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8 reasons to visit Maui now

Visitors enjoying Maui’s many activities, attractions, and resorts are also helping to reboot the Valley Isle’s economy and its recovery efforts. Photo courtesy Hotel Wailea

Maui wants you to know the welcome mat is out. Yes, it will take a long time for Lāhainā to recover from the massive August 8 wildfire that reduced the historic town to ashes and claimed the lives of at least 99 people.

Lāhainā remains closed to visitors, but the rest of the island, including other areas of West Maui, is open and welcoming guests who mālama Maui (care for the island) in return. While you’re enjoying the resorts, attractions, activities, restaurants, and special events, know that you’re helping to reboot Maui’s economy and its recovery efforts.

Here are 8 reasons why now is a great time for you to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about.

1. Go for the natural wonders

Hikers at Haleakalā National Park.

Visitors can hike and camp and participate in ranger-led programs at Haleakalā National Park. Photo courtesy Haleakalā National Park

From a vast cinder desert landscape with native shrubland to views of waterfalls and sweeping ocean vistas, Haleakalā (“House of the Sun”) National Park, named for the dormant volcano where it’s located, is 33,488 acres of natural splendor. Year-round, you can hike, camp, stargaze, birdwatch, and participate in ranger-led programs, including a daily Sunrise Orientation that provides an overview of the summit area.

Keep your eyes peeled for the delicate ‘āhinahina, or Haleakalā silversword. Haleakalā is the only place in the world where this silversword species grows. It can live up to 90 years but blooms spectacularly just once before dying. $30 per private vehicle (valid for 3 days). Parking reservations are required for Haleakalā sunrise summit viewing.

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More natural wonders:

Some parks require reservations for out-of-state visitors.

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2. Go for the history and culture

Canoe replica on display at the Hale Ho‘ike‘ike.

An elaborate canoe replica is among the Hawaiian artifacts on display at the Hale Hō‘ike‘ike in Wailuku. Photo courtesy Maui Historical Society/Hale Ho'ike'ike at the Bailey House

Fascinating chapters in Hawai‘i’s history are chronicled in 2 buildings built in the mid-1800s that were part of Wailuku Mission Station, a school for Hawaiian girls and the home of the missionaries who taught there. They now house Hale Hōʻikeʻike (“House of Display”) and the Maui Historical Society’s offices and archives.

Displays include artifacts dating as far back as pre-Western contact, including tools, fine kapa, poi pounders, and lei made of whale tooth and human hair. Items representing modern times are also notable: Don’t miss the 10-foot redwood surfboard once owned by famed beachboy Duke Kahanamoku. $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 60 and older, $4 for kids 5–18, free for children ages 1–4.

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More history and culture:

3. Go for the unique activities

Diver inside an aquarium with shark and fish.

Descend 20-plus feet with a divemaster into an aquarium inhabited by hundreds of fish and various shark species during a Shark Dive Maui experience in Wailuku. Photo courtesy Maui Ocean Center

Slowly, quietly, you’ll descend 20-plus feet into a world inhabited by hundreds of fish; stingrays; and various shark species that can include tiger, blacktip, whitetip, sandbar, and gray reef sharks. Yes, sharks—about 2 dozen of them—but they are well fed and not looking at you as a meal.

During Shark Dive Maui, you’ll glide around the Maui Ocean Center’s 750,000-gallon Open Ocean aquarium in Wailuku with a divemaster; it’s the closest you’ll get to a pelagic experience without actually being in the sea. Although sharks have long been feared, some Hawaiian families revere them as ʻaumākua, ancestral guardians who guide and protect them.

Shark Dive Maui participants must be scuba certified and at least 12 years old. Prices start at $350, including general admission to the Maui Ocean Center for the diver and 1 guest.

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More unique activities:

4. Go for the amazing art

Woman watercoloring at the Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center.

The Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao offers art classes, workshops, exhibitions, and special events. Photo courtesy Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center

In 1934, bound by their love for art, Ethel Baldwin, her daughter Frances Baldwin Cameron, and 20 friends formed Hui No‘eau (hui means “club”; no‘eau means “artistic”). Known today as Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center and located in Makawao, it has since flourished as a community-based arts education organization offering classes, workshops, lectures, exhibitions, special events, and outreach programs.

Take a self-guided tour of the Hui’s 25-acre campus, which was originally known as Kaluanui, the estate of Baldwin and her husband, Harry, a successful businessman. Admission is free. Classes on topics such as painting, ceramics, jewelry, printmaking, and photography run from 3 hours to 8 weeks. Fees start at $30.

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More art:

5. Go for the good eats

Serving of tacos.

The dishes at SixtyTwo MarcKet in Wailuku reflect chef and co-owner Marc McDowell’s close ties with local farmers, ranchers, and fishers. Photo courtesy SixtyTwo MarcKet

Chef and co-owner Marc McDowell is so serious about using fresh ingredients, he changes the menus at SixtyTwo MarcKet in Wailuku every 2 months. The certified Master Gardener and Culinary Institute of America alumnus champions a seasonal concept, offering breakfasts and lunches that reflect his close partnership with local farmers, ranchers, and fishers.

