Many travel destinations are still struggling after the pandemic’s impact on tourism, but the longtime hotspot of Maui, known for its beautiful beaches and upscale resorts – and Hawaii in general – has suffered a hit. unusual: a rapid rebound that led to an influx of irresponsible and disrespectful visitors last year.
News outlets reported visitors misbehaving, acting hostile towards locals, obstructing roads and trashing land. Today, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is working to bring responsible travel back to the state with the Hawaiian concept of “malama,” which means “to care for” or “to protect” in Hawaiian.
The new Malama Hawaii program encourages visitors to embrace and be mindful of Hawaiian culture during their stay, and pay for it through volunteer activities.
In Maui, the concept of malama rhymes with luxury. Hotels like the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Andaz and Grand Wailea offer free hotel nights in exchange for local community service activities, such as cleaning beaches or volunteering with the Pacific Whale Foundation or the Lahaina Restoration Foundation as part of the Malama Hawaii program. The message is clear: visit and enjoy the island, but be respectful and conscientious.
Kalei Uwekoolani, cultural programming manager and leadership educator at the Grand Wailea in Maui, says the concept of malama is deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture and is a responsibility that visitors share with locals.
“We [locals] are guests here on earth just as much as visitors are here on earth, so it is important that we, the people who were born and raised here, continue to malama continue to care for the earth, the water – all of these things were here before us,” she said. “If we are not stewards ourselves, then who is going to take care of it? We are guests like our guests.
Maui’s luxury hotels can be found in two areas of the island: Kapalua and Wailea. Kapalua, located to the north, is relatively isolated compared to Wailea, which is in the center of the island with a strip of eight resorts.
The Ritz-Carlton Maui is located in Honokahua Bay near Kapalua Bay. The hotel has a unique history: when it was built in 1987, it was discovered that part of the land by the bay was the resting place of more than 2,000 Hawaiian ancestors, dating from the year 850 to the beginning 1800s. The Ritz redesigned and moved the hotel inland and worked with local cultural leaders to reinstate and preserve the remains. Today, this land is reserved for those who perform ceremonies and protocol.
Located on a hill, the 22,000-acre resort offers gorgeous ocean views, two golf courses, and miles of hiking trails, including the beautiful Kapalua Coastal Trail. Be sure to take a guided hike with the Ritz’s Environmental Ambassadors, who can provide information on local flora and fauna and the history of the area. Whale season is a special time, when humpback whales are so abundant it’s even possible to see them breaching while you dine at Banyan Tree, the hotel’s restaurant.
In Wailea, the Andaz is Hawaii’s first LEED-certified hotel and is elegantly designed with contemporary architecture. An entry deck over the water leads to an open-air lobby with stunning ocean views.
The hotel has five pools, including three ocean-facing cascading infinity pools, a lagoon pool, and a tranquility pool for adults, plus a well-maintained beach with a kiosk to borrow or rent equipment like snorkeling equipment, bodyboards and kayaks.
Less than a mile away is the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria resort. With Hawaii’s largest private art collection and 40 acres of tropical gardens, the hotel is a landmark. plant species, including endemic plants as well as pineapples and cocoa trees.
The 2,000-foot-long pool with nine pools on six levels has five intertwining waterslides, caves, and a swing that make the resort especially kid-friendly; the property features three-bedroom Ho’olei Villas ideal for families.
The Grand Wailea offers weekly Hawaiian cultural activities, led by Uwekoolani. A new Wine and Dine series highlights winemakers and vineyards through paired dinners and supporting programming.
The Ritz, Andaz, and Grand Wailea all have cultural advisors or specialists to help resorts respect and celebrate local culture and practices; in fact, the Ritz hosts the annual Celebration of the Arts, which for 30 years has brought together dozens of Hawaii’s finest artists, educators, cultural practitioners, and speakers.
Celebrities and locals alike love Mama’s Fish House, which has been serving fresh, local fish since 1973. Paia Restaurant and Inn is open-air and located on the beach, offering local twists on classics like bouillabaisse with seafood local and macadamia nut crab cakes. The Polynesian Black Pearl dessert is Instagram famous, but the staff swears by the banana and macadamia nut crunch.
For visitors to Kapalua, Cane & Canoe at the Montage Hotel offers upscale farm-to-table cuisine with local ingredients, like Maui-raised trout or salads with local produce, and stunning views of the bay from Kapalua.
If you plan to explore Maui’s backcountry, Hali’imail General Store in Makawao is a must.
The spacious restaurant, helmed by celebrity local chef Bev Gannon, serves savory renditions of nostalgic dishes like kalua pork enchilada pie and Chinese minced chicken salad.
You’ll see local beers by Maui Brewing Co. all over the island, but you can visit the Kihei Craft Brewery. The company also has restaurants in Kihei and Lahaina, where the beers feature as ingredients in many dishes.
Monkeypod is one of Wailea’s most popular restaurants, perhaps because of its signature mai tai infused with macadamia nut horchata, topped with lilikoi (local passion fruit) mousse. The restaurant does not take reservations, so expect a long wait.
Luaus are certainly aimed at tourists, but they are still a fun way to experience and learn about Hawaiian traditions. The Mokapu Party at the Andaz and the Grand Wailea Luau both keep their luaus centered on Hawaiian culture, versus Polynesian culture as a whole, with local storytelling, music and dance performances, and traditional dishes like poi (fermented taro root) and kalua pig. The Feast at Mokapu overlooks the ocean sunset and free portraits, while the Grand Wailea Luau offers kid-friendly activities like temporary tattoos and a station to learn Hawaiian games.
As seen on HBO The White Lotus, outrigger canoes have been in Hawaii for thousands of years. Take a tour and learn about narrow, nimble boats on a tour with Maui Pacific Tours—you’re likely to see placid sea turtles at sea.
At over 10,000 feet above sea level, the dormant volcano Haleakala can be seen from all over Maui. Rising above the clouds, it is a breathtaking vantage point for watching sunrises and sunsets. Be sure to book a ticket if you plan to visit at sunrise.
The Garden of Eden Arboretum in Haiku, featured in Jurassic Park, features Hawaii’s native and native plants in addition to exotic plants and trees from around the world. The arboretum has lush walking paths and scenic ocean views.
Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate is a sustainable cocoa farm and chocolate factory in Lahaina. Most of the chocolate bars are made from Maui Ku’ia Estate’s own cocoa, and the factory is 100% solar-powered. Whether you purchase the Mango Dark Chocolate Bar or the Maui Mokka Cappuccino Bar, 100% of brand profits are donated to local charities and non-profit community organizations.
You can find designers like Gucci and Prada in the boutiques of Wailea, but for a more unique experience, the Lilikoi boutique in Paia brings together well-known luxury beach brands like LoveShackFancy and Xirena with local designers like Lokahi and Tai Swimwear. The writer was the guest of the Mat the Tourist and Convention Bureau