Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen announced that West Maui north of Lahaina from Kahana to Kā‘anapali fully reopened on November 1, 2023. Following discussions with the mayor’s Lahaina advisory team, the American Red Cross, other partners, and the community, West Maui continues to reopen after the August wildfires that burned 2,200 acres, killing 97 people and destroying more than 2,200 structures in the historic and culturally significant town.
“While it is true that approximately 70% of Maui’s economy relies on visitor spending, the West Maui Community is still grieving. Residents are actively trying to find balance amid sadness and uncertainty about what the future holds,” says Oralani Koa, a Maui resident.
“For those who are just returning to where their homes once stood or beginning to hold funerals for loved ones, some look forward to bringing jobs back to the community through tourism while others are having difficulty juggling the weight of the recovery efforts while welcoming guests back to our beautiful island.”
Mixed Feelings About a Maui Vacation
“Travelers are not necessarily concerned about safety, but rather don’t want to appear callous about traveling to a destination where the fires severely impacted residents,” observes Dani Johnson, Vice President of Coastline Travel Advisors, a Virtuoso agency. “Some are saying they’d rather wait until Lahaina is rebuilt.”
Visitors Will Not Displace Residents from Accommodations
Hawaii’s governor, Dr. Josh Green, M.D., Mayor Bissen, and the Red Cross continue to assure travelers that housing for displaced wildfire survivors is not in jeopardy with the additional opening. Unlike the avalanche of visitors to Hawaii after COVID closures, it has been a slow return of tourists, with many unsure if they should vacation in Maui.
Even Families Who Own Vacation Condos are Uncertain About Visiting Now
“Immediately after the tragic fires, I had mixed feelings about even thinking about going to Maui to enjoy the yearly whale convergence. But as calls for tourism have increased, those thoughts have eased,” says Alec Sills-Trausch, founder of Explore with Alec, who now plans to go.
Elise Armitage, travel and lifestyle blogger at What The Fab, shares, “A couple of months ago, we were unsure if we would continue with our planned trip to Maui in December, especially because we’d be staying on the west side where our family’s condo is. After watching what our favorite local businesses share on Instagram and how they are now encouraging respectful tourism, we decided to move forward with our trip,”
Respectful Tourists Warmly Welcomed
If you’re uncertain if you should visit Maui now or in the near future, here’s what local businesses and residents want travelers to know.
“There is still a lot of confusion about whether it is acceptable for people to visit Maui again. Maui is fully open outside of Lahaina Town, so people can come and experience much of Maui as they have always known it,” says Four Seasons Resort Maui General Manager Ben Shank.
Tourists Are Needed
“We have an obligation to help tell the story that Maui is open, and frankly, tourism is much needed as the economy depends on it. Due to misinformation, people’s livelihoods are now in serious jeopardy. We urge guests to return and to support local businesses across the island.”
Lahaina Is Closed, Sensitive and Sacred
“Please be mindful that in light of the recent damage, Lahaina is not a tourist attraction. While seeing parts of it will be nearly unavoidable for those traveling to the west side of the island, we ask all visitors to be mindful not to take any pictures or share anything on social media.”
“Out of respect to the many families who have lost loved ones and a community who has been changed forevermore, please be respectful,” explained Koa, manager of Culture and Activities at The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas in Kā‘anapali Beach.
“For a small island community, the devastation of the fires affected everyone — even if not directly. When traveling to Maui, be compassionate and patient. Let the aloha spirit of kindness, unity, and love guide you,” advises Monica Salter, VP of Global Communications and Social Responsibility for OUTRIGGER, which is welcoming tourists again to their Maui properties.
Attractive Deals Available
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, fares to Maui for November and December are down more than 20% compared to last year. Add in recently opened hotels looking to fill vacant rooms, and travelers can secure rare prices for a Hawaiian holiday.
Black Friday Deals
For a limited time, people can book the lowest price of the year with 40% off stays at OUTRIGGER Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel and as much as 30% off reservations at their Maui vacation condos. In addition, Kaanapali Alii, a Destination by Hyatt Residence, offers 15% off most stays through December 15.
Double Check What’s Currently Open
The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority advises travelers to check with individual accommodations, activities, and businesses in Kā‘anapali Beach, Nāpili, Honokōwai, and Kapalua for their availability and hours of operation.
Spending Is Support
“As visitors return to West Maui after the tragic wildfires, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for support and respect, and hope all will make new cherished Maui memories,” says Shelley Kekuna, executive director at Kā’anapali Beach Resort Association. “Welcoming visitors not only aids in the recovery of our local economy but also reinforces the spirit of aloha in our community.”
Guilt-Free Spending and Shopping
According to the Hawaiʻi Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, approximately 3 million tourists visit Maui annually, spending $5.4 billion. In this instance, spending is much-needed support, not just vacation splurging.
Now’s the Time to Book With Your Favorites
“The people of Maui are strong and resilient, and we want to support them as they rebuild and move forward. For example, our favorite whale-watching company, based in Lahaina, Hawaii Ocean Rafting, is reopening tours for December from a new temporary location. We can’t wait to book with them, support their business, and generously tip their awesome captains and first mates,” adds Armitage.
If you have a trip in the distant future, call and ask if you can purchase a gift card now as a way to bring immediate revenue for their business.
That’s Why Some are Going Now
“Considering tourism is their number one industry, I feel it’s important for us to continue to find a way to support the residents and employees of Maui.”
“I’m attending a golf tournament in November and will visit four courses, multiple restaurants, and businesses during my trip. Spreading my tourism dollars is the best way I can personally help, in my opinion,” says Andrew Karpiak, Realtor at Kamloops Living.
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