8 places to visit in Maui if you want to help the island's economy right now — and where tourists should avoid

Big Beach, also known as Makena Beach, in Maui.
Big Beach, officially known as Makena Beach State Park.PictureLake/Getty Images
  • Wildfires on Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii destroyed homes and killed 115 people.

  • West Maui was most affected by the fires and is closed to tourists.

  • However, authorities encouraged people to visit other parts of Maui to stimulate the economy.

Catastrophic wildfires on Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii destroyed homes and forced tens of thousands of residents and tourists to evacuate last month. As of August 29, The New York Times reported 115 confirmed fatalities.

Still, Maui is dependent on visitors — in 2022, 2.7 million people visited the island and spent $5.82 billion, according to a report by Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism — and in the aftermath of the wildfires, its tourism industry has suffered.

On August 19, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green issued an emergency proclamation strongly discouraging all nonessential travel to West Maui. However, at a press conference with President Joe Biden on August 21, Green encouraged people to visit other parts of Maui in order to "to support our local economy and speed the recovery," according to a press release from the Office of the Governor.

Here are eight areas of Maui that are open to tourists, and the places that are off-limits right now.

West Maui is closed to tourists after the area was devastated by wildfires.

Damage from wildfires in Maui.
A burnt-out car lies in the driveway of a charred apartment complex in the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, western Maui, Hawaii, on August 12, 2023.YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images

Areas in West Maui that tourists should avoid include Lahaina, Napili, Kaanapali, and Kapalua, according to a press release from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

However, Green said that other parts of the island need visitors to stimulate the economy. The Hawaii Tourism Authority urged tourists to be "especially mindful and respectful in our island home as our community continues through this tragedy."

But Maui officials are encouraging tourism on other parts of the island to revive its economy. Other places to consider visiting include Kahului in Central Maui.

Aerial view of Kahului, Maui, Hawaii. Kanaha Ponds are in foreground.
An aerial view of Kahului, Maui, Hawaii.Royce Bair/Getty Images

Kahului doesn't just house the island's main airport — it's also a cultural hub.

The Maui Arts and Cultural Center, located in Kahului, features live-music performances and films. The center will host a series of benefit concerts and events to support victims of the wildfires in September and October, according to its official website.

You can also find crafts by local artisans, as well as souvenirs and knick-knacks, at the Maui Swap Meet flea market on Saturdays, according to the market's Yelp page.

Wailuku in Central Maui features 'Īao Valley State Park and its famous 'Īao Needle landmark.

The ʻĪao Needle in Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii.
The ʻĪao Needle in Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii.Sarah Fields Photography/Shutterstock

Once a historic battlefield and burial ground for Hawaiian chiefs, the highlight of the 4,000-acre park is the 'Īao Needle, a 1,200-foot rock overlooking the valley, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

In Southwest Maui, Kihei's Maluaka Beach is also known as "Turtle Town" for its abundance of sea turtles.

A sea turtle swims in Kihei, Maui, Hawaii.
A sea turtle swims in Kihei, Maui, Hawaii.M.M. Sweet/Getty Images

Kihei offers opportunities for snorkeling to catch a glimpse of Hawaiian green sea turtles without the crowds often found on Oahu, Hawaii Magazine reported. Tourists should respect the wildlife by remaining 10 feet away from turtles at all times.

Wailea in South Maui is the island's luxury resort capital with 1,500 acres of beaches and hotels.

The Four Seasons Maui in Wailea.
The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.EQRoy/Shutterstock

Season one of "The White Lotus" was filmed at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. The resort is donating a portion of the cost of some room packages to community relief funds and encouraging guests to donate to a fund supporting hotel employees who were impacted by the wildfires, according to its official website.

The area also features five beaches, golf courses, and high-end shopping at The Shops at Wailea, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Makena's Big Beach in South Maui stretches for nearly two-thirds of a mile along the coast.

Big Beach, also known as Makena Beach, in Maui.
Big Beach, officially known as Makena Beach State Park.PictureLake/Getty Images

At 100 feet wide, Makena Beach State Park is one of the largest beaches in Maui known for its white sands, according to Hawaii Guide.

Makawao, located in East Maui, is known for its community of artists and Hawaiian cowboys called paniolo.

Makawao, Maui, Hawaii.
The town of Makawao, home to paniolo cowboys, is a haven for artists.EQRoy/Shutterstock

The Makawao Rodeo, Hawaii's largest paniolo competition, takes place in Makawao every year on July 4. The town also has various galleries, artist studios, and the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

"We recognize the power of the arts in healing and mental health. For this reason, the Hui is OPEN and offering regularly scheduled classes, which we hope will provide a positive and healthy respite for all those who need support," the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center wrote in an Instagram post after the fires.

The 52-mile road to Hana in East Maui is a tourist attraction in itself with numerous waterfalls and scenic views along its hairpin turns.

The road to Hana in Maui
Views along the road to Hana.photography by p. lubas/Shutterstock

After completing the treacherous drive to Hana, tourists can visit Hawaii's largest Hawaiian temple at Kahanu Garden, one of five gardens that make up Hawaii's National Tropical Botanical Garden, and the black-sand beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park.

"Our hearts continue to be with all those affected by the wildfires on Maui and Hawaii Island," the National Tropical Botanical Garden wrote in an Instagram post. "Just like an unforgettable fragrance, every act of aloha surrounds and uplifts families and communities in need. When we support one another, hope blooms."

Paia on Maui's North Shore is known as the windsurfing capital of the world.

A windsurfer at Ho'okipia Beach Park in Paia, Maui, Hawaii.
A windsurfer at Ho'okipia Beach Park in Paia, Maui, Hawaii.Max Earey/Shutterstock

The large waves at Ho'okipa Beach attract windsurfers and kite surfers from around the world, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. For those less inclined towards water sports, Paia also features several Buddhist places of worship including the Maui Dharma Center and Paia Mantokuji, which is holding an auction to raise money for the wildfire relief effort until September 2.

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