations in the region and which helped fuel the fires on Aug. 8.

“All the landowners knew how dangerous it was to have that huge volume of dry grass next to subdivisions, and could have saved hundreds of lives at a cost of less than $1,000 per acre to cut the brush down,” attorney James Bickerton said in a news release.

The Associated Press sent an email seeking comment to the county. The Department of the Attorney General said in a written statement that the state is reviewing the lawsuit, and Hawaiian Electric declined to comment in an email sent by spokesperson Darren Pai.

“Our hearts are with all affected by the Maui fires,” Kamehameha Schools said in a written statement. “We are committed to restoring our Native Hawaiian people and culture through education, which includes stewarding and uplifting the health and resiliency of our ’āina (lands) and Native communities. As many aspects of the fires are still under investigation, we have no further comment at this time.”

In another case, lawyers representing Lahaina residents and business owners claim that cable TV and phone companies overloaded and destabilized some utility poles , which snapped in high winds, helping cause the fire.

HOW IS THE GOVERNMENT HELPING PEOPLE?

Much of the immediate disaster relief aid has been organized by community members, such as a supply distribution center operating out of a Hawaiian homestead community in Lahaina where most of the homes survived.

Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said during remarks Tuesday on the Senate floor that federal support must continue.

“It’s our responsibility here in Congress to provide relief — in any way that we can, for as long as people need it,” he said.

As of Monday night, 5,852 people were staying at 24 hotels serving as temporary shelters around Maui, according to the county.

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A missing person flyer for Joseph “Lomsey” Lara is posted on the door of a business in a shopping mall in Lahaina, Hawaii, following wildfires that devastated parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

At the hotels, they’re receiving American Red Cross services including meals, mental health support and financial assistance.

More than 1,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel have been on Maui helping survivors, Schatz said.

FEMA will also need to complete “one of the most complex debris removal operations in its history,” he said, which may take as long as a year and cost up to a billion dollars.

Gov. Green said in a video on social media Monday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cleared more than 200 parcels.

“This is important because we can start getting people back to inspect their own land and get some closure soon,” he said.

FEMA has given up to $19.4 million of assistance, Green said.

Help is also coming from the rich and famous: Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson announced the creation of a $10 million fund to make direct payments to people on Maui who are unable to return to their homes.

SHOULD TOURISTS VISIT MAUI?

Officials said last week that the visitor traffic to the island has dropped 70% since Aug. 9, the day after Lahaina burned. Maui relies heavily on tourism for jobs, and the economy is reeling.

Lahaina’s restaurants and historic sites, once popular tourist draws, are now charred ruins. Large resort hotels farther up the west coast of Maui were spared but are now housing displaced residents.

Authorities are encouraging travelers to visit the island and support the economy, but ask that they avoid west Maui and instead stay in other areas like Kihei and Wailea.

Celebrities including Native Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa and Aerosmith singer and Maui homeowner Steven Tyler are also among those urging people to visit.

“Everything’s beautiful, except we gotta come there and make it more beautiful, OK?” Tyler said during a weekend concert in Philadelphia.

Johnson reported from Seattle.

maui tourism post fire

West Maui reopening Nov. 1, needs tourism to support its economy — here’s how to visit responsibly

Becky Blaine

As TPG has previously reported , and you likely know all too well, the Maui wildfires caused significant damage to Lahaina, with more than 2,400 residences destroyed and far too many lives lost. Recovery efforts are still ongoing. And now, the community must deal with the reality of economic recovery while also rebuilding homes and businesses and managing the emotional toll.

Gov. Josh Green's most recent proclamation allowed for parts of West Maui to reopen starting Oct. 8, but Lahaina remains off-limits .

TPG checked in with the Hawaii Tourism Authority for an update.

"Per Maui Mayor Richard Bissen, the island is in Phase 1 of reopening," shared a spokesperson for the tourism office. "That extends from the Ritz-Carlton, Maui Kapalua to Kahana Villa."

Bissen announced Monday that the rest of West Maui north of Lahaina — phases 2 and 3 from Kahana to Kaanapali — will begin reopening Nov. 1.

Hawaii Tourism Authority visitor data shows that in August 2022, Maui welcomed 265,410 visitors. The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism estimates that a reduction of 4,250 visitors per day has resulted in an economic loss of $9 million per day. For a rough estimate, multiply those numbers for the last three weeks of August, and that's a loss of 89,000 visitors and over $189 million dollars in economic activity.

In a statement , the Hawaii Tourism Authority said that West Maui alone accounts for 15% of Hawaii's tourism economy.

You may be wondering if now is the time to visit. And, if you are on social media at all, you've likely seen passionate and disparate answers to that question.

Should you visit Maui after the wildfires?

maui tourism post fire

The answer to when is the right time to visit Maui can vary, depending on whom you ask.

Some residents and native islanders have been longstanding and vocal opponents of tourism on the island — even before the fires.

But those working in the tourism industry or running small businesses often disagree. Those groups depend on the visitor economy to provide jobs to support their families. They want tourists back as soon as possible.

Naturally, many others are in the middle and can see the pros and cons of full planes returning to Maui.

From visitors taking photos of Lahaina's devastation from the air to posing in front of burned buildings, there have been stories of inappropriate and disrespectful behavior reported by the media and locals.

Lahaina Strong is one of the vocal groups that requested Maui's reopening be delayed beyond Oct. 8; the group launched a petition that garnered over 17,000 signatures of support.

A Time Magazine op-ed by former Hawaii Rep. Kaniela Ing , who was born and raised in Maui, describes his view of the situation and how climate change and colonialism led Maui to where it is today.

"My greatest fear is that this trajectory of exploitation will continue in the recovery from the Maui wildfires," Ing wrote. "As whispers of reshaping Lāhainā emerge, with wealthy developers eager to mold it to their vision, our generation's vision for social and environmental justice grows even firmer. Our recovery from the wildfires can't just be about combating climate change — it has to be about returning control of our cherished lands to the people who hold them dear."

We've all read stories over the past few years about destinations suffering from overtourism, housing prices increasing and too many unregulated vacation rentals making it difficult to find affordable housing for locals. Teachers, first responders and tourism employees sometimes cannot afford to live in the communities where they work. That's certainly true of Maui.

But, what we know right now is that Maui is on the precipice of an opportunity — to rebuild in more ways than one and create an environment and community that can work for everyone.

What travelers should know about visiting Maui

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has been sharing the message that Maui is still open and accepting visitors.

Parts of West Maui that had previously been closed began reopening Oct. 8, and TPG recently checked in with the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

As stated above, Bissen announced Monday that the rest of West Maui north of Lahaina will begin reopening Nov. 1. Those are phases 2 and 3 of the reopening plan, including the areas from Kahana to Kaanapali.

In a press release, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said:

The decision was made following discussions with the Mayor's Lahaina advisory team, the Red Cross and other partners, and the community feedback following the first phase of reopening. Governor Josh Green, M.D., Mayor Bissen, and the Red Cross continue to assure the public that housing for displaced wildfire survivors will not be in jeopardy as a result of the reopening.
The Hawai'i Tourism Authority advises travelers to check with individual accommodations, activities and businesses in West Maui for their availability and hours of operation. As travelers return to Maui after the devastating August wildfires, they will help to sustain jobs, keep businesses open, and support the community.

Visitors are reminded to practice mindful visitation, and a series of new videos is launching in coordination with various community members and partners, sharing how visitors can malama (care for) Maui.

Prior to this announcement, the phased opening plan listed on the Maui County website was as follows:

Phase 1, beginning on Oct. 8, will be the area from Ritz-Carlton, Maui Kapalua to Kahana Villa.
Phase 2, beginning after an assessment of the Phase 1 reopening, will be from Mahinahina to Maui Kaanapali Villas.
Phase 3, beginning after an assessment of Phase 2, will be from Royal Lahaina Resort to the Hyatt Regency.

