With the devastating fires that hit the island last month, a lot of people are asking whether it’s okay to travel to Maui right now. We don’t have all the answers, but we can offer some guidance depending on your perspective. It’s a complicated issue. Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision.

Is it okay to travel to Maui right now? Yes

Is it okay to travel to Maui? Hana highway

Tourism dollars will help with recovery

There’s no question the tourism economy brings money to Maui and aids recovery efforts to the island. After all, Hawaii depends on tourism to keep the economy afloat. West Maui (the most afflicted area) accounts for about 15% of Maui’s tourism dollars. Many residents depend on tourism for employment. The vast majority of locals work at jobs supporting the tourism industry. Many small businesses also depend on tourism to stay afloat, if not cater specifically to visitors to the island. A quick recovery means more money back into Maui’s economy. 

Maui tourism says “don’t cancel your plans”

In the days and weeks following the wildfires, a combination of mixed messages and fears about infrastructure damage caused Maui’s tourism industry to take a huge hit. In fact, estimates say Maui loses about $9 million a day right now. The tourism board encourages travelers to keep their plans and come to Maui anyway, in order to keep the industry alive. It may not be exactly the trip you originally planned, but it’s helpful to the community if you keep your plans. If you planned to stay in west Maui, there are still many areas of the island open for business.

Is it okay to travel to Maui? Kihei

There are many beautiful areas of Maui to visit that are open for business

While travel to west Maui is suspended for the near future, these areas of the island are open to visitors:  Kahului, Wailuku, Kīhei, Wailea, Mākena, Pāʻia and Hāna. 


Shopping and the airport are the main attractions for Kahului. Most people arriving to Maui will pass through the airport, and otherwise, it’s the main shopping hub for locals. 


Wailuku sits at the base of the dramatic West Maui Mountains. If you plan to visit Iao Valley, you’ll pass through Wailuku as well. The Iao Valley was once a sacred burial ground for Hawaiian chiefs and is home to the Iao Needle. 


Kihei, in south Maui, is known for its laid-back vibe and budget accommodations. Many family vacations to Maui use Kihei as a home base. Calm ocean conditions in Kihei are the most calm makeit best for learning to surf and paddleboard. 


The most luxurious resorts and impressive golf courses are in Wailea. The ocean views are beyond spectacular, and the area exudes privacy, serenity and exclusivity. It’s a first class vibe. 


Makena beach is south of Wailea and known for being the largest (and widest) beach on Maui. This location is a great spot for water sports of all kinds, but the undertow is fierce so probably not the best for small kids or poor swimmers. The beach is also known for being one of the best spots on the island for spotting sea turtles. 


Is it okay to travel to Maui? Paia?

On Maui’s north shore, Pāʻia is on land that used to be a plantation. Now, it’s a funky little artist’s enclave with local artisans selling their creations. The town is known as the windsurfing capital of the world. Don’t forget to stop at the fishmarket to experience local culture. 


Most people know of this remote outpost on Hawaii’s eastern shore (if they know it at all) because of the all-day scenic drive known as the Hāna highway you take to get there. There’s not a lot to do in the sparsely populated town other than visit the beach, but the journey is filled with some of Hawaii’s most breathtaking scenery and hikes (all free!). There are no closures due to the wildfire emergency.

On the other hand…it’s complicated

There are plenty of social media posts from local people on Maui asking tourists to just stay away. This may sound harsh, but there’s a lot of history and rationale behind some of the local people’s ambivalence or (in some cases) hostility towards tourism. Here’s what you need to know.

There is job inequity in Hawaii

While tourism provides jobs for many Hawaiians, these jobs can be seasonal and offer lower wages than other industries. There is a desire among some residents for more diversified and stable employment opportunities.

Tourism exacerbates socioeconomic inequities

Tourism creates disparities between those who benefit directly from the industry, such as hotel owners and tour operators, and those who do not. This exacerbates income inequality and leads to social tensions.

Housing and cost of living make life a struggle for many ordinary Hawaiians

The tourism industry drives up housing prices and the overall cost of living, making it challenging for local residents to afford homes and meet their basic needs. Many concerned Hawaiians worry that tourism contributes to a rising cost of living that displaces local communities. It’s said that the vast majority of locals work more than one job just to make ends meet. 

Is it okay to travel to Maui? Iao needle

Some visitors lack cultural sensitivity

Perhaps the biggest issue for local peoples – some tourists exhibit cultural insensitivity or a lack of awareness about the history and struggles of Native Hawaiians. This leads to feelings of frustration and resentment. Depletion of natural resources and overtourism have long been a pain point for native Hawaiians. 

