Maui is reeling from the destruction caused by recent wildfires. The West Maui area, where Lahaina burned, is particularly devasted due to the loss of life, love, livelihood, and local history.
In place of fire, a debate rages regarding the role of ongoing tourism amid loss, pain, and struggle. Should tourists stay away from Maui, or must they keep the island’s economy strong as its people recover and rebuild?
Before I answer that question, know this. I don’t live in Hawaii. I’m not an expert on Hawaiian culture, community, ecosystems, or the economy. But, like so many people, I adore the place. I love the people, the language, the traditions, and the values; everything that underpins the concept of aloha.
When I step out of an airport on any of the Hawaiian islands, take a deep breath of the heavy, scented air, and feel the trade winds on my skin, I can sense all the worry and stress flow out of my body, replaced with peace and calm. Well, except for driving Honolulu’s H1 during rush hour. (But even that is a treat compared to Los Angeles, where I live.)
I am sure part of that feeling has to do with being on vacation with my laptop sitting on my desk at home. But that’s what Hawaii does for me. And that’s why, the moment we can afford to go to the islands, I pack up my family, and that’s what we do.
We last visited Maui in 2021, staying in the South Kihei area. In addition, we spent time in Napili Bay, Hana, and the upcountry region near Kula (also impacted by the wildfires). We drove up Haleakala, swam at Wailea, frolicked in Wailua Falls, and probably got too close to the Nakalele Blowhole. Like many travelers, we ate at Cheeseburgers in Paradise and got shave ice at Ululani’s in Lahaina.
My point is that while Maui is relatively small, there is more to it than Lahaina. I don’t mean to minimize the devastation or pain Hawaiians are suffering. But Maui is dependent on tourism to…