An updated map shared Oct. 13 shows the area of Lahaina that remains closed and identifies the portion of West Maui that is reopening.

TPG will continue to provide travel updates as they become available.

maui tourism post fire

The only part of Maui that will remain off-limits to visitors is Lahaina, which was almost completely destroyed by the wildfires in August. Other parts of West Maui — Napili, Kaanapali and Kapalua — are making plans to reopen Nov. 1.

At a recent press conference , Green delivered the following update:

Beginning October 8, all travel restrictions will end and West Maui will be open to visitors again, so people from Hawaiʻi and around the world can resume travel to this special place and help it begin to recover economically. This difficult decision is meant to bring hope for recovery to the families and businesses on Maui that have been so deeply affected in every way by the disaster.

The press release from the Hawaii Tourism Authority that came after the governor's remarks also stated:

Lahaina itself will remain fully closed to the public until further notice out of respect to the town's residents. County, state, and federal emergency responders continue with efforts to identify victims and the missing, and conduct clean-up efforts of debris and hazardous materials resulting from the wildfires.

Ilihia Gionson, public affairs officer at the Hawaii Tourism Authority, told TPG it is focused on clear messaging and visitor education. It is "asking for respectful, compassionate, responsible travel to the island at this time. Visitation is welcome and encouraged to the many open areas of Maui, now more than ever."

In an email news update Sept. 27, the Hawaii Tourism Authority shared Bissen's announcement that provides additional information for the reopening of areas north of Lahaina. It includes plans for a phased reopening of the hotels in the Kaanapali area. With the updated announcement, phases 2 and 3 will commence Nov. 1.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority email update also stated: "Gov. Green, Mayor Bissen, and federal agencies have all assured the public that no wildfire disaster survivors will be displaced as a result of this reopening. HTA advises travelers to check with the individual accommodations in West Maui for their reopening plans."

"While vacation travel to West Maui (including Lahaina, Nāpili, Kaanapali and Kapalua) is currently strongly discouraged through October 7 in alignment with Governor Josh Green's emergency proclamation, respectful travel to all other parts of Maui, including Kahului, Wailuku, Kīhei, Wailea, Mākena, Pāʻia, Makawao and Hāna, and other Hawaiian Islands is encouraged to keep residents employed and our economy alive," Gionson said.

Visitors are urged to explore other parts of the island and stay overnight outside the immediate areas around devastated West Maui as that part of the island continues to heal.

Hana-Maui Resort general manager Jon Benson told TPG:

As we work as a destination to respectfully support the recovery, it is imperative that we welcome visitors back. This is a wonderful time to explore Maui and less-traveled destinations like Hana, where it is more than just an overnight after the Road to Hana. It is when you arrive and lean into all that the beautiful and charming town has to offer that you realize there is still something truly special to be offered despite the disastrous event that occurred in West Maui. By supporting other, remote communities like Hana, you are giving back to Maui as a whole. And remember, if driving is not your thing, take the "road less traveled" on our custom Cessna Caravan Plane to Paradise and even rent one of our Jeep Wranglers to fulfill your explorations while in town.

How can visitors help Maui?

When asked how visitors could help Maui, Gionson said, "Those who want to volunteer and give back to the community can also touch base with one of the many organizations supporting the recovery efforts." You can find more information on the Maui Nui Strong website under "Offer Support."

The Hawaii Tourism Authority also lists voluntourism activities on its website, as well as the Malama Hawaii program that began during the pandemic to help travelers plan a visit to Hawaii while giving back. The Malama Hawaii program is still being offered statewide , and visitors are encouraged to consider participating in activities that give back to the destination.

Comprehensive travel information and inspiration, including an island-by-island trip planner , is available on the Hawaii Tourism Authority website.

I reached out to my friend, former colleague and local chef Michael Cairns, who's been on Maui off and on for more than 30 years and whose family is local. He provided some insight into what locals want visitors to know and where you can go to support family-run businesses on the island.

maui tourism post fire

"The first thing is to respect the culture and 'aina,' which is the land. The saying on the island is, 'Relax, it's not the mainland.' But please understand everyone on the island is suffering somewhat. When you come here, bring positivity," Cairns said.

He stressed the need for tourism to support the local economy. "Two out of every five residents works in the tourism industry. Focus on locally owned, family-run businesses to help save the island's economy. Take time to learn about the culture," he said.

A few of his suggestions include areas that have been favorites of mine on previous trips to Maui and some I have yet to discover.

Small towns like Paia have unique local shops, boutiques and restaurants. Try the fabulous fish tacos at Paia Fish Market. This is also the start of the Road to Hana — famous for its twists and turns, waterfalls and roadside hikes.

Cairns suggests not making Hana a daytrip — plan to stay overnight, whether at a campground, an Airbnb or a small, family-run hotel. That side of the island sees far fewer overnight visitors.

He also suggested visiting Upcountry Maui — towns like Pukalani and Kula — where you will find the Upcountry Farmers Market, Maui Chocolate & Coffee Tours, Surfing Goat Dairy (the cheese is amazing) and Kula Botanical Garden.

Oo Farm in Kula offers tours of its 8-acre, farm-to-table experience. The farm cultivates coffee, fruits and vegetables for local restaurants.

maui tourism post fire

If you're looking for a distillery tour, Cairns said Maui offers those as well. Pau Maui Vodka and Ocean Organic Vodka are two local establishments where you can tour the distilleries and enjoy the tasting rooms on the slopes of Haleakala.

Find brewery tours at Mahalo Aleworks in Upcountry and Maui Brewing Co. in Kihei . (While Maui Brewing Co.'s tours are temporarily unavailable, you can find its beers in many restaurants and stores on the island.)

Another great idea Cairns shared (which my family has also done): Have a picnic on the beach. Order takeout from a local restaurant or deli and sit on the beach to enjoy one of Hawaii's famous sunsets.

With the loss of Lahaina Harbor as a popular departure point for boat tours, there are still opportunities to get out on the water and enjoy whale watching, snorkeling or a sunset dinner cruise.

Trilogy Tours, currently celebrating 50 years as Maui's first sailboat company with its fleet of catamarans, sails out of Maalaea Harbor (just south of Kahului Airport). Trilogy focuses on conservation and environmental stewardship practices with its tours; it was named Sustainable Ecotour Operator of the Year (2017) by the Sustainable Tourism Association of Hawaii .

The Sustainable Tourism Association also has a trip planner on its website to help visitors choose activities.

Bottom line

This is still a sensitive time in Maui as the community struggles with profound loss. However, the island is doing its best to balance the economy's needs and residents' livelihoods.

Gionson offered some final thoughts: "We ask that visitors practice patience, compassion and aloha when coming to Maui. The best way to support Maui in its recovery is for travelers to continue with their Maui vacation this fall and don't cancel those trips.

"While it may seem counterintuitive, Maui's economy is dependent on a robust visitor industry and there is still plenty to see and do while here that is away from Lahaina," Gionson said.

Related reading:

  • Key travel tips you need to know — whether you're a beginner or expert traveler
  • The best travel credit cards
  • The 18 best places to travel in 2023
  • 6 real-life strategies you can use when your flight is canceled or delayed
  • 8 of the best credit cards for general travel purchases
  • 13 must-have items the TPG team can't travel without
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9 Tips for Traveling to Maui Responsibly As the Island Recovers From the Wildfire

By enjoying and investing dollars in the local economy, you can help locals rebuild.

Rosanna U/Getty Images

The August 2023 wildfire that swept through Lahaina and portions of upcountry Maui marked the worst natural disaster in Hawaiian history and ranks as one of the top 10 deadliest wildfires since the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) began keeping records in 1871. 

Recovery is an ongoing, multipronged process. For the first several weeks, government officials and those involved in relief efforts asked travelers to steer clear to allow for planes and resources to be utilized by first responders and locals. Instead of rushing in to support on the ground, outsiders were asked to donate to nonprofits like the Maui Food Bank, Maui Humane Society, Aloha United Way, and other organizations on the front lines.

