5 Ways to Mālama Maui on Your Next Visit

As visitors and residents, we have the privilege and responsibility to care for Maui's cultural and natural treasures.

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Maui is known around the world for its postcard-perfect beaches and perennially warm weather — ranking the island among the best vacation places on the planet. 

But the Valley Isle is more than just a vacation destination. It’s a place with a deep cultural heritage, a tight-knit community and a delicate ecosystem that requires care from visitors and residents alike. 

Overlooking Olowalu landing, West Maui.

We all have a responsibility to mālama Maui—to care for, protect and preserve the island for generations to come. Whether it’s volunteering with local ‘āina-based organizations, minimizing plastic waste or supporting local businesses, every small action makes a significant impact. 

Help keep the island’s environment and community healthy and thriving. Here are five ways visitors and residents can mālama Maui.

Volunteer for conservation projects and beach clean-ups. 

One of the most impactful ways to mālama Maui is by volunteering. Local organizations, like the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund and the Sierra Club, regularly host events where volunteers can help restore native habitats, remove invasive species and clean up beaches. These activities not only benefit Maui’s environment but also offer educational opportunities and a chance to connect with community members. 

Longtime Maui visitor cleans up Ka’ehu Beach in Wailuku with SHARKastics Maui.

Some volunteer activities can even earn visitors hotel discounts through the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Mālama Hawaii program – which incentivizes a vacation that gives back. 

Minimize waste and plastic use. 

While Maui County has taken strides to prevent unnecessary plastic waste—like outlawing plastic grocery bags and disposable food ware—minimizing your impact while on the island is crucial. Maui has only a few small landfills and very limited recycling capabilities. Unfortunately, plastic seems to have a sneaky way of ending up in Maui’s waters. 

When visiting Maui, consider reusable alternatives to single-use plastics, like reusable water bottles and grocery bags. Small, mindful choices help contribute to a cleaner, healthier Maui.

Learn about Hawaiian culture, history and values. 

Dedicating time to learning about Hawaiian culture is a meaningful way to deepen your connection to the island. There are countless opportunities for visitors to learn about the Hawaiian language, legends and the deep connection the Hawaiian people have with the land and sea.

Museums like Hale Hō‘ike‘ike (Bailey House Museum) offer incredible insight into Hawaii’s past. Alternatively, many hotels and resorts offer cultural connection opportunities, welcoming guests to meet with cultural ambassadors or partake in traditional activities like canoe paddling or weaving. In Wailea, the public is welcome to visit Fairmont Kea Lani’s new cultural center, Hale Kukuna, a space dedicated to sharing Hawaiian culture.

Paddlers during Fairmont Kea Lani’s annual cultural festival, Gathering of the Voyagers, which honors the legacy of Polynesian voyaging. Fairmont Kea Lani/Douglas Hoffman.

But what does embracing Hawaiian culture have to do with mālama Maui? 

Understanding Hawaii’s history and cultural foundations not only enriches your visit but also fosters respect for the local community. By appreciating and honoring Hawaiian culture, you contribute to its preservation. 

Be mindful of coral reefs and marine life.

Maui’s coral reefs attract thousands of snorkelers to the island each year. Yet, few visitors realize just how essential these reefs are to the health of Hawaii. 

Corals are a vital boon for Hawaii. It’s estimated that coral reefs contribute over $800 million annually to the state’s economy through tourism. What’s more, countless families in Hawaii rely on healthy reefs for sustenance, and studies find that coral reefs provide Maui with $376 million in flood protection each year – making it more critical than ever to preserve and protect Maui’s reefs. 

Photo by Dan Cerese.

Things like runoff and rising ocean temperatures certainly play a significant role in harming Maui’s coral reefs. However, small acts like using reef-safe sunscreen and not stepping on live coral can help Maui’s reefs become more resilient. 

It’s also important to avoid touching or approaching marine animals like turtles, monk seals and dolphins. Some of these creatures are critically endangered. All are protected under federal and state law and hold an important place in Hawaiian culture. 

Support local businesses. 

Supporting local businesses is not just a choice, it’s a way to ensure a significant, positive impact on the local economy. Dining at locally owned restaurants, shopping at farmers markets, and purchasing goods from local artisans keep more money on Maui and help sustain residents’ livelihoods. 

Visit Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop in Olowalu for delectable pies, sandwiches and friendly service.

Rather than shopping for souvenirs at ABC Store or Walmart, consider perusing craft fairs or small towns like Wailuku or Makawao. Instead of shopping for produce at Safeway, why not check out a local farmers market?

Choosing to support local businesses helps nurture a resilient and sustainable economy that benefits both residents and visitors alike. And luckily, supporting local on Maui is easy, thanks to the incredible talent pool of entrepreneurs, chefs and artisans on the island.

As visitors and residents, we have the privilege and responsibility to care for Maui’s cultural and natural treasures. Every small action, from using reef-safe sunscreen to supporting local businesses, helps mālama Maui, and contributes to the preservation of this island.