Yes, Go to Maui. But Here’s What NOT to Do on Your Visit

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Grand Wailea Resort Chapel Maui at Sunset

Inside: For Maui to recover economically from the devastating fires, respectful tourism is crucial. Here’s what not to do in Maui to ensure you visit with Aloha.

My husband and I recently returned from a week on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui. It was my second visit to the island and my husband’s first.

Since moving to Oahu a few months ago, we have been excited to start island-hopping and Maui was at the top of our list.

In fact, we had a weekend trip planned to Lahaina on August 11th. Obviously, due to the tragic fires that occurred on August 8th, we had to postpone that trip. And sadly, the lovely B&B we booked in historic Lahaina Town did not survive the fires. 

In the weeks and months since, we have followed the local news closely and debated how long to wait to reschedule our trip. Should we return to Maui now? Or is it the right thing to stay away and let the island grieve?  

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to book through these links, I receive a small commission, which I will likely blow on mai tais, poke, and shave ice.  All of this internet voodoo takes place at no additional cost to you. 

In the months immediately following the fires, the message to potential visitors was murky. But in February of 2024, Maui launched a new advertising campaign to encourage tourism and the message is now clear.

Yes, it’s time to return to Maui.

While a small part of the island remains off-limits to visitors, the rest of Maui is open for business and needs your support.

Maui is a tourist destination and the island’s economic recovery is heavily dependent on a swift return to tourism.  

West Maui Hawaii
Flying over West Maui

In 2024, the clear message from the Governor, the Tourism Authority, and many local business owners is, “Please come back to Maui, we need you.” 

​But that message comes with an important disclaimer.

Maui needs respectful visitors who arrive with the spirit of Aloha. Visitors who want to support the island’s recovery while also enjoying their vacation.

There’s a nuance to visiting the island right now. A clear right and wrong way to behave. And it’s important to understand the emotional state of the island before you arrive.

Confident that we were exactly the type of visitors Maui needed, we quickly rescheduled our trip.

And I’m so glad we did. It was a wonderful experience and we were able to balance a few days of true vacation with a desire to help where we could. 

If you’re considering planning a trip to Maui, I heartily encourage you to do it.   

Jenny and Dave in Maui at Sunset
Enjoying a beautiful sunset on Wailea Beach

But first, let’s address a couple of Frequently Asked Questions about travel to Maui after the fires:

What parts of Maui are closed?

Lahaina Town and its surrounding areas are still closed to visitors and will be for some time. The West Side of Maui, including the popular resort areas of Ka’anapali and Kapalua, has reopened.

The rest of Maui, including North Maui and popular South Maui, never closed down after the fires and these areas need your support. 

For the most current information on what’s open, visit the Hawaii Tourism Authority website

Should I go to Maui right now? 

Yes, without a doubt, now is the time to go back to Maui. The return of tourism is critical to the island’s recovery.

Respectful tourism is welcome and much needed. Since the fires, Maui’s travel industry has lost millions per day in visitor spending. As we were landing in Maui, it was hard to miss the huge field full of unused rental cars.

The bottom line is that businesses will not survive unless visitors begin to return to the island. And return quickly.

Rental Cars Parked Maui Hawaii
Rental Cars idle in a field near the Maui Airport

Is Maui the same as it was before the wildfires? 

No, the island as a whole is, of course, forever changed by this tragedy. The community is grieving and will be for some time. Let’s just say this is not the place to go for a Bachelor Party right now. With that said, 90% of the island was physically untouched by the wildfires and remains just as spectacular as ever.  

What is the best way to help Maui?

There are so many ways to help. The most important way is to visit with grace. While you’re here, donate or volunteer if you have time. I’ll expand on both of these later in this post.

Can I volunteer to help while visiting Maui?

You absolutely can! And we did on our visit (more on that in a moment). But don’t feel like you have to. Just the act of visiting is a great way to support Maui’s recovery. 

With that said, let’s talk about what visiting Maui looks like right now. We talked with many, many locals during our stay and there was a lot of consensus about the RIGHT way to visit Maui for the foreseeable future.

