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How to Help the Recovery on Maui

I wrote this story on a flight that was initially booked to take my family to Maui. We ultimately changed our plans, in response to the historically destructive wildfire that had devastated the island two weeks earlier. At press time tourists were being encouraged to visit other Hawaiian islands, but feelings were split about their presence on Maui. Regardless of when tourism returns to normal levels, it will be far longer before Maui and its people heal, and the scars will last forever. Keep reading to find some ways you can help.

The magic of Hawaii, though, is undiminished. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure wonder­land: It can be urban, rural, lush, volcanic, chill, or adrenaline-fueled, and it offers both cultural immersion and cocooning luxury. Your visit, done right, can be any one of these things—or all of them. But planning it can be overwhelming. We canvassed travel experts and Hawaii residents for their essential advice.

1. Choose your islands wisely. Or toss a coin.

First-time travelers to Hawaii must accept that, as with New York City or the Louvre, they cannot do it all in one go. Hawaii is deserving of repeat visits, so don’t put too much pressure on your choices—there are no bad ones. Still, which island to start with? “A lot of times clients have a thought process that I have them throw out,” says veteran travel advisor and former Oahu resident Meg Austin (meg@meg2book.com). “I try to get from them what their idea of Hawaii is.” Her favorite is the Big Island. “It’s so spiritual, with all the black lava, and the people really embrace you.” It’s also paradise for adventurers. It and Lanai are where you’re most likely to be the only person on a postcard-worthy beach. (Lanai is the island 98 percent owned by Larry Ellison, with only two resorts—both Four ­Seasons—and just 30 miles of paved road among 400 miles of rugged four-wheel-drive trails.) Kauai is lush and studded with waterfalls. Maui is tourist-heavy, but it offers quintessential Hawaii experiences like windsurfing and the scenic Road to Hana (and therein lies one of the heartbreaks of Lahaina’s decimation). Oahu is by turns cosmopolitan (pine­apple martinis at Roy’s Waikiki, dinner at Mud Hen Water, shopping at Roberta Oaks) and a surfing mecca (book a lesson with Eddie Fiel). A tip for those chasing big waves, from Hawaii native Sheila Donnelly: “Head to the north shore of Oahu in the winter.”

2. Arrange a few things in advance, but don’t stress: Adventure is built in if you book right.

Mama’s Fish House in Maui (it fills up six months out—get yourself on the wait list). Canoe House restaurant on the Big Island. A helicopter ride over Kilauea, or a sunrise hike on Haleakala. A tour of Shangri-La, Doris Duke’s home-turned-museum (score a rare lauhala hat in the gift shop). These things warrant a little planning or concierge assistance. But the best hotels are also exquisitely situated for memorable experiences. At the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island, for example, you can snorkel with 60 species of reef fish right on the property, or charter the resort’s new private catamaran to explore remote black sand beaches. At the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton Maui, in Kapalua, you can swim with turtles and find breathtaking hikes right outside your door.

Sunset sails are on the menu at the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea.

3. Rent a car. Except in Oahu. But even there.

Yes, you could happily luxuriate on the grounds of your hotel for a week straight. “But it’s not like Riviera Maya, where you wonder if you should venture into towns,” Austin says. “Hawaii screams ‘Come see me!’ ” Oahu traffic and parking can be rough—Uber is best in Honolulu—but having wheels for at least part of your time in Oahu is worth it for a trip to the North Shore. (Take “the long way” toward Diamond Head, Donnelly says: It’s scenic—and often faster than the freeway.)

4. Practice aloha aina.

Hawaii’s 1.5 million residents have a complicated relationship with the 10 million annual tourists who are the state’s economic lifeblood but also overwhelm its natural resources and are dismissive of its culture. Fortunately, many top hotels practice aloha aina—caring for the land—with serious sustainability standards. Chief among them is the new 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, in Kauai (on the site of the former St. Regis Princeville), which boasts a rain­water harvesting system and a zero-waste initiative. So does Kona Village on the Big Island (an off-grid favorite among celebrities until it was destroyed by a tsunami in 2011); recently reopened as a Rosewood resort, it’s entirely powered by solar energy.

Rosewood’s recently opened revival of the beloved Kona Village.

5. Don’t sleep on the spa.

Your visit to the spa at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea might not be as life-­changing as Jennifer Coolidge’s in season one of The White Lotus, but there is a “longevity protocol” as well as traditional luxe spa fare. For a full wellness overhaul, there’s Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort, which is open only to guests 16 and up and is dedicated to helping you detox from just about any of modernity’s plagues.

6. Mahalo. Use it often.

As Donnelly says, “It always gets a smile.”

Source : Town&Country