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Maui Fires: What to Do About Your Upcoming Hawaii Trip

Editor's note: This story is continually updated with the latest information. It was last updated on Aug. 22. 

Top officials in Hawaii are continuing to advise no travel to parts of Maui as the popular resort island recovers from the deadly wildfires that occurred earlier this month.

The devastation was greatest in West Maui and the historic town of Lahaina, where at least 115 people have been reported killed in the fires and over 2,700 homes and businesses were destroyed, the Associated Press reported. It's already the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in over a century, and the death toll is expected to grow. Two fires – one in Lahaina and one in Maui's upcountry – are not yet completely contained, although they pose no immediate threat to the public, according to the latest update from Maui County officials.

 

lahaina tweet

 

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green extended the state's emergency disaster relief declaration through Oct. 17 and is discouraging all nonessential travel to western Maui for the foreseeable future.

Travelers with plans to stay in West Maui in the coming weeks, including the communities of Lahaina, Napili, Kaanapali, and Kapalua, are urged to reschedule or cancel their plans to visit the area “as a means of respect to the people and places that have been lost in Lahaina during this devastating tragedy,” the Hawaii Tourism Authority said in a statement.

Have a trip to Maui or a neighboring Hawaiian islands coming up? Here's what you need to know.

 

 

Should You Travel to Maui Right Now?

If you have a trip planned to western Maui – the part of the island where the damage is most severe – in the coming days or weeks, officials are encouraging travelers to cancel or reschedule for a later date. In the near term, the tourism board said attention and resources in those areas will be focused on the relief efforts for the communities impacted by the deadly fires.

However, officials are encouraging travelers to keep their travel plans for other areas of Maui not impacted by the wildfires, such as Kahului, Kihei, Wailea, Paia, Hana, and others.

“No one can travel to West Maui right now. We will share when that is possible again. Only returning residents and authorized emergency relief workers should come here now. But all of the other areas of Maui … and the rest of Hawaiʻi are safe,” Gov. Green said at a recent press conference alongside President Joe Biden. “The mystique and love here, the aloha, is here for you. And the reason I say that is when you come, you will support our local economy and help speed the recovery of the people that are suffering right now.”

Fortunately, many travel companies have made it easier to change or cancel your trip to Maui without losing money.

Changing Your Flights

From American Airlines to Hawaiian to United, all the major U.S. carriers have issued waivers allowing customers with Maui travel plans to rebook without penalties or fare differences.

Airlines like Delta and Alaska are allowing travelers scheduled to fly in or out of Maui to rebook without paying substantial fare differences, so long as they take the trip by November, while some like Hawaiian are letting travelers rebook for trips through December without paying a fare difference.

 

Hawaiian Airlines plane

 

These policies have changed as the situation on Maui continues to unfold, so it's worth checking back with your airline if you have a trip coming up in the next several weeks.

 

Changing Hotel Reservations

The tourism board said hotels in West Maui are not accepting new bookings at this time as they're preparing to house displaced residents and those working to help the area recover from the disaster.

Many hotels in the area are closed to arriving guests for the next few weeks. The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa and the Kaanapali Ali, both located just north of Lahaina, have paused check-ins until Sept. 5 and Sept. 10 respectively. All stays – including those with prepaid, nonrefundable rates – are being refunded.

 

Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa Maui fires update

 

While power is slowly being restored, for the time being, travelers with upcoming reservations are asked not to attempt to reach their hotels or other accommodations to adjust their travel plans. Those who booked with a large hotel chain are advised to call the company's corporate helpline to cancel or change their reservations and anyone who booked through a travel agent or third-party booking platform should contact them.

 

What About Airbnbs and Other Short-Term Rentals?

Airbnb's “extenuating circumstances policy” covers natural disasters like wildfires, which means travelers could potentially get a full refund on any upcoming stays in the impacted areas of Maui.

 

Airbnb's "extenuating circumstances policy"

 

Other booking platforms like Vrbo don't offer the same flexibility. On Vrbo, the refund policy varies from host to host and property to property. You'll need to contact your host directly to inquire about canceling for a full refund.

Other booking platforms are offering similar levels of flexibility for stays in parts of Maui. On Vrbo, travelers who cancel their trips due to the fires or the ongoing travel restrictions are eligible for a full refund from the host, a spokesperson for Expedia Group, which includes Vrbo, Expedia, and Hotels.com, said.

“We will continue to work with Vrbo hosts who have upcoming bookings in impacted areas to make sure all of our travelers are treated fairly,” the spokesperson said in an email to Thrifty Traveler.

 

Is it OK to Travel to Other Hawaiian Islands?

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said travel to the other Hawaiian Islands like Kauai, Oahu, the Big Island, and Lanai is “not affected at this time,” according to the latest update on their website. Wildfires that broke out on the Big Island earlier this month have since been contained.

Some airlines are allowing travelers with upcoming trips to Maui to change their destination to a neighboring island for free, and hotels like the Outrigger Ka’anapali Beach Resort are even allowing guests the option to be rebooked at one of the resorts on Oahu or the Big Island at the same rate.

 

How Can You Help Residents on Maui?