Three months later, the healing continues across the 2,100-plus acres the fires impacted — and the island and state as a whole. However, now, rather than asking travelers to keep their distance, Maui lawmakers, businesses, tourism officials, and the vast majority of locals Travel + Leisure spoke to on the ground in early November are ready to welcome back guests. In fact, Hawaii's second-largest and second most visited island needs guests to return.

Karla Walsh

Tourism dollars not only keep businesses afloat and individuals employed (about 8,000 unemployment claims have been filed since the wildfire, tourism officials told T+L), the money also funds road upkeep, schools, and public gathering places, as well as supports state and county taxes.

According to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism , 38 percent of Maui’s economy and nearly 85 percent of Maui’s jobs depend on visitor spending. In a typical year, about three million tourists visit the island and invest about $5.4 billion in the local economy. This year is proving to be far from typical, as local businesses and hotels told us their guest counts are drastically down. 

In addition to the financial contributions tourists can make, traveling responsibly and respectfully to the open areas of the lush island gives visitors a chance to partake in one of the core aspects of Hawaiian culture: storytelling. “Talk story” helps keep the area’s rich traditions, history, and respect for the land (and each other) alive.

Despite the wildfire’s destruction, current-day Maui residents are becoming part of that rich history through their generosity and resilience. Take Kainoa, who quickly shifted from his day job educating companies about Hawaiian culture with Mo'olelo Group to scaling up operations with Maui Rapid Response and Global Empowerment Mission to mobilize collection and distribution centers across the island in a matter of days.

Or, Paula, a mom of two and Old Lahaina Luau star, who now dedicates her days as a volunteer coordinator for Hua Momona Farms ’ relief efforts to help feed displaced families. 

Or, the team at Mediterranean restaurant Pizza Paradiso , who were just blocks away from Lahaina’s blaze, yet opened on Aug. 15 to partner with José Andrés' World Central Kitchen to offer free slices and Dole Whip to Maui residents.

Then, there's the courageous staff of 52-year-old Trilogy Excursions . Even after losing their Lahaina transport vehicles and witnessing their office close, their captains “didn’t think twice” about jumping into the ocean to help the Coast Guard rescue 50 people who ran into the waves to try and escape the flames.

The resilient humans on Maui became part of this story that travelers can witness, hear about (and possibly meet while visiting), and learn lessons from for a lifetime.

Before T+L returned to the airport to fly home after a week on the island, we spoke with Kamahiwa Kawa'a, manager of Hawaiian culture at Fairmont Kea Lani . During a traditional haku lei ceremony, he shared a 1615 Hawaiian proverb that’s perfectly fitting for this moment: “Kau ka pe'a, holo ka wa'a.”

“Kau ka pe'a, holo ka wa'a translates to ‘up go the sails, away goes the canoe.’ This proverb can be interpreted in many different ways — one being that we set our sails and continue onward in our canoe, heading to the same direction and end goal,” Kawa'a explained. “In times of difficulty, trials, joy, and happiness, no matter the outcome or the circumstances we face, we continue to hoist the sails and push onward toward greater things.”

Here are nine ways you can help Maui — and Hawaii — raise those sails as they continue to recover.

 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Set aside time for voluntourism.

Tourism officials recommend that, if possible, travelers carve out some time — even just a few hours or one day — to lend a hand in a way that aligns with their abilities and values. If you’re a gifted gardener, roll up your sleeves to plant new native trees, shrubs, or flowers with the Coral Reef Alliance . Love to cook? Spend a day transforming ingredients into warm meals for first responders with Hua Momona Farms , or aid in sorting through food donations with a group like Feed My Sheep . If you miss your pets every time you start packing your bags, share that love by spending a few hours helping at an animal-focused organization, like the Leilani Farm Sanctuary .

“There are so many different things happening around the world right now that deserve our attention. Maui is one of them,” explained Kainoa Horcajo, who continues his work with Global Empowerment Mission to provide housing options, volunteer management, and other direct mutual aid to those impacted by the wildfire. “I know there are millions of people across America and the world that feel a sense of connection to Maui, because they've traveled here or because they've always wanted to. One could say that it gives you a kuleana [responsibility or cause] to aid in our recovery and to help give life, hope, and a future back to a place that gave you something.”

Frequent local restaurants and shops.

Aside from your talents, you can invest your funds at places locals love — and own. Created by the County of Maui's Office of Economic Development, the Maui Nui First directory showcases stores, lodging options, dining establishments, and events. (During our time on the island, we quickly fell in love with Café Des Amis in Paia, The Market in Wailea, Komoda Bakery in Makawao, and Tiffany’s in Wailuku.)

Stay at a property with strong cultural programming.

Soak up unforgettable pieces of that storytelling by living amidst it. For example, at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, which was just voted one of T+L readers' favorite resorts in Hawaii in 2023 , guests can sign up for A Wayfinder’s Journey . During the private catamaran excursion for up to six people, travelers will learn from distinguished female navigator Kala Baybayan Tanaka about how ancient Polynesians turned to the stars, sea, and other natural elements to make their way from other lands to Maui. Chef Samual Taganeca brings those stories to life on the plate, which is part of a multicourse menu focused on “canoe plants,” or the ingredients those Polynesian sailors brought with them on their journey. 

All guests who stay on property can take part in complimentary lei-making classes, outrigger canoe excursions (complete with history lessons), and palm frond-weaving sessions, as well as stroll through on-site local artist fairs. Through Dec. 15, guests can also dedicate up to $200 from each night of their stay to go directly to the Maui Strong Fund .

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Book excursions.

There are many activities residents aren’t likely to do as much as those on vacation, including helicopter outings, zip lining, luxe spa treatments, brewery or winery tastings, cocktail or cooking classes, and farm tours. While it might seem insensitive to learn how to master a mai tai across the island from where the fires took place, each dollar going back into the businesses helps move the needle to support the economy and the staff at those venues.

During peak season, Skyline Hawaii guides host nine groups per day, six days a week. Now, they’re open three days weekly for one to two sessions. Owner Danny Boren is passionate about plant conservation efforts, and restoring Maui forest land has been built into his now-B Corp business since day one. As revenue grew, he was able to dedicate more dollars to buying plants and launching his “native guide program” as a way to deal with seasonality within the tourism industry. When guides aren’t leading guests across zip-line runs, they plant and track the growth of seeds. To date, Skyline Hawaii has put 20,000 plants in the ground and reintroduced 38 species that were once extinct. The native guide program has kept staff employed this year, though the overall business relies on revenue from guest bookings to purchase plants and pay staff. The ripple effects of a decrease in tourism extend much further than one might think upon first glance. (In other words, it’s not insensitive to explore and enjoy the many open parts of the island.)

Tip generously.

As you wrap up your experiences, meals, or stays, don’t forget to tip the staff on the tour, in the restaurant or bar, at the spa, or on housekeeping duty. Many tourism-related careers rely heavily on tips. Even small dips in guest counts can make a sizable difference in their income. 

Certain venues also offer a bonus donation field on receipts to make it easy for visitors to chip into a collective fund that’s split among all staff — or dedicated to those displaced.

Pack your patience, compassion, and an open mind.

As businesses continue to pivot through the recovery, and as people continue to process what happened, know it won’t always be “business as usual.” Certain venues are decreasing hours or days of operation due to the fact that they don’t have enough visitors to justify opening, or staff available to support guests. That being said, most are open for business and excited to welcome visitors to encounter some of what makes Maui so magical.

Don't pry, but if locals open up about the fire, listen.

“Were you impacted by the fire?” “How is the recovery going?” Questions like these might be asked with the notion that they’re supportive, but many survivors aren’t ready to share their experiences with others, especially those who don’t call Maui home. Don’t introduce the topic, but if they do, listen and offer compassion. 

