The recent wildfires that devastated West Maui are taking a toll on its residents. Affected locals have been trying to get back on their feet, but it’s been difficult since many have lost their homes, livelihoods, and loved ones. This is why locals are asking tourists to support Maui’s recovery despite their love-hate relationship with the latter. Though tourism made playgrounds out of the county’s mountains, beaches, and communities, tourism remains the island’s economic engine, and the locals need all the help they can get.
Because of this, some parts of Maui remain open to tourists—good news if you’ve already planned a trip. Given the situation, you must take extra precautions and be more sensitive towards the community. To start, here are some ways you can help Maui as tourists:
Stick to the safe areas
Although the fire is over, some parts of Maui remain unsafe. Damaged infrastructure could fall over in bad weather, and fallen posts may have exposed live wires. Keep you and your family safe by sticking to the secure areas recommended by local officials, like Kahului, Wailuku, and Kīhei. By following local guidelines, you can safely take your family on a trip to Maui.
Use popular tourist businesses
Maui’s tourism businesses have taken a huge hit, and they need all the support you can give. Despite the devastation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that some resorts, businesses, and landmarks are still open or will open again soon. For example, the Honu Oceanside is expected to reopen in the last quarter of this year after surviving the fires.
With public services like transportation under more strain, consider hiring a vehicle from a rental service. Renting a Jeep Wrangler in Hawaii is still one of the most popular tourist activities and will prove even more useful due to the damaged roads. Even before the fires, tourists preferred using this vehicle because it offers maximum ground clearance and has rugged tires that can go over debris and potholes. The family-friendly Wranglers are 4WD 5-seaters with five airbags, so you and your kids can drive around the open parts of the island securely. Using these services will help boost the tourist economy.
Support local businesses
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In line with the above point, small businesses have a more challenging time recovering than big companies because a single person or family runs them. This is why your family should support local businesses whenever possible by eating at their restaurants, buying their products, and promoting them to fellow tourists. Supporting them will go a long way in empowering the local owners to restart their lives.
This is also an excellent opportunity for your family to learn more about Maui’s communities and culture, as local businesses offer more authentic experiences that corporations or chains cannot provide. For instance, you can bring your kids to shop at the farmers market so they can see where residents buy their food and the local goods that Maui has to offer.
Go to destinations that are helping the victims
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Many tourist destinations are doing what they can to help fire victims. When you go to these places, you can experience tourist activities and contribute to the community’s recovery. Going to Maui Ocean Center in Maalaea is one thing you can do. This aquarium resumed its operations in late August to help Maui’s economy. Maui Ocean Center is also collecting donations to give to the victims and is endorsing the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund, which offers financial assistance.
If you plan on staying at the Grand Wailea in Maui—a family-friendly luxury resort with waterslides, an infant pool, and hula lessons—you’ll be helping the locals, too. The resort promotes the Maui United Way fund for guests who want to donate.
Consider volunteering your time
If your time permits, you can help the fire victims directly by volunteering. It’s not a typical activity for families, but it’ll still give you a chance to bond with each other while helping the community.
The Maui Food Bank accepts visitors who can help them pack and arrange food to distribute to the affected residents. On the other hand, Maui Rapid Response encourages volunteers who can help with different tasks to support the victims. Finally, Common Ground Collective needs people who can help them sort, wash, and plant fruits that can be donated to families and businesses in need.
Although Maui is welcoming tourists, stay sensitive and vigilant of your actions to respect the fire victims. Remember these tips when you take your family to Maui during this challenging time.
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