What about my flight plans? Here’s what you can expect from each airline

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has instituted a flexible travel policy for affected customers. Currently, it is processing changes if your ticket was purchased prior to Aug. 11 and your plans are between now and October 17.

American Airlines

American Airlines travelers may change their flight destination to Honolulu, Kona, or Lihue Airports at no cost for tickets bought by Aug. 9 for travel originally scheduled through October 17.

New flights must be booked for travel by Nov. 18 for the same cabin. Passengers can also cancel the scheduled trip and request a refund. This only applies to flight changes made by Sept. 16 for travel completed within one year of the original ticket date.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines will waive change fees when rebooked travel occurs on or before Nov. 18 in the same cabin of service as originally booked. A fare difference may apply when the waiver is class-to-class restrictive and the original booking class is not maintained in the rebooked itinerary. There are additional conditions and restrictions listed as well.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines travelers can reschedule their flights at no cost for flights in and out of OGG between Aug. 9 and Dec. 15 to new dates. There will be no change fees or fare differences on the same city pair and the same cabin of service.

Travelers can also cancel their flights in exchange for a future flight credit, expiring one year from the original date of purchase. Those with flights booked to or from OGG between Aug. 9 and Sept. 15 can also request a refund. The request must be submitted by Sept. 1.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines customers with reservations to Maui between Aug. 9 and Oct. 17 can rebook in the original class of service or travel standby for free.

United Airlines

United Airlines will permit travelers to reschedule trips and will waive change fees and fare differences for trips originally scheduled into Maui through Sept. 16. You can then alter your plans to travel by Nov. 18 at no additional cost to Honolulu, Kona or Lihue.

If your new trip is after August 10, 2024, or is to a different destination, United will still waive any change fees, but you might have to pay a fare difference depending on the flight. Alternatively, if you cancel or don’t take your trip, you can request a full refund.

So what should you do? Should you travel to Hawaii or not?

Our best advice is for visitors to come to Hawaii if they can, but to make sure you put your tourist dollars into the pockets of local Hawaiians and not corporations whenever possible. Local organizations, well-situated to understand Maui’s needs need our help. 

Show your love of Hawaii through support of the people of Hawaii. Good Morning America published a list of Hawaiian-run relief efforts which is a good place to start. And if you are not able to keep your vacation commitment at this time, look at other alternatives to Hawaii in the near future. 

Please drop any questions, concerns or suggestions in the comments section below 



  1. Kaanapali is fine. It wasn’t directly affected by the fires. There are a number of restaurants in that Kaanapali and Napili and Kapalua area, grocery stores and beautiful condos for rent, Kaanapali beach is rated in the top 10 of the USA, if not the world. Whale season is coming , and the channel between Maui and Lanai and Molokai is one of the best places in the world to watch the whales.

  2. Cecile, I also own a timeshare at the Westin in Kaanapali. I have rented it out for Oct 7th. I have contacted owner services twice to make absolutely sure that the people I rented to can get there and use the facility,
    I’ve been assured both times that “yes” the resort is open.
    There was a directive by the governor saying not to travel until after Oct 16 but have been told this was just a suggestion. There are many restaurants north of Laihaina not effected by the fire.

  3. Funny how this article failed to address the rampant colonialism from land grabbers like Oprah, Bezos, Cloony, Ellison, Zuckerberg and more. Each year they buy up thousands of acres by overpaying by factors of 2 or 3 times. each acre purchased drives out another family off island by driving up land costs and property taxes. The vast majory of tourists are respectful. the more money they have equals their disrespect.

  4. I am sorry for my following comments because I do want to be understanding and supportive. We made reservations and paid for them 6 months ago for Kaanapali. The reservations were for November 16 for a week. We still want to come to Maui even if it means we have to make new reservations elsewhere. The problem is they refuse to give us a refund. So should we still plan on coming to Kaanapali in November?

    • Hi Cecile, It is not an easy predicament. Many people who depend on tourism for their livelihood are now encouraging tourist to go. If the hotel reservation is not exchangeable for later dates or refundable, it is understandable to want to take the trip. You can take the opportunity to support the economy of Maui while being mindful of the situation. There are still many parts of Maui that can respectfully be appreciated and enjoyed.

  5. it would be good to wait for another time.
    people here are suffering in Lahaina and morning the deaths of there many love ones.
    some are still searching for so many missing people. lack of housing.. so the workers will not have the Aloha attitude That makes Lahaina a great memory. aloha

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