Based on those conversations, here are my recommendations. 

5 Things NOT to Do in Maui

1. Do not go to Lahaina Town

Under any circumstances. Honestly, don’t even think about it.

While it’s true that most of West Maui has reopened, that does NOT include the devastated town of Lahaina or its immediate surroundings. Visitors are neither needed nor welcome there and it is not a tourist attraction.

2. Don’t Take Pictures of Fire Damage

If you happen to see something during your visit that was affected by the fires, please don’t whip out your cell phone and take a picture for social media. Damage from the fires should be treated with respect. 

3. Don’t Waste Water

Limiting your individual water consumption is always a good practice anytime you travel. But this is especially true when you visit a remote island like Maui.

Water conservation has always been important on Maui but now so more than ever.

If you stay at a hotel, consider asking that your towels, sheets, and any additional bath linens not be turned over during your stay. Use the refillable water bottles provided to you in your room. Skip laundry services during your stay and try to reduce your overall water consumption.

Every little bit helps.

4. Don’t be cheap

Maui has always been an expensive place to visit. And now, more than ever, the island needs your generosity of spirit and wallet. Tip generously to service workers and hotel staff members.

Tipping those who assist you during your stay is a phenomenal way to show Aloha and support them during this difficult time. If you can’t afford to give money, give your time.

We generally travel on a budget but we felt it was important to build generous tipping into our overall trip budget for Maui. We got extra cash when we arrived and tipped everyone from the housekeepers to the valets about 5x what we normally would (and I like to think we were already pretty good tippers). 

5. Don’t ask too many questions

It should go without saying that local residents do not want to be asked if they “lost everything in the fires.” If they volunteer their story, be compassionate and listen. But don’t ask.

This is especially true if you are visiting the reopened areas on the west side. Understand that the residents who were directly impacted by the disaster are grieving. But many have had no choice but to return to work in the island’s hotels, restaurants, and shops.

We found that most of the locals we encountered were quick to volunteer their personal experiences (or those of friends or neighbors) in the natural course of conversation. It’s just the primary topic of conversation on the island and likely will be for a while.

But everyone is different. And none of the residents we interacted with had personally lost a loved one. 

But enough about what NOT to do in Maui.

Let’s get back on a positive note and talk about what you SHOULD DO when you visit Maui. And honestly, if you’re taking the time to read this, you’re not the type of traveler who would do any of the above anyway! 

Now, let’s talk about some positive ways you can make an impact with your visit to Maui.

Here are my Top 5 things you should do when you visit Maui right now:

1. Lead with Aloha 

The theme for Maui’s tourism reboot is “Mākaukau Maui” which in Hawaiian means “ready” or “prepared.” The message to visitors is that Maui is ready to welcome you back with Aloha. And as a visitor, it’s important to return that welcoming spirit and lead with Aloha.

The word “Aloha” is so much more than just hello and goodbye. It’s generosity and compassion. It’s love and encouragement. The spirit of Aloha is the very essence of the Hawaiian Islands. So much so that it’s even defined by state law as “mutual regard and affection” and a guiding philosophy to “extend warmth in caring with no obligation in return.”

Hawaiian culture dictates that everyone is welcomed with respect, kindness, and generosity. And now more than ever, your visit to Maui should be guided by the gentle spirit of Aloha. 

2. Donate or Volunteer (or both!)

If you have a free morning or an extra day in your itinerary, I encourage you to sign up for one of the many volunteer opportunities available around the island. 

On our recent visit, my husband and I spent an afternoon volunteering at the Maui Nui Strong Central Distribution Site in Kuhului and it was the single best thing we did all week. We were warmly welcomed by the volunteer staff there and put right to work assembling grocery bags for displaced families.

The Distribution Center is open to affected residents on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Every other day is a “re-stocking day.” We visited on a Saturday and assisted with the restocking efforts. 

Support the Maui Humane Society

The Maui Humane Society has a couple of awesome programs that visitors can take part in.

The first is the Dog on Demand program which allows visitors to take a shelter dog on an outing around Maui for the day. They provide everything you need for the day and the program is a great way to get the dogs out of the shelter for exercise and social interaction.

