What you can do to help Maui—and why you should go

Sep 1, 2023

In August, deadly wildfires swept over parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui. In their wake, large swaths of a popular area on the island’s western coast—famed for its lush emerald landscape—were reduced to ash and rubble. The wildfire’s aftereffects have been truly heartbreaking and painful to comprehend:  devastating loss of human life, long-term ecological damage and the near-total destruction of the historic town of Lahaina.

Several weeks after the disaster, the road to recovery remains long. Yet across the island, there are glimmers of hope and touching signs of resilience, with businesses and communities across the island helping one another in crucial and uplifting ways—providing hot meals, Wi-Fi, and transportation; donating supplies; raising funds to aid recovery and relief. This ties back to a core tenet of Hawaiian culture called mālama, which in essence means to care for and to give back. 

Those businesses include the Four Seasons Resort Maui—located in Wailea, 30 miles south along the coast from the impacted areas—which worked with World Central Kitchen to provide 500 meals per day and developed a relief fund for employees in need, among other efforts. Hawaiian restaurant Merriman's immediately began serving free meals and offering Wi-Fi to residents and responders from its Kapalua location; employees coordinated daily deliveries with drivers using their personal vehicles for those unable to travel to the restaurant. Polynesian Adventure, a well-loved Hawaii tour outfitter, volunteered to shuttle emergency workers and supplies with their motor coaches. 

What does travel look like now?

In the days after the disaster, there was a lot of confusion about whether it was safe (and appropriate) to travel to Maui, with conflicting information coming from a variety of sources. And that while the recovery is ongoing and the popular tourist area of Lahaina may never be the same, the island is in fact open for visitorsthat tourism not only brings much-needed dollars to the community, but it also ensures continued employment for hospitality workers who may have been directly impacted by the fires or are supporting family and friends who suffered loss. We’ve spoken to people who work in tourism on the island and the message is clear: they want you to come.

One thing to emphasize is that the devastation is limited to West Maui; while that portion is closed to visitors for the time being, the rest of Maui is open and ready for travelers. Maui’s tourism industry—together with the Hawai'i Tourism Authority and Hawaiʻi Governor Josh Green—is encouraging responsible travel to Maui outside of the impacted areas (as well as the rest of the Hawaiian islands).

“Lahaina is just one area of West Maui,” wrote Leanne Pletcher, Public Relations & Marketing Director at Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau, on LinkedIn. “All the other parts of Maui, including Kahului, Wailuku, Hāna, Wailea, Makawao, Haleakalā and Kīhei, are open and welcoming visitors.”

Many Maui hotels are fully operational and local tour companies are taking visitors to the extraordinary places that were unimpacted by the fires, like sacred Haleakala National Park (Hawaiian for "house of the sun") and the iconic 64-mile Hana Highway - Road to Hana on Maui's dramatic east coast. In fact, much of the island is completely untouched by the disaster, including the beloved Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala, an out-and-back hike that takes you to a bamboo forest and the remarkable 400-foot Waimoku Falls, and the secluded Waiʻānapanapa State Park, famous for its black lava-sand beaches. 

It's clear that the nearly 3 million travelers who visit Maui each year will be a huge part of the recovery effort. "The return of visitors will be essential to the next phase of recovery," says Ben Shank, General Manager at the Four Seasons Resort Maui. Or as Pletcher puts it: "Our economic recovery depends on you coming to visit."

How to help

The Hawai‘i Community Foundation's (HCF) Maui Strong Fund was established to provide "financial resources to support the immediate and long-term recovery needs for the people and places affected by the devastating Maui wildfires," according to its website. Dozens of grants have been awarded by the fund so far to organizations assisting with food and supplies, lodging and shelter, animal welfare, mental health, grief counseling and more.

When researching hotels and tours, look for businesses that supported the community in the aftermath. For example, Four Seasons Resort Maui, in addition to immediate efforts, is now offering guests the option to contribute up to $200 per night of their stay back to the community via HCF's Maui Strong Fund. Similarly, Hotel Wailea is donating $100 to aid recovery for every booking made before September 30. Grand Wailea, like Four Seasons, partnered with World Central Kitchen, and is donating to Maui Strong and the Maui branch of United Way. Castle Resorts offers 15% off to guests who participate in the Hawaiian practice of mālama with a variety of organizations. Polynesian Adventures is offering tours (including sunrise/sunset tours to Haleakala) and donating a portion of sales to Maui Strong.

And when visiting, do so responsibly. Keep the Hawaiian concept of kuleana in mind, which loosely translates to responsibility, or the practice of taking ownership over your actions and their effects. 

"While the devastation seems at times all-consuming, Hawaii has always been a place that unites in times of adversity, and despite the impossible circumstances, it has been truly remarkable to witness our community coming together to take care of one another and offer solidarity, support, and meaningful aid for the beautiful people of Maui," said Shank.

Before visiting, please check the Hawai'i Tourism Authority for any updates.

To learn more on how to help, visit the Hawai‘i Community Foundation's Maui Strong Fund.

More Deals & Tips