Follow government mandates about places to avoid.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said they're “continuously coordinating efforts with federal, state, and county emergency management officials” to determine where to allow visitors and when.

Fire-affected areas of Lahaina are still closed to the public, and some lodging is being dedicated to housing those who were displaced, but after a three-phase reopening process, the bulk of Maui is open for business.

Still, the Hawaii Tourism Authority asks travelers to “check with individual accommodations, activities, and businesses in West Maui for their availability and hours of operation.” And be sure to heed any local signs and police guidance about off-limit areas. Lastly, respect residents by not taking photos of restricted regions.

Consider adding on to your trip.

The Hawaiian islands are all one big ‘ohana (family), and in normal times, many vacationers make a multi-island trip . Building environmental and economic resiliency is a collective effort that stretches beyond Maui, so if your schedule allows, we recommend booking a few days on Oahu, Kauai, Lanai, or the big island, too.

Don’t feel quite ready to travel to Maui yet, or perhaps you have a full vacation itinerary for the next several months? You can still support local businesses from afar by purchasing their products online.

In fact, Rudy Balala, general manager of Maui Gold Pineapple Company , told T+L, “An increase in direct-to-consumer online sales after the wildfire is what saved us. We lost 40 percent of our business on the west side after the fires.” Balala noted that they supply many local high-end markets, restaurants, and hotels. Maui Gold ships their locally grown pineapples to all 50 states and Canada.

Other shippable Maui favorites include Hi Spice for hot sauce, ‘Alohi Maui for beauty and skin care, Malani & Lehua Jewelry Co. , The Maui Cookie Lady , Maui Ku’ia Estate for chocolates, Polipoli Farms for herbal teas, and Treehouse Designs for accessories.

You can also donate directly to a variety of Maui Nui Strong organizations, including those affiliated with some of the impactful companies mentioned above, like the Trilogy Maui fire fund , Global Empowerment Mission Maui wildfire fund , Hua Momona Foundation Maui relief , and the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund .

Related Articles

‘Let Maui heal’: Grieving Hawaii residents want tourists to go home

Maui’s tourism machine never stops, but residents who are reeling from wildfires need a break

While the Maui wildfires became the deadliest in the U.S. in a century, the 1,500-acre resort hub of Wailea was salvaging business as best as it could.

South Maui properties from premium brands such as the Four Seasons, Hyatt, Marriott and Waldorf Astoria were advised to shelter their guests, keep the roads clear and use their hospitality infrastructure to support relief efforts.

With Lahaina in crisis, workers who could get to their jobs faced difficult decisions. For one dancer in luau shows, that meant deciding whether to show up for a shorthanded crew or spend time cooking and making Costco runs for displaced family members. Two of his siblings lost their homes. His wife’s auntie lost her life. In an interview with The Washington Post, the performer said he felt remorse over going into work. He spoke with the conditions that he remain anonymous and that his employer not be named to protect his night job.

Maui wildfire updates

maui tourism post fire

“I shouldn’t be here,” the man said he was thinking while dancing. “Everyone that I told that I had to work, they were in shock. Like, ‘Why are you working?’ They couldn’t believe that a luau is going down. It’s embarrassing. I should be there for my community.”

As Maui reckons with catastrophe , many residents have been questioning whether the tourism businesses that fund their livelihoods should continue during a tragedy.

“There are two camps,” said Somerset Tullius, a Los Angeles resident who was born and raised on Maui and who flew home to the island the day after the fires to help her family. When she landed, she started working with the Maui Rapid Response Instagram page to coordinate relief efforts.

“One camp is, ‘Let Maui heal, we don’t need you here right now,’” Tullius continued. “And the other camp is like, ‘Hold on a second, this is my main form of income. I have to suck it up or else what else am I going to do?’”

For the luau dancer, showing up wasn’t easy.

“I could have said no, but it’s my job, and it’s my responsibility to show up for work,” he said. “But it was hard for me to do. … I wasn’t present while I was dancing. I could only think about my family.”

How to help or donate to Hawaii residents displaced by Maui wildfires

Snorkelers spark controversy

Two days after Lahaina burned to the ground, a 53-foot dive boat departed for a half-day snorkel trip about 15 miles south of the disaster site. From the highway en route to Lahaina, Miki‘ala Makanamaikalani Pua‘a-Freitas — a Maui native and the founder of Kapuna Farms in Waihe’e Valley — spotted the excursion and started recording the scene.

“Shame on this company right here — Maui Snorkeling,” Pua‘a-Freitas said in a video she posted to her Instagram account the next day. “Look at all these tourists just frolicking in the waters off of Lahaina. Unreal.”

In the more than 700 heated comments on the post, Instagram users were divided over whether tourism should go on during a tragedy.

Mark Elmore, the owner of Maui Snorkeling, insists the publicly shamed tour wasn’t actually an example of putting profits over people. The trip, he said in an interview, had been planned before the worst of the fires, and was carried out as a fundraiser. A screenshot of a receipt reviewed by The Washington Post shows a payment of $10,265.88 to the Maui Food Bank , representing 100 percent of the trip’s profit.

“It’s really hard to serve people mai tais when your family and your friends and everyone is suffering.” — Somerset Tullius, a Los Angeles resident who was born and raised on Maui

Elmore’s company is working with PR Security Service, a crisis communications and management firm that focuses on reputation repair and social media response, according to the company’s website . Maui Snorkeling has posted an apology on its website and its Facebook page . The PR firm showed The Post a screenshot of a social media message from Maui Snorkeling to a customer in which the company said it was rescheduling a tour set for the day after the fires and planned to donate all proceeds from its next booking. The message has a timestamp for Aug. 9, well before the Instagram callout was filmed.

Elmore told The Post he wished he had “telegraphed our intentions a little better.” Speaking of the criticism, he said “it came fairly quick and caught me off guard, but I certainly understand.”

For locals, however, the optics of tourists snorkeling were incredibly painful.

“The boat tours that went out to Lahaina the very next day taking people snorkeling was like a stab in the heart,” April Boone, owner of the Tropical Goddess boutique inside the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, said in a text message.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Mikiʻala Makanamaikalani Puaʻa-Freitas (@kapunafarms)

Boone, who has been focusing her time on volunteering with relief efforts, says the unfolding tragedy feels as devastating as a terrorist attack. She doesn’t think visitors realize the gravity of the situation, that people working in tourism are still waiting on DNA test results to see if their loved ones were among the 106 fatalities confirmed as of Wednesday morning.

“I think people should respect the Hawaiians [and] Maui and give the locals time to grieve without having to worry about interacting with extra tourists,” Boone said. “This is not Disneyland. This is our home.”

A tourism-driven economy

Even with Lahaina in ashes, tourism is inescapable in Maui.

About 70 percent of every dollar generated in Maui can be attributed to the visitor industry either directly or indirectly, according to the Maui Economic Development Board, which calls tourism “irrefutably the ‘economic engine’ for the County of Maui.” In 2022, total visitor spending on Maui was $5.69 billion , according to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

“To a degree we are so dependent on other people,” said Native Hawaiian Kaimanamālie Brummel, a former luxury concierge who’s now the director of advancement for Seabury Hall, a private school in Upcountry Maui.

“We’re dependent on people coming here and spending money. We’re dependent on ships coming here,” Brummel said. “We’re not growing our own food, and that’s really frustrating because we never wanted it to be that way.”

Seeing vacations continue unimpeded feels like an added blow.

“The way I’ve been framing it for a really long time is people have felt entitled to our land, to our culture, to our people, and now they’re feeling entitled to our grief,” Brummel said.

Vandalism, tantrums and narcissism: Entitled tourists are out of control

As days pass, Brummel says the community is discovering additional impacts from the fires. The area is home to many eco- and farm tourism businesses, as well as restaurants that rely on travelers’ dollars. At her school, there are students and staff who have lost everything either in the Lahaina fires or those in the Upcountry.

