2020 was a brutal eye opener for all of us in many, MANY ways. Maui was no exception. When the virus took off in March, Maui was faced with a pretty impossible choice. Stay open, and overwhelm Maui’s fragile health care system, which has only 219 beds total – and a scant 24 in ICU. Or shut down tourism, and face devastating economic consequences. In the end, the people of Maui’s belief in the importance of ohana trumped economics. The 14-day quarantine for all new arrivals was put in place, and arrivals plummeted to zero. Unemployment soared (some estimate 30%). Lines of cars waiting for food distribution stretched for a mile or more. Animal shelters were flooded with animals whose owners had to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their pets. Predictably, social media got ugly.

But – Maui also saw fish and ocean predator populations rebound, and reefs looked healthier. Beaches were sparsely peopled. There was less traffic. Homelessness actually decreased. Maui could breathe.

The question now is – what should the future look like? Covid has taken a terrible toll, but it has also given Maui a chance to consider what a reset might look like. Of course, inevitably, a study group has been created. There’s talk about more Hawaiian words at the airport, and hotels offering Hawaiian cultural programs. That’s all good, but put into writing it shows how inadequate these superficial actions really are. As owners of property in the islands, and as travelers, we need to do a reset of our attitudes. If we want to experience aloha, we need to remember that hospitality at its core is a reciprocal relationship. We need to be good guests. Respect peoples’ privacy. Obey the “no trespassing – private property” signs. Look for ways to nurture and support small, locally owned businesses on Maui. Throw trash in the trash can, not on the beach. Wear reef-safe sunscreen. Don’t walk on the coral. Leave the honus alone.  Smile and share aloha.

It’s also a good time to spend some time understanding the history and culture of the islands. Following are a few highly ranked reads – some historical, some fiction – to consider:

~ Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen – by Queen Lili’uokalani

~ The Legends and Myths of Hawaii – by David Kalakaua

~ Shark Dialogues – Kiana Davenport

~ This is Paradise – Kristiana Kahaukawila

~ On Being Hawