West Maui: Local Hawaii Travel Advisor Weighs In

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UPDATE 12/07/2023: https://www.hawaii-aloha.com/podcast/is-maui-tourism-recovering/

With Lahaina currently out of the equation, is West Maui still a viable option for a Maui vacation? From my perspective, the concise response would be “Not yet.” I find it challenging to recommend West Maui to clients until we understand what they’ll be stepping into upon arrival.

You’ve likely been inundated with news about the heart-wrenching tragedy in Maui over the past few weeks. I presume there’s little I can disclose that hasn’t already saturated your brain. The continuous stream of news has been incessant and profoundly sorrowful. With this post, I hope to share some insight and advice to help you make decisions.

West Maui without Lahaina

As the days unfold, the magnitude of the loss deepens. The Lahaina we once cherished and recognized has been irrevocably altered. Though there will be attempts at rebuilding, I believe it’s prudent to assume that things will never truly revert to how they once were. This calamity will be etched into the rich tapestry of this historic town’s legacy. In years to come, we will cast our minds back, reflecting on those cherished ‘good old days.’

West Maui; Take the “Wait & See Approach”

Recently, media outlets have approached me, seeking my perspective on the ongoing situation and its ramifications for Maui’s future. This includes the noteworthy announcement of West Maui’s impending reopening for visitors.

Isn’t that great news? Many would readily affirm it is. However, with Lahaina no longer serving as the pulsating heart of activity and culture, there’s a genuine apprehension that the unique atmosphere might be irrevocably altered. West Maui, which encompasses regions such as Kaanapali, Honokowai, and Napili and extends northward to Kapalua, is distinct in its own right. Even though this sector represents just a fraction of the island’s entirety, it boasts some of the most luxurious resorts and an extensive array of vacation rentals. Historically, these establishments heavily banked on their ties to Lahaina to enhance the visitor experience. 

West side vs. Southside

When guiding clients and crafting their travel plans, the conversation inevitably gravitates toward the best location in Maui to anchor their stay. This involves weighing the pros and cons of the different areas to stay. Typically, it boils down to staying on the West or South sides in either Kihei or Wailea. Lahaina Town, with its delightful blend of vintage allure, often coupled with a stay at a plush resort or a scenic condo, often emerged as the winning combo. That combination simply no longer exists. 

In the short term, staying on the South side seems more logical, which encompasses Kihei, Wailea, and Makena. There are advantages to this decision. For one, it’s closer to the airport. Additionally, these island areas provide easy access to some of Maui’s most popular attractions. Opting for this location saves significant drive time, often more than 45 minutes, especially if you plan to visit Hana, Haleakala, or upcountry Maui.

My sincere hope is that I am wrong and West Maui will be reimagined and soon bounce back better than ever. The resorts and Kaanapali Beach are gorgeous and viable. In time, it will be an ideal location for a Maui vacation. 

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or setting foot on this magical island for the first time, understanding the current landscape is crucial. I trust that these insights will illuminate your path and ensure you experience the very best that Maui has to offer. Safe travels and Aloha!