Updated 8/11 at 1 am. Our focus, love, and aloha are with the island of Maui. Understandably, the island is in crisis management mode given the still unfolding magnitude of the devastation after the fires.
We know many of you love Maui and have long-awaited plans to visit. You are asking questions about what to do in the short term, how long this crisis could endure, and how much it does and will impact other parts of Maui in the future. Good questions but still few answers today. Here’s what we know for now, we will continue to update this information.
First, Maui, in many ways, has very limited infrastructure. So to look at the fires as being isolated to Lahaina, for example, doesn’t take that fact into account; the whole island is greatly affected. Examples are medical care, service providers, equipment, first responders, and much more. That infrastructure is responsible for the entire island and simply needs time for recovery and reset.
Second, the island and state still need time to assess the damage after the fires in order to find out how quickly to move forward. Tourism is vital to Maui, and most hotels and condos were not damaged.
Our suggestions on how to plan Maui vacations in the short term.
If you have a Maui trip planned after August, excluding Kaanapali resorts and West Maui, we suggest you consider keeping those plans for now, as more will be revealed over the next few weeks. Most of Maui is accessible, and it’s a matter of getting island-wide infrastructure normalized in order to receive visitors once again.
If you have trip plans beyond August for West Maui (including Kaanapali), we suggest checking with your airline and hotel/vacation rental about cancellation policies since the State of Hawaii is clearly asking visitors not to come, and the surrounding infrastructure is in ruins.
If you are staying elsewhere on Maui, for example, Wailea or Kihei, check directly with the property.
Regarding vacation rentals, Airbnb and VRBO have different policies in place. “Parts of Maui” are covered by Airbnb for full refunds. VRBO is letting hosts cancel without impacting their ratings, but again, it’s up to the host to decide. Let us know what you are finding.
How long will the crisis endure in West Maui?
All of Lahaina will need to be rebuilt and that will take years. That leaves the Kaanapali resort area with Kihei, an hour away, as the nearest town. Reports are that the famous Banyan tree in Lahaina was severely burned but may survive, which may also stand as a testament to the strength of Maui and her people.
Kaanapali resorts are also undamaged, but the road to them is closed, and those evacuated had to leave their rental cars and much of their personal belongings behind, which will take time to sort out logistically. Power needs to be restored to all of West Maui, which will not be done quickly, and complete restoration of cell phone coverage too, which right now is minimal (although we have at last been able to reach people as of Thursday). We are also wondering if some hotel rooms will be needed by residents who lost their homes. Again, this all needs time to get sorted out and the situation remains extremely fluid as of Friday morning.
We spoke with a friend in Lahaina Thursday whose home burned down.
He lost his residence of thirty years while he and his wife barely escaped as the house burned. Police had told him they did not believe there would be any problem; they were not notified to evacuate and were unprepared when the gusts of 80+ miles per hour changed directions suddenly. He is now sleeping in his car while his wife has been hospitalized. Countless other stories like this are being told, which adds a personal face to this enormous and unfathomable disaster.