Hawaii is a popular vacation destination, and over the years we've sent our Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers hundreds of flight deals to help them plan their own trips to the islands, including Maui. Now, travelers might be wondering what they can do to help residents of Maui affected by these devastating wildfires.

 

A scenic beach with colorful umbrellas and people enjoying the sun and sand

 

Canceling or postponing your upcoming trip to Maui is one way to help the wildfire recovery efforts because it avoids putting a strain on the island's already limited resources. You can also help by donating to one of the following disaster relief funds.

The state also has additional resources on its website for those looking to donate.

 

Bottom Line

Travelers with upcoming trips to Maui should reconsider their travel plans after deadly wildfires caused widespread devastation on the western side of the island last week.

It's unclear when western Maui will be ready to welcome visitors again as all resources are being dedicated to the recovery efforts … and likely will be for the foreseeable future.

11 Responses

  • Thank you for providing this detailed information on travel to Maui. We have a trip planned for 10/29-11/4 at the Hyatt Regency on Kaanapali. It was initially done as non-refundable through Expedia, but I also purchased trip insurance. I know that date is a couple months away but I also know this level of devastation and displacement of local residents will take months, if not, years to recover. We don’t feel right vacationing there when so many people are hurting. I have visited Maui and Lahaina many times over the years and consider it a very special place in my memories, so we will be helping the community in other ways.

    I have emailed both the Hyatt and United to see about changing our reservations to Kauai for that same time as this was meant to be an anniversary trip. I know that they have to focus on immediate reservations so don’t expect a quick reply, but your advice and thoughts would be helpful.

  • I have a trip end of September but we are staying in Kihea. My Airbnb is said to not qualify under extenuating circumstances for Kihea. So does that mean we won’t be 100% refunded since we aren’t saying directly in West Maui? I’m hearing conflicting things: 1) don’t go. and 2) please do go since Maui needs the tourism money more than ever as long as we don’t make plans in West Maui.

    • Airbnb’s are signing on to help the residents and the workers who will be coming in to help, I’m sure with Federal (Taxpayer $) they will be highly compensated for their largesse.

    • I’m a Maui resident who has lived on Maui 20+ years. I live in Wailuku, central Maui, retired from the Department of Education as a clinical psychologist and current wedding and family photographer. The fire affected Lahaina directly and parts of Kula upcountry, above Kula Lodge. Kaanapali and Kapalua were unaffected but not currently accessible, used for housing). The rest of Maui is unaffected, beautiful, and open to be enjoyed. This includes south Maui (Kihei, Wailea, Makena), town where I am, Paia, and upcountry (Makawao, Kula, Haleakala). I went out on a dive boat to Molokini on Wednesday – only 2 boats out there. It was a beautiful morning. There are operations already closing, with layoffs. After the fire catastrophe people were (and are) in shock, but the living must go on. I’d recommend people still go. 🌺 🌈 🌴 🏖️ 🏄🏾‍♂️

  • I have a trip planned to Maui in November. I was planning to cancel but I got a long message from the Airbnb last night telling me to please still come. It’s in Kihea and they said they haven’t been affected. So I’m not sure what to do.

    • Some of the information in the article is unfortunately not correct. I’m a Maui resident who has lived on Maui 20+ years. I live in Wailuku, central Maui, retired from the Department of Education as a clinical psychologist and current wedding and family photographer. The fire affected Lahaina directly and parts of Kula upcountry, above Kula Lodge. Kaanapali and Kapalua were unaffected but not currently accessible, used for housing). The rest of Maui is unaffected, beautiful, and open to be enjoyed. This includes south Maui (Kihei, Wailea, Makena), town where I am, Paia, and upcountry (Makawao, Kula, Haleakala). I went out on a dive boat to Molokini on Wednesday – only 2 boats out there. It was a beautiful morning. There are operations already closing, with layoffs. After the fire catastrophe people were (and are) in shock, but the living must go on. I’d recommend people still go. 🌺 🌈 🌴 🏖️ 🏄🏾‍♂️

  • We were planning a week in early February on Maui on our way for a 6 wk. stay in Australia. Had no problem changing flight to Honolulu which is where our onward flight to Australia leaves.

  • We have a trip planned for September 14th. at the Nanea in West Maui, a Vistana (Westin) vacation club which is now owned by Marriott Vacation club. They are telling us not to come with all the email responses. But they are telling us we have to use all these points before year end or bank them with a 60 day window restriction. The reason we own their is because we have 13 months to book in advance. We are Presidential level with Marriott and Titanium Elite. Apparently we have not yet reached the right person to help us. All we want is our points extended for 12 months as it took us this long to book the first time. Any other Vistana or Marriott Vacation Club owners have success in reaching those that can make a decision, let us know. All we are being told by Owner Services customer service supervisor for both Vistana and Marriott vacation club “this is a management decision and there is no escalation path.

    • We also have reached out to Vistana to extend our options. We are booked for the 1st week in December. I don’t want to lose our options but I also don’t feel that we will be able to fully enjoy a Maui vacation so soon after the devastation. We have not found the correct person to talk to. Quite disappointing responses from Owner Services.

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