“We were already an isolated, under-resourced community with a lot of people living on the edge of poverty, and now we’ve had this tragedy on top of that,” she said.

‘The rest of Maui is still open’

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) issued an emergency proclamation Sunday declaring that nonessential travel to West Maui was “strongly discouraged.” The proclamation noted that “visitors in West Maui have largely heeded the call to leave the island, and hotels and other accommodations are needed for displaced residents and emergency workers.”

The Hawaii Tourism Authority echoed that message in an update to its website Monday, saying that the stance is in effect through this month. It noted that hotels in the area — which includes Lahaina, Napili, Kaanapali and Kapalua — have temporarily stopped taking future bookings.

But it did not warn travelers away from visiting other parts of Maui, including Kahului, Wailea, Kihei, Hana and Wailuku. Earlier advisories from officials strongly discouraged nonessential travel to the whole island and urged tourists to leave; the narrowed focus on West Maui has led to criticism as locals and advocates ask visitors to stay away. (A spokesman for the authority, T. Ilihia Gionson, did not address a question about that criticism.)

“The lack of empathy and seeming like your vacation is more important than the tragedy … that happened in these people’s lives — that’s what’s upsetting,” said CarrieAnn Randolph, who grew up on Oahu and left Hawaii in 2013, and still has family on the island, as well as the Big Island and Maui. Her cousin lost his Lahaina home in the wildfire.

Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said during a recent news conference that the message has been to avoid West Maui, “but the rest of Maui is still open. We’re not shut down, we’ve not shipped anyone out, we’ve not asked anyone to leave.” Green, the governor, said that if no one traveled to the island, it “would be potentially catastrophic.”

“We probably would see a mass exodus from Maui,” he said.

Tourists are still arriving, lounging by resort pools and posting about their vacations on social media.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by ʻĀina Momona | Moloka’i (@ainamomona)

Tullius said Maui’s dependence on tourism is “very complicated” because workers need to earn money but may also resent visitors for enjoying themselves during such a dark time.

“It’s really hard to serve people mai tais when your family and your friends and everyone is suffering,” she said.

Actor Jason Momoa, who was born in Hawaii, has been one of the most prominent figures to join the chorus of local voices discouraging tourism.

“Maui is not the place to have your vacation right now. DO NOT TRAVEL TO MAUI,” he recently posted on Instagram . “Do not convince yourself that your presence is needed on an island that is suffering this deeply.”

Callback to covid

The pleas are reminiscent of a widespread sentiment felt during the pandemic. Two years ago, as coronavirus cases rose, then-Gov. David Ige (D) asked tourists to stay away. Residents implored the visitors who did come to be respectful amid a spate of bad tourist behavior, including faking vaccination cards and trespassing into clearly marked private property.

That summer, as locals grappled with a water shortage and restrictions on Maui, “stop coming” became a rallying cry on social media. The county’s mayor asked airlines to bring fewer visitors as restaurants and other businesses struggled to keep up with an influx of tourists, the Associated Press reported .

But even with a mandatory 14-day quarantine in place from March to October 2020, then a longer-lasting “Safe Travels” program with protocols that required testing or vaccination , mainlanders continued traveling to Hawaii en masse .

“This conversation intensified during the pandemic, but has been happening for decades prior, possibly since the beginning of the hospitality industry in Hawaii,” said Maui-born Kainoa Horcajo , a cultural adviser and founder of Mo‘olelo Group, a consulting firm specializing in Hawaiian culture and communications.

With the fires intensifying the conversation yet again, Horcajo has heard from both sides of the issue including some calling for a total shutdown of the tourism industry. He understands the argument but believes it would impact “massive amounts of people,” “and that’s creating another disaster where there was just one,” he said.

Business as usual?

With such arguments looming, tour operators find themselves in a double bind.

“There are so many people that have just taken off work, they’ve spent down their vacation days or their companies just closed up out of sensitivity, and they’re asking themselves, ‘We got to open back up. How do we do it in the right way?’” Horcajo said. “I don’t think there is a blanket approach.”

Pua‘a-Freitas, who shared the video of the Maui Snorkeling tour, emphasized she is not opposed to tourism, but called for sensitivity.

“People will never be able to look at these beaches, these waters, these places, these spaces that brought us so much joy and happiness,” she said. “It’s also a place of remembrance for a lot of pain. We can’t just be like, ‘Oh, a few days passed, let’s go back to what we were doing.’ I’m sorry, we’re going to have to all pause and really move forward with a better conscience.”

Helen Taras, office manager of Hana Tours of Maui, says the company began running tours this weekend after being closed for a few days out of respect. “We’re heartbroken about what’s happened, but we also want to help people keep their jobs so we can help them and they can help their family and friends,” she said.

Send us your Maui memories

Kevin Ditamore, co-owner of the tour operator Adventure Maui, said that while his company will be donating 20 percent of the proceeds from Maui bookings for the rest of the year, they’re struggling.

“Just about everything for the first week [of the fires] was canceled, so that was a significant loss,” said Ditamore, who’s lived back and forth between Maui and Kauai for 25 years. He started his business in Lahaina; the office he rented in 2002 is now gone, as are two of the houses where he once lived.

“This also really hurts because it’s coming on the heels of the covid pandemic where we were all closed for a year,” Ditamore added. “We were just in full-blown recovery, and when this happened, it really hurt.”

Horcajo says every individual and family may have to decide for themselves what’s right. That includes tourists.

If someone does want to keep their trip to Maui, Brummel asks them to do so with empathy. Even if they’re staying in or visiting parts of the island that weren’t burned, everyone on the island has been affected heavily. “We are trying to figure out how to welcome and host people while trying to reconcile what this means for our community,” she said.

It’s not the time for a standard beach vacation, she added. Only come if you’re ready to respect the culture in addition to the island’s physical beauty.

“I need people to know that culture is based on this land and the people who live here,” she continued. “You can’t like the culture and the food without loving the people.”

A previous version of this article misstated when the Maui Rapid Response Instagram page was founded and who founded it. Nicole Huguenin started it in March 2020 for pandemic relief efforts. Somerset Tullius is a contributor. This version has been corrected.

Wildfires in Hawaii

What’s happening: After the deadly wildfire in Maui devastated the town of Lahaina, people search for their loved ones as they face the devastation of losing homes , schools and businesses .

How did the fires start? Officials have not announced a cause, though video and data shows it was probably power lines . The spread of nonnative grasses and hurricane-stoked winds could have been factors, along with the indirect influence of climate change .

What areas have been impacted? Fires burned across multiple Hawaiian islands — these maps show where . The town of Lahaina on the island of Maui suffered widespread damage, and historical landmarks across the island were damaged . These photos show the extent of the blaze .

Can I help? Many organizations are accepting donations to assist those affected by the wildfires. Visitors returning to West Maui are encouraged to practice regenerative tourism .

maui tourism post fire

Watch CBS News

Traveling to Hawaii? Here's what to know about the Maui fires.

By Megan Cerullo

Edited By Aimee Picchi , Anne Marie Lee

Updated on: August 15, 2023 / 2:53 PM EDT / MoneyWatch

Hawaii is a noted tourist destination, but after deadly wildfires wreaked havoc on Maui and other islands, it declared a state of emergency in all counties. Hawaiian officials are discouraging nonessential travel to Maui amidst the fire's destruction on that island.

Major airlines are assisting in efforts to evacuate residents and visitors from danger zones. People with trips planned to the second-largest Hawaiian island are being asked to postpone them, with airlines and accommodation providers offering travelers flexibility to rebook. 

Here's what to know if you have a vacation in Hawaii scheduled. 

What parts of Hawaii are experiencing fires?

A major blaze largely destroyed  the historic town of Lahaina, on Maui. As of Sunday officials said the Lahaina fire was 85% contained.

