Update 14 August 2023: Hawaii Governor Josh Green expressed in a news conference that he doesn’t think Maui visitors are impairing response efforts in Lahaina. While the first priority is getting affected Maui residents housed and assisted, the island also can’t afford to lose businesses and jobs.
While Lahaina and much of West Maui is closed to visitors, South Maui areas of Kihei and Wailea are open for business.
Like many of you, John and I have been in a state of utter shock since hearing the news about the wildfire devastation on the beloved island of Maui. Our hearts go out to the people of Maui and all those impacted by this tragedy.
It was just a few weeks ago that I people-watched from a bench while shaded under the famous Lahaina banyan tree. My family and I had sought a brief respite after trekking down historic Front Street on an idyllically sunny July day.
It’s heart wrenching to learn that this place of memory for so many was wiped away so swiftly and traumatically.
I can only imagine what the Maui community is going through as they grasp this loss — the loss of loved ones, the loss of homes, the loss of livelihoods, and the loss of its historic town.
There are simply no words.
How we can help
For the most part, I believe people just want to do the right thing when a tragedy of this significance occurs. These are a few things to consider when it comes to helping Maui through this situation.
Maui County has requested that non-essential travelers depart Maui in order to preserve limited island resources.
Reconsider your Maui travel plans
One of the most common questions we’ve seen online is whether travelers should cancel an upcoming trip. The hesitancy is this: Maui’s economy relies on tourism — but traveling to the island may also put a strain on local resources while the local community struggles to heal.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. It’s a personal decision — both moral and financial in nature.
Here’s our take: For at least the next few weeks, avoid visiting the island for leisure purposes. As I write this, firefighters are still battling flare-ups and working to contain fires in Lahaina, north Kihei, and Upcountry. Victims are still gathered at emergency evacuation centers. Families are still searching for loved ones.
Allow the island community time to move past the shock. Give them space to grieve for loved ones, homes, and businesses that were lost in this tragedy.
Some argue that South Maui and Wailea are relatively unaffected (business closure-wise) and can still receive visitors. This may be the case, but that doesn’t mean the area is untouched by sorrow from recent events. We understand that, at the same time, local businesses may struggle when so many visitors cancel at once. This is where we must walk a fine line between supporting the community by visiting or remaining respectful by staying away.
Beyond the next several weeks, I would take a wait-and-see approach. In the coming months, tourism support may be needed to help the island rebuild.
But for now, I think we should heed the request from the Maui government. Don’t travel to Maui unnecessarily.
When tragedy strikes, there are those who rush to help — and others who, unfortunately, see the opportunity to take advantage of others.
Before you donate, do your research to ensure that your money and resources go to those whom you intend to support.
While this isn’t an official endorsement, these are some of the organizations we personally have donated to (or plan to donate to over the next several weeks):
Maui Humane Society
Many pets were lost or left behind during the wildfire evacuation. Other animals were found burned and requiring medical attention due to smoke inhalation.
Before the fires, Maui Humane was already struggling with fully occupied kennels. In the past few days, the community has come through to offer foster homes so that MHS has room to accept incoming animals. What they can use now: funds to provide animals life-saving medical procedures and purchase supplies for those affected by the fires.
We chose to donate to Maui Humane Society because we’ve volunteered with them in the past through the Beach Buddies program, and we’ve seen the good works they’ve done with animals on Maui.
Donate directly on their website: Maui Humane Society
Help Chef Sato prepare 500 meals a day for Maui
I typically don’t donate to gofundme fundraisers (I prefer directing my funds to local nonprofit organizations instead), but a close friend who lives on Maui forwarded me this link a few days ago.
Chef Sato owns one of my favorite Maui eateries, Havens. In response to recent events, the restaurant is working with World Central Kitchen to get food where it’s needed around Maui. Funds donated go directly to food costs. You can also follow them online @havens_ogg and @satocooks to see this fundraiser in action.
For those on the island, they are also accepting volunteers to help prepare meals.
Donate to Chef Sato’s Havens food drive on their gofundme page.
Maui Strong Fund / Hawai‘i Community Foundation
The HCF provides resources for disaster response and recovery. Their Maui Strong Fund is working specifically to support those communities affected by the wildfire. We chose this fund because it’s a local aid organization vetted by the Office of the Governor.
Donate to the Maui Strong Fund directly on their website.
A brief note about Maui Trip Guide updates
I started this site as a resource for visitors to get the most of their Maui vacation. Out of respect for the Maui community (and the recent government request for tourism to pause at this time), I won’t be publishing new travel guide blog posts for at least the next several weeks.
In the meantime, I’ll be going over old posts and updating them to reflect the businesses and visitor sites that have been impacted by the recent disaster.
And finally: Farewell, Lahaina
Aloha ʻOe, Lahaina. We thank you for the memories. Our hearts go with you and this closing chapter of your history. Until we meet again. ❤️