If you’re departing Maui on an Alaska Airlines flight to the West Coast, you can also support the Wings of Aloha program which helps a rescued pet get to its new home on the mainland. It’s totally free thanks to the support of Alaska Airlines.

For more information on either of the above programs, visit the Maui Humane Society website.

And here’s a list of more great volunteer opportunities on Maui.

If your itinerary doesn’t allow time for a volunteer project, there’s no need to feel guilty about that!

You are on vacation and, as I said before, your visit alone helps support the local community in so many ways.

Instead, you could choose to donate to one of many worthy causes. The Maui Strong Fund is a terrific choice for donations because they divide up the funds to local organizations most in need.

3. Book a Hotel (not a vacation rental)

When it comes to where to stay in Maui, the primary options have always been full-service resorts or limited-service vacation rentals. 

It’s true that vacation rentals are often more affordable than the island’s fabulous resort hotels. However, I’m currently advising against booking vacation rentals on Maui, and here’s why.

Since the fires, the island’s many vacation rentals have become a hotly debated topic. Residents and some state officials are lobbying hard for vacation rentals to be converted to longer-term housing for displaced Lahaina families. And considering many of those families have been living in hotel rooms for months, it’s hard to argue with this logic. 

With that said, in light of the political instability of that situation, I don’t recommend booking a vacation rental on Maui right now. Let the local community sort this one out and book a hotel or resort for your vacation.

Here are a few of my favorite Maui resorts:

Grand Wailea Maui: This massive resort built in the shape of a turtle enjoys a prime beachfront location and has 5-star amenities.

AC Hotel by Marriott Maui Wailea: For a slightly more affordable option, this newer property is a terrific choice. 

The Westin Maui Resort & Spa Ka’anapali – In Ka’anapali, this full-service resort is my favorite choice.

Napili Sunset Beach Front Resort: This is an excellent budget-friendly option in the area.

4. Book a Tour (or just get out and explore!)

Consider booking a tour with one of many local tour companies. For example, book one of the many incredible snorkel tours to Molokini Crater or a day trip to Haleakala National Park for sunrise.

In the winter months, Maui is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales and there are plenty of tours available to get out on the water.

This small group raft tour is one of my favorites:

MY Pick
Scotland Road Trip Car

Eye-Level Whale Watching Eco-Raft Tour

This 2-hour small group raft tour with a marine naturalist is the perfect way to get up close and personal with Maui’s visiting humpback whales.

Here are a few more of my favorite boat tours:

The Everything Guide to the Best Maui Whale-Watching Tours

Or book a rental car and hit the road for some of the best scenic drives on the Valley Isle.

Tip: I like Discount Hawaii Car Rental for rentals in Hawaii. 

MY Pick
Driving on Molokai Hawaii

Discount Hawaii Car Rental

For rental cars in Hawaii, go to the local experts. They’ll find you the best rate among all the major companies with no booking fees. And their customer support is top-notch.

Whether you head to upcountry Maui or tackle the winding Road to Hana in east Maui, with fewer cars on the road there’s never been a better time to go. (Just mind the speed limit on the Road to Hana and it’s a good idea to pack some motion sickness pills!)

If your budget is tight, just grab some reef-safe sunscreen and a picnic lunch and head straight for one of Maui’s beaches.

There are beautiful beaches around the entire island and a day at the beach is one of the best things to do on Maui. Keep an eye out for the elusive Hawaiian monk seal or a lounging green sea turtle (but remember to keep your distance from monk seals and turtles). 

Hookipa Beach Turtle Beach Maui Hawaii
Hookipa Beach (Turtle Beach) Maui

5. Eat and shop locally

Support the local economy and small businesses by eating at a local restaurant or shopping for snacks or souvenirs at a local store.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that even chain businesses like Costco or the big resorts employ locals, so every business on the island needs your support. But the small businesses need you more than most.

Here are just a few of my favorite local businesses on Maui:

Alii Kula Lavender Farm – A great place to beat the heat, it’s usually 15 degrees cooler up there!