Fires also affected Kihei and Upcountry Maui, as well as the northwest part of the island of Hawaii, between Hapuna and Kawaihae.

Can I still go to Maui?

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is strongly discouraging nonessential travel to West Maui for the foreseeable future. Even tourists who are already there are encouraged to depart immediately, if they can. 

Thousands of residents have evacuated their homes and major roadways on the island remain closed. 

"Vacation travel to West Maui is strongly discouraged for the near future. Visitors in West Maui have largely heeded the call to leave the island. About 46,000 people have flown out of Kahului Airport since Wednesday," the Hawaii Tourism Authority said in a statement Saturday. 

On Monday, the travel authority reiterated that all non-essential travel to West Maui remains discouraged through the end of August, in line with Gov. Josh Green's latest  emergency proclamation .

Visitors with plans to visit other parts of Maui are urged to reach out to their accommodation providers to ensure they can still be hosted.

Concerns over drop in tourism

Some hosts on parts of the island that remain able to welcome tourists are concerned that guest cancellations could hamper the island's recovery from the wildfires. 

A small business owner with a condo in Kihei, on Maui's southwest shore, said that while it's safe to visit, guests have been canceling reservations into the month of November.

The host, Chandrika McLaughlin, added that it's important that tourists continue patronizing businesses like hers so that she and others retain the means to support Mauians whose lives have been uprooted by the wildfires. 

To be sure, would-be visitors to West Maui are still being asked to postpone their trips in part because federal, state and county governments are primarily focused on helping displaced residents and affected businesses. 

"Visitors with plans to stay in West Maui in the coming weeks and months are urged to consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time when the overall situation has improved for area residents," the Tourism Authority said. 

Travel to the island of Hawaii remains unaffected, and the government said it remains safe to visit other islands.

Are commercial airlines flying to Maui?

Some are and some aren't. Many airlines are offering travel waivers that allow customers with immediate plans to travel to Maui to rebook their flights without fees, or to cancel them altogether for credit or, in some cases, a full refund. 

"With the exception of basic economy tickets, almost all U.S. airlines allow you flexibility to either reschedule your trip or cancel and get the full amount you paid back for travel credit for future trips," Scott Keyes, of travel site Going told CBS MoneyWatch. "So, you automatically have a lot of flexibility to change your plans or save flight credit for a future trip. That was not really the case pre-pandemic."

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a travel alert describing how major airlines serving Maui's Kahului Airport have adjusted their operations and implemented flexible change policies for customers.

UNITED AIRLINES

United Airlines said it's prioritizing the welfare of its employees on Maui and has scrapped commercial flights to the island. It is instead using empty passenger planes to carry Maui residents off the island.

"We've canceled today's inbound flights to Kahului Airport so our planes can fly empty to Maui and be used as passenger flights back to the mainland," the airline said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

The airline also has  waivers  in place for United passengers who had been scheduled to fly to or from Kahului airport on Maui, as well as Honolulu airport. 

Customers who were originally scheduled to fly between August 11 and September 16, and purchased tickets before August 9 may reschedule their trips and have any change fees and fare differences waived. The new ticket must be for a flight scheduled to depart before October 1. Passengers who wish to cancel their trips altogether are entitled to full refunds. 

AMERICAN AIRLINES

For its part, American Airlines is also waiving change fees on all flights to and from Hawaiian airports, through August 18. 

ALASKA AIRLINES

Alaska Air has a "flexible travel policy" in place that allows customers to change their flights at no cost through August 31 or cancel them in exchange for a travel voucher worth the cost of the flight.

Some would-be visitors to Maui said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that they wanted outright refunds from airlines, as opposed to the option of rebooking within a short time frame. Given the extent of devastation the wildfires have caused, it may be some time before travelers may want to rebook.

Southwest Airlines said it had added flights between islands and back to the mainland U.S. "to keep people and supplies moving." Some fares from Maui to the mainland U.S. are under $100. 

Hawaiian Airlines also said it's adding extra flights between Maui and Honolulu for as little as $19 "to facilitate urgent travel."

The Hawaii Tourism Authority added that "airlines are being very supportive during this emergency crisis and providing additional flights to help visitors depart from Maui. Airlines are also adjusting their travel schedules to support those visitors who had planned to arrive this week."

Will I be compensated for my hotel accommodations?

Hotels and resorts in vulnerable areas have lost power, halted service and stopped accepting guests altogether. Some are providing full refunds to scheduled guests, depending on the time of their planned stay.

They've temporarily stopped accepting new reservations, too, given the uncertainty of the situation. Hotels have pivoted from accepting guests to housing their employees and families until the fires are fully contained and travel on roadways becomes safe again. 

They are also equipped to house evacuees and first responders helping with disaster relief efforts. 

Furthermore, the Tourism Authority is asking visitors with forthcoming reservations not to try to contact their accommodation providers at this time, so as not to tie up or overburden their limited bandwidths.

"While efforts are underway to restore basic services, like power and communications, visitors are encouraged to refrain from attempting to reach West Maui accommodations for reservation adjustments until the situation improves," it said. 

The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa said the hotel is "closed to arrivals and not accepting guests" for the time being. It will issue refunds including for deposits and prepayments to guests who had been scheduled to stay at the property through the weekend. 

Homesharing site Airbnb said its extenuating circumstances policy has gone into effect for parts of Hawaii, including all of Maui. It is also allowing hosts and guests to cancel their stays without penalty. Guest are entitled to full refunds for reservations in the area they don't use.  

Non-refundable reservations

In the case of non-refundable reservations, a travel insurance policy could help you recoup payments related to a trip you didn't take. 

For travelers already on Maui, some of these policies also come with medical evacuation options that can help visitors on the island get to safer ground.

Some credit card companies already have protections related to travel built-in, without requiring that you sign up for additional protections.

"Many of them automatically include travel insurance, so check and see what you're entitled to," Keyes said.

—With reporting by Elizabeth Napolitano

Megan Cerullo is a New York-based reporter for CBS MoneyWatch covering small business, workplace, health care, consumer spending and personal finance topics. She regularly appears on CBS News 24/7 to discuss her reporting.

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Travel Consultants and Travel Tips

Trip Report: Visiting Maui Post-Fire

June 12, 2024 by Island Miler Leave a Comment

The island of Maui changed forever following the tragic fires that obliterated the historic town of Lahaina. Unfortunately, that has had a negative effect on the island’s primary economic driver—tourism. So, what is it like visiting Maui post-fire? Honestly? The negativity isn’t there, but there are deep wounds and challenges. 

There’s a lot of uncertainty about visiting Maui, and I get why. In the aftermath of the tragedies of August 8, 2023, there was a strong call by officials and residents to stay away to give the island a chance to recover and heal. However, that stance quickly became convoluted, as officials began to realize that Maui’s economy, including residents that needed and wanted to work, depended our tourism to survive. Unfortunately, the tragedies emboldened anti-tourist voices and gave them a spotlight. So much so, in fact, that many prospective visitors still believe that they should stay away from Maui out of respect. 

Visiting Maui Post-Fire

The confusion around Maui’s tourism status is further layered with the fact that Lahaina itself was a major tourism draw. Yes, the real tragedy here is the loss of homes, livelihoods, and lives, but there’s no denying that the area’s disappearance also took away some of Maui’s draw. Further, the loss of residents in the area means that there is a labor shortage, something we experienced firsthand during our time on the island. Also, thanks to the absence of thousands of residents and reduced visitor numbers, many restaurants – even those that had survived the fires – remain temporarily closed or have disappeared for good. 

I knew a lot of this going in, so visiting Maui post-fire wasn’t a complete shock. But, still, it did make our visit more difficult, especially as we sought to support local businesses. Nevertheless, Maui does need visitors to keep its economy going, which will be critical to helping everyone on the island rebuild. So I encourage anyone that can and want to to visit. Just be sure to do so in a respectful way. Hopefully, my recent experience will help those of you that do decide to go. 

