Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

Is Maui open for visitors? Should we cancel our trip?

Many of our guests are asking us these questions – is Maui open for visitors? Should we cancel our trip? I get it, the stories being portrayed on the news are horrific. The devastation in Lahaina is unfathomable. Kula has also had fires. Should you justify coming as a visitor when there is so much trauma?

In case you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, check out my previous blog post about the wildfires.

Maui map from the Maui Accommodations website shows the different parts of Maui. Note Lahaina is in West Maui, a 45 minute drive from South Kihei/Wailea.

Ask the Governor of Hawaii and the Maui County Mayor

At last night’s (August 12, 2023) press conference, both the Governor of Hawaii Josh Green and the Mayor of Maui County Richard Bissen answered this question quite succinctly. This nugget was at the very end of the press conference (See below). If you have time, consider watching these press conferences rather than the sensational mind-numbing news being broadcast on all media. Get the facts directly from the source.

I have transcripts of their responses below and have included the Youtube clip from the press conference, but if you don’t have time, please take these take-aways from both interviews:

  1. South Maui is open, Kihei and Wailea is open. Maui is not closed. West Maui is under contamination in certain areas and we’re trying to protect people from going back there (quote Mayor Richard Bissen)
  2. We need jobs to survive. We don’t want other parts of the island to also be devastated by restricting travel to Maui (quote Governor Josh Green)
  3. Please be respectful. Don’t go to Lahaina-area, don’t go to where people are dealing with the aftermath of the fires. Remember you are entering someone’s home (Mayor Richard Bissen)

The actual interview question and transcript

The question at the press conference was from Hawaii News Now:

Do you feel it’s time for all visitors remaining on Maui to leave for the time being and do you have any message for visitors who still plan to come to this island as scheduled?

Governor Green’s response (at 1:02:40)

Our entire focus is on the recovery in West Maui…. A lot of visitors are leaving, kind of in a regular cadence. We also had to, of course, have enough airplane seats to get people evacuated. I at this point don’t think that visitors are impairing anything that we’re doing, they’re not blocking roads, ah we do have frustrations about the few visitors who decided they want to come ‘see a site’ which we find to be toxic to us as our people have suffered. But that’s very few people.

There are two considerations at least: One is the safety of all of our first responders as they deal with really difficult conditions because of the nature of this disaster, high temperature fire. The other consideration is all of our people will need to survive, and we can’t afford to have no jobs or no future for our children. We wrestled with this during Covid and did a very good job, better than other States, but we did have to balance the fact that when you restrict any travel to a region, you really devastate its own local residents in many ways, more than anyone else.

So one of the things that we intend to do is to put our residents into hotels, so that the hotels themselves can stay open. The State will pay for those costs, the federal government will pay for those costs. Those individuals will very likely be workers of those hotels that will make it easier for them to focus on the recovery. But we don’t want other businesses after this devastation to leave and also leave other parts of Maui devastated. That wouldn’t be ok.

I will say that it’s going to be a very long time before tourism returns of course to anywhere near the levels it was in WEST (emphasis) Maui. It’s all hands on deck, and I don’t just mean our State and our federal government. It means all the people across the globe. I just really want to say thank you to all of you who have been patient with us and have been covering this, so that people around the world can see this place that they love, how it’s struggling and suffering right now, and how if you value Hawaii, not only be patient with the travel, but also support us in the future. Support us and believe in us and we welcome you back. That is important to us… We will rebuild Hawaii together here and with you but it’s going to take time.

Mayor Bissen (at 1:06:06)

Many of our residents make their living off of tourism, number one. Secondly, it’s not the number of tourists people are upset at, it’s when people are disrespectful when they go to anywhere. Not just Maui, pick any other state for those of you who live in states that have tourism. It’s when it impacts people on the road, when people are rude, when people don’t show that respect that they’ve come to someone’s home. They’re visiting someone’s home, this isn’t Disneyland that’s created for something. This is where people live and survive and work. I don’t think anybody has a problem with visitors, I think people have a problem with rude visitors. Just like you would, any of you would wherever you live. So I think that’s the issue more. Whether someone is not being respectful wherever they are going to, and part of that just showed itself the other day when people decided to go to this area, the way they did.

I would say that South Maui is open, Kihei and Wailea is open. Maui is not closed. West Maui is under contamination in certain areas and we’re trying to protect people from going back there. I appreciate the question.

Is Maui open for visitors?

Yes, yes it is. But please be respectful. Please support local, support small businesses. Be generous, tip well and show aloha.