Da Kitchen (Kihei) – Local Hawaiian plate meals hands down the best meal we had while on Maui!

Chicken Katsu Kalua Pork Da Kitchen Kihei Maui
Chicken Katsu & Kalua Pork at Da Kitchen

Fork and Salad in Kihei – farm to table, all sourced from local farmers, 2 locations – Kihei and Kahului. 

Jaws Country Store – A classic stop on the Road to Hana.

Kula Surfing Goat Dairy Farm, Kula – Goat farm tours and products.

Mama’s Fish House – Before the fires, this popular restaurant was the toughest reservation on Maui (typically booked 3-6 months out). But lately, you can often walk in at lunchtime without a reservation. This is not likely to last long so get there while you can! Like many Maui restaurants, a meal at Mama’s supports local farmers and fishermen.

Mama's Fish House Maui Hawaii
Get to Mama’s Fish House now while you can!

Maui Bees – Producing all organic honey in the up country.

Maui Brewing Company – Because Hawaii’s largest craft brewery is always a good idea.

Maui Cookie Lady, Makawao – So much more than just cookies. These decadent creations are a favorite of local celebrities like Oprah and The Rock.

Maui Fresh Streatery, Kahului – Perhaps Maui’s most popular food truck, Chef Kyle Kawakami is a fixture in the local community. His truck tirelessly served local residents in the aftermath of the fires.

Maui Specialty Chocolates, Kahului – Freshly made mochi and chocolates, call and order ahead and they will hold items for you because they routinely sell out of their supply.

Monkeypod Kitchen – Home to the best Mai Tai in all of Hawaii (in my expert opinion) and delicious farm-to-table Hawaii regional cuisine. Two locations – Wailea and Ka’anapali (this location provided over 40,000 free meals to West Maui residents after the fires).  

Monkeypod Mai Tai Waikiki
The Monkeypod Mai Tai

Native Intelligence, Wailuku – Native Hawaiian-owned, featuring local designers.

Paia Fish Market – 3 locations on Maui (one was lost in the fires). Delicious fish tacos and more.

Paia Gelato – Amazing gelato, coffee, and a great place to pick up a picnic lunch to take to the beach.

Paradise Now, Wailuku – Hand-painted original art from Maui.

Shikeda Bento Patisserie, Wailuku – Japanese and French-inspired pastries made fresh daily using local Maui ingredients.

Sixty Two Marcket, Wailuku – Both a restaurant and a market featuring local farmer products. The menu rotates seasonally every 62 days.

South Maui Fish Company, Kihei – Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, this popular fresh catch food truck serves 100% local Hawaiian fish and sells out daily. 

South Maui Gardens, Kihei –  This full-service nursery and community green space is home to the Kihei Food Oasis where you’ll find many of Maui’s best food trucks & live music every 2nd Saturday.

Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice – Lost 2 of their Lahaina locations in the fire and 17 of 19 employees lost their homes. Find them in Kahului, Kihei, and Paia.

Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice Maui
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice Maui

So yes, it’s time to go back to Maui

Without exception, everyone we encountered on our visit to Maui was grateful we were there. We were thanked numerous times for coming and welcomed graciously by everyone from restaurant servers to hotel staff.

Because we did not visit any part of West Maui, we did not see any damage from the fires on our visit. 

If you do visit the west side of the island (obviously, not Lahaina), tread lightly. The majority of hotels, shops, and restaurants are open, and would greatly appreciate your visit. However, there are also many displaced residents living in this area so please be extra sensitive. 

But as long as you visit with common sense and a warm spirit of Aloha, the residents of Maui will welcome you with open arms.

Wailea Beach Maui Hawaii
Wailea Beach, Maui

And thanks to quick and affordable flights between our home in Honolulu and Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG), we look forward to visiting as often as possible in the coming months to spread Aloha and continue to support the island’s recovery.

So start planning that Maui vacation.

If you took the time to read this post, you obviously care about how your visit will impact the island. And that’s why you’re exactly the type of visitor Maui needs most right now.  

Share the Aloha!

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