Visiting Maui Post-Fire

That was a long-winded introduction to this post, but my visiting Maui post-fire trip report is, well, complicated. Things are and aren’t back to normal. But if you know what to expect going in, you can still have a great time while supporting the islands and its residents. But, anyway, throughout my visiting Maui post-fire series, I’ll be covering the following:

As is usually the case for my intra-Hawaii travel nowadays, I chose to fly Southwest Airlines from Honolulu to Kahului and back. Why? Because it’s easy to earn and burn Rapid Rewards points, and the value proposition for doing so is better than HawaiianMiles. Plus, thanks to my Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card from Chase, I get bonus miles every year and get to enjoy Early Boarding when available. This time around, that meant receiving single-digit Group A positions. But I’ll get into the details in these individual reviews 

Visiting Maui Post-Fire - flight

With visitor arrivals down, car rentals on Maui aren’t as expensive as they used to be. Booking via Costco Travel allowed me to save even more money! You know what’s even more wild? Over the last nine months, I probably rebooked my reservation nearly a dozen times, slashing my initial booking price in half. Moreover, I was able to score a luxury vehicle for just a smidge more than a standard vehicle would’ve cost. 

Visiting Maui Post-Fire - rental car

When visiting Maui post-fire, one thing that hasn’t change is hotel pricing. In fact, Maui remains the most expensive hotel market in the state! As such, the only way I can afford to travel to Maui is via points. Regular readers may recall that when I originally booked this trip for September 2023, I did so to check out the Hyatt Regency Maui in Ka’anapali. Last year, the hotel’s reward category jumped up, meaning an award night increased from 25k points to 30k points. Thankfully, Hyatt was understanding of he situation and made me whole , allowing me to move my reservation to another date without cost me any additional points. 

Visiting Maui Post-Fire - hotel

Aside from wanting to check out the Hyatt Regency Maui, my other reason for visiting Maui even before the fires was to go birding in Haleakala National Park with my newish Canon RF 100-500 mm lens. While I caught some decent photos of Hawaiian Honeycreepers last time out with my old EF 70-200 f2.8, the extra reach really helped me out this time around, even though the birds were far less cooperative. We also went on an actual hike in Haleakala to varying degrees of success. 

maui tourism post fire

Beyond that, part of my focus for visiting Maui post-fire became ensuring we supported local companies as much as possible. As I mentioned earlier, this feat became more difficult than I thought it would be, due to many places just not being around anymore or remaining temporarily closed. Traveling during a holiday weekend exasperated this difficulty, as many businesses on the island are closed on Sundays, Mondays, and/or all holidays. 

Finding places to eat was shockingly difficult on this trip, especially when looking in Ka’anapali and trying to avoid tourist-oriented restaurants. What do I mean by tourist-oriented restaurants? You know the type. Their menus are all kind of the same sounding, while their pricing are all similar. These restaurants could be in hotels, or they could be in tourist-centric areas. 

While I mostly succeeded in finding places to eat, it was a slog, especially since one of the places I wanted to dine up ended up canceling my reservation for a family emergency. I don’t fault them for that, as family comes first, but it was disappointing. 

maui tourism post fire

Interacting with Locals

I don’t usually talk about interacting with locals, but visiting Maui post-fire isn’t like any other trip I’ve ever done before. That’s not to say that we encountered any issues or had to act any differently, but you just have to be sensitive to what’s going on around you. For example, we never spoke about the fire and the devastation it left in its wake when outside of our vehicle or our room. Why? Because you never know what kind of traumas people around you – people serving you – might have related to the fires. 

All that said, every local we interacted with was kind and seemed to genuinely enjoy interacting with us. Sure, we often waited a while for our car at the valet because of employee shortages, but that’s not the people’s working fault. So, if you decide to go to Maui, please reciprocate people’s kindness and be patient. 

Now, one thing that was a bit ambiguous leading up to our trip was whether there would still be survivors in hotels. Yes, that is still the case. Specifically, the Hyatt Regency Maui (our hotel) and the one next to it continue to house survivors. We didn’t see any of them, but it’s just another thing to be mindful of when visiting Maui post-fire and why it’s crucial to not speak of the fire when not in private. It’s worth noting, though, that officials stated that they want to get all survivors into more long-term housing by sometime in July. 

Visiting Maui Post-Fire, Final Thoughts

Overall, we had a great time on Maui, and visiting Maui post-fire really wasn’t an issue. Yes, there’s visible devastation if you stay in West Maui; things on that side of the island aren’t normal, and you can’t go into Lahaina. But if you want to go to chill at your resort, explore Haleakala, dine around central Maui, take jaunts around Up Country, etc., Maui is still a great time. There’s no reason to stay away so long as you’re mindful and sensitive. In fact, I encourage you to go to Maui. The economy and the people who rely on Maui’s visitor industry need you to visit, spend, and enjoy. Just, again, be sensitive, be kind, and be patient. 

Note: I will not be displaying, nor have I taken photos of burn areas. If you’re curious about how things stand today, please see this gallery from the Honolulu Civil Beat . 

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Maui to mark one year after the wildfires with community-driven events including paddle out, stage production, Obon festival and more

maui tourism post fire

A number of special events marking one year after the Aug. 8, 2023, wildfires will pay tribute to the 102 victims and the two that remain missing. The events are designed to honor the resiliency of a community that has faced crisis and heartbreaking tragedy, and offer residents opportunities to gather in healing and shared support.

The series of remembrance events, presented as Kuhinia Maui, will take place Aug. 8 – 11, 2024.

“Kuhinia Maui takes its name from a line in a traditional Maui chant that proudly speaks of the unequaled beauty and richness of Maui, highlighting that Maui and its people will rebound from tragedy,” Mayor Richard Bissen said. “Our community is strongest when we’re able to support each other, and I’m grateful for those involved who are helping to put together a remarkable number of gatherings that will give our community a chance to be among each other in care and aloha during a week of remembrance. I’m pleased that the County is able to offer support for these community-driven events.”

Information is available at  https://www.KuhiniaMaui.org . The website will be updated regularly and signing up for text notifications is encouraged. 

maui tourism post fire

The scheduled events are subject to change.

Thursday, Aug. 8 

  • An ocean gathering off the shores of Hanaka‘ō‘ōBeach Park. Due to limited parking and public safety needs, equipment drop-off with shuttle use from Lahaina Civic Center is required. Shuttle details and  Hanaka‘ ō‘ō drop-off instructions to be posted on  https://www.KuhiniaMaui.org  website.
  • 9 a.m. –  Hanaka‘ō‘ō   Beach Park, Lahaina
  • For residents of Upcountry Maui to gather in recognition of community resiliency during and in the aftermath of the August 8 th wildfire that impacted Upcountry.
  • 10 a.m. – Hannibal Tavares Community Center, Pukalani
  • A community gathering in reverence of loved ones who perished in the August 8 th  tragedy. Out of respect for the community’s request for sensitivity and dignity, this event is not for media attendance. 
  • 5 p.m. – Lahaina Civic Center

Friday, Aug. 9

  • Kūpuna are a cherished anchor of the community. The gathering brings kūpuna of Lahaina together to enjoy camaraderie and time to talk story. Sign-up required for participation; please visit  https://www.KuhiniaMaui.org  for more information.
  • 9 a.m. – Lahaina Civic Center
  • Paying tribute through music, this event brings together entertainers including Lahaina musicians to perform traditional and contemporary songs of Lahaina.
  • 6 p.m. – Lahaina Civic Center

Saturday, Aug. 10

  • Kamehameha School Kapālama students return to Maui in an encore performance of their live stage production of Ka Malu `Ulu o Lele: The Shaded Breadfruit Grove of Lele. Over 100 sixth-  graders traveling from the school’s Oʻahu campus will perform in the student-led show that tells the history of Lahaina’s legacy from revered ali`i to modern-day aloha ‘āina champions. 
  • 1 p.m. – Baldwin High School, Auditorium
  • To give the community the annual tradition of Obon despite the loss of their temples, Lahaina Hongwanji Mission, Lahaina Jodo Mission and Lahaina Shingon Mission have combined efforts to host a special Obon Festival event that honors ancestors through traditional Japanese dance and music.
  • 5 p.m. – To be announced

Sunday, Aug. 11

  • Led by faith leaders of churches and temples that were lost in the fire, this interfaith gathering brings forward hope as recovery efforts continue. A worldwide moment of silence will be held at noon.
  • 10 a.m. – Lahaina Civic Center
  • To give aid to farm and ranch animals in danger of the wildfire, Oskie Rice Arena opened its grounds to give safe shelter in the midst of the crisis impacting Upcountry Maui. This special event will welcome Upcountry residents to gather and share in an evening that honors community  resilience and spirit. 
  • 5 p.m. – Oskie Rice Arena, Makawao

For more information, email coordinator Daryl Fujiwara at  [email protected] .