The current menu features blue-ribbon fall produce such as zucchini, kabocha, butternut squash, and purple Napa cabbage. You could start the day with Taro Loco Moco made with fresh Kaua‘i taro. Tempting midday choices include a wrap stuffed with grilled vegetables, avocado hummus, pickled herb feta, and sherry aioli in a house-made basil flour tortilla. Entrées begin at $11. Closed Saturdays.

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More places to eat:

6. Go for the great shops

Handcrafted art from the Maui Crafts Guild.

Find beautiful keepsakes handmade by Maui artisans at the Maui Crafts Guild’s shop in Pā‘ia. Photo courtesy Maui Crafts Guild

Forgo the usual T-shirts, coffee mugs, and refrigerator magnets. Opt instead for beautiful keepsakes handmade by Maui artisans. Founded in 1983, the Maui Crafts Guild is a collective of woodworkers, ceramicists, basket weavers, glass and textile artists, and other creative types who operate an 800-square-foot shop in Pā‘ia that’s chock-full of treasures.

Artists who want to join the guild must be full-time Maui residents whose work meets strict quality standards. Members staff the store, so you’ll learn about pieces that catch your eye from the artists themselves. Because you’re buying directly from the makers, prices are apt to be more attractive than what you’d find at other retail stores.

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More shops:

7. Go for what’s new

Planting seeds of knowledge

Hawaiian Culture & Plant Tour tour guide.

A Hawaiian Culture & Plant Tour at the Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku spotlights plants brought to the Hawaiian Islands by the first Polynesian settlers. Photo courtesy Maui Ocean Center

Sniff a fragrant pōhinahina leaf. Rattle a kukui nut in its shell. Mash taro into poi with a stone pounder. Taste taro and sweet potato, both important crops to the Hawaiians long ago.

During Maui Ocean Center’s 90-minute Hawaiian Culture & Plant Tour, you’ll learn by doing and heightening your senses. The tour spotlights a variety of native, endemic, and “canoe plants” brought to Hawai‘i by the first Polynesian settlers around 400 A.D.

Offered Tuesdays and Thursdays. $34.95 in addition to general admission. A portion of ticket sales support Maui Nui Botanical Gardens’ native plant restoration project to prevent coastal erosion.

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Tales of the Kapa Moe

Tales of the Kapa Moe luau performer.

Stories passed down through the generations come to life in the Tales of the Kapa Moe lū‘au at the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua. Photo courtesy The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua 

As Moea sleeps, covered by a magical kapa moe (blanket), stories passed down through the generations come to life through music, song, and dance. For example, the young girl sees the creation of the Hawaiian Islands; the migration of her ancestors from the South Pacific; and the power of deities such as Kanehekili, god of thunder, and Pele, goddess of the volcano.

Presented at the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, Hawai‘i’s newest lūʻau debuted in July but went dark just 3 weeks later because of the Lāhainā wildfire. The lū‘au relaunched on October 17 with weekly performances; twice-weekly performances begin on November 7. 

$249 adults, $149 for children 3–12, including a fresh flower lei greeting; ʻukulele and hula lessons, temporary tattoos, ʻulu maika (Hawaiian bowling), local crafts for sale, and an island-style dinner with a create-your-own-poke bar.    

You may also like: There's a lot of Hawai’i to explore and enjoy

8. Go for the refreshed resorts

Fairmont Kea Lani

Fairmont Kea Lani guest room with beach views.

The oceanfront Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea features one-bedroom suites large enough for a family of four, as well two- and three-bedroom villas. Photo courtesy Fairmont Kea Lani

In December, the AAA Four Diamond Fairmont Kea Lani will celebrate the completion of a multiyear project that includes renovation of its 37 two-story villas and 413 one-bedroom suites, a reimagined lobby, a new bar and restaurant, and a new 2,000-square-foot Hawaiian cultural center. Displays there will be organized into themes such as Royalty; Farming and Agriculture; and Voyaging, Fishing, and Canoes.

Among the activities, many of which will encourage visitor participation, are weaving, traditional games, bamboo stamp carving, and lei-making using plants and flowers growing at the hotel.

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Grand Wailea

In the first quarter of 2024, AAA Four Diamond Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, will conclude the most extensive renovation since it opened more than 30 years ago. Guests can expect refreshed public spaces, upgraded rooms and suites, new food-and-beverage venues, and a total transformation of the hotel’s 50,000-square-foot spa.

Nine bronze sculptures by the late sculptor Fernando Botero have been restored to their original grandeur in the Botero Lounge, the heart of the expansive, open-air lobby.

O‘ahu resident Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi has visited Maui often enough to consider it her second home.

Ready to visit? Book a Maui vacation package through AAA Travel.

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