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Maui Fires Update: Which Hotels and Resorts Are Open and Closed After Lahaina Fires

Maui Fires Update: Which Hotels and Resorts Are Open and Closed After Lahaina Fires

Lahaina, Hawaii before this week's fires. Photo: Rich Lonardo / Shutterstock.com

This week’s wildfires that tore through Maui and the town of Lahaina caused widespread destruction on the island. According to the latest reports, at least 67 people lost their lives due to the fires, and thousands of buildings were left in ruins, including some of the island’s most iconic tourist sites.

Several hotels in the town of Lahaina have been ravaged by the flames, among them the historic Best Western Pioneer Inn. Meanwhile, hotels in the Kaanapali resort area have remained unaffected, as reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser . Here’s a property-by-property breakdown in the aftermath of this week’s crisis:

Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort Andaz Maui said on Thursday that it is still operating and unaffected by the fires at this time, but reiterated the state’s non-essential travel warning.

“We are closely monitoring the active situation. We encourage all travelers to check ehawaii.gov for the latest updates. All non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged at this time. Our hearts are with all those who have been impacted. Mahalo for your understanding and support,” it said.

Fairmont Kea Lani The Fairmont Kea Lani is open and remains unaffected by the fires as of Thursday.

“The safety of our colleagues and guests is our top priority. We will continue to monitor and provide updates on the fire as they become available. Mahalo for your understanding and support,” it said in a statement.

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea’s Post In a statement on social media late this week, the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea’s Post, the top hotel in Maui according to U.S. News and World Report, said it is continuing to monitor the situation but it is currently open. Still, it said guests should abide by the state’s non-essential travel order.

“We are currently open and are continuing to monitor the situation. In support of those displaced or impacted by the fires, all non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged at this time. Mahalo,” it said on Thursday.

Grand Wailea Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, went unaffected by the fires and remains open.

“At this time, Grand Wailea and our surrounding community is not affected by the fires. We are closely monitoring the situation and following all instructions & directives from our local and state authorities to ensure we are doing everything possible to keep our guests, staff, and community safe,” it said in an update.

Ho’olio House Ho’olio House, a luxury B&B on Maui, said in a message on social media that it remains safe, but that the Lahaina community has been “utterly destroyed.”

“We are safe. We heard from a neighbor today that Ho’oilo House and our neighborhood still stand. However, Lahaina is utterly destroyed. Our hearts are broken,” it said.

“The State of Hawaii is asking that visitors not travel to Maui for at least the next couple of weeks. We will keep you updated as firefighting, clean up, and search and rescue efforts continue in Lahaina. Please note that during this difficult time on the island we might be slower to answer emails or texts.”

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa The Hyatt Regency Maui is closed through at least Aug. 17 and not accepting any new guests. Any deposits and prepayments for canceled stays on these dates, including prepaid rates, will be refunded.

“In response to the wildfire situation that originated in Lahaina, Maui, Hyatt Regency Maui has implemented emergency preparedness procedures in an effort to ensure the safety and security of our guests and colleagues. At this time, we can confirm the hotel is closed to arrivals and not accepting guests through 08/17/2023,” the hotel’s website reads .

Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club According to an update on Friday morning , the hotel remains without power, telephone (including cell service), and 911 service. According to Hawaiian Electric, the outages could last for weeks.

“Due to limited resources on Maui (limited food/water supply), visitors are being asked to leave the island as soon as possible. The resort, and the Hawaii governor’s office, are discouraging nonessential travel through August 31 to allow an effective emergency response to the wildfires,” it said.

Montage Kapalua Bay Montage, the parent company of the hotel, has established an emergency fund to assist its workers who have been directly affected by the fires. Donations can be made here .

Outrigger Ka’anapali Beach Resort The Outrigger was unaffected by the fires, according to statements on social media.

“We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the first responders for their efforts and thank our guests for their patience and understanding during this time,” it said.

Outrigger is also asking guests to donate to the Hawaii Community Foundation to help those displaced by the fires.

The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua is currently closed due to extended power outages. Just like its other resorts, Marriott is waiving cancellation fees through August 31.

Royal Lahaina Resort & Bungalows The resort was unaffected by the fires and remained open through the week. However, the power remained out late into the week.

“The destruction caused by wildfires across our beautiful island of Maui is devastating. Our top priority is taking care of our guests, staff, their families, and our community.

“All non-essential travel to Maui is currently strongly discouraged. The reservations team is standing by to assist with refunding and rebooking your Maui travel to a future date. To check availability, contact 1-833-539-5117,” the resort’s latest update reads .

Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa is another Marriott property temporarily closed because of power outages. “This hotel is temporarily closed due to an extended power outage,” the hotel’s website reads.

Just like the other Marriott properties, cancelation fees have been waived through Aug. 31.

“Our teams have focused on facilitating this evacuation, communicating with guests, and supporting our associates during this difficult time,” Sara Conneighton, a spokesperson for Marriott International, told TMR earlier this week. “We are grateful to local emergency responders, as well as government and industry partners, and we are mobilizing to support relief efforts.”

Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas According to its website, the Westin Ka’anapali is open but remains without power, just like much of the Western Maui cost.

“Due to limited resources on Maui (limited food/water supply), visitors are being asked to leave the island as soon as possible. The resort, and the Hawaii governor’s office, are discouraging nonessential travel through August 31 to allow an effective emergency response to the wildfires,” it said in an update .

Westin Maui Resort & Spa The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, one of a few Marriott hotels impacted by the fire, is closed for the time being. Marriott is waiving cancellation fees for all of its impacted resorts through the end of August.

“This hotel is temporarily closed due to an extended power outage,” an update on the resort’s website says .

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Tuesday, July 9, 2024 86° Today's Paper

Maui brushfire contained after burning 100 acres

By Star-Advertiser staff

Today • Last updated 1 p.m.

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COURTESY MFD

COURTESY MFD

Maui firefighters continued this morning to mop up a brushfire near Pulehu Road that consumed about 100 acres on Monday but is now contained.

The fire broke out at about 12:20 p.m. Monday near the Pulehu and Omaopio Roads junction, according to the Maui Fire Department. Ten units responded, including the Battalion Chief.

Crews that arrived on scene found a fire burning in fallow agricultural fields and a partially wooded gulch pushed by tradewinds of about 20 mph.

After water drops by the Air 1 and Air 2 helicopters and assistance from tankers and equipment from Alpha Construction and Mahi Pono, the fire was 100% contained as of about 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Crews remained on scene overnight to extinguish hotspots and monitor the fire.

The fire remains 100% contained, according to an MFD spokesman, and there is no visible fire activity today.

No structures were threatened, and no injuries were reported.

MFD said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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    500 Ala Moana Blvd. #7-500 Honolulu, HI 96813 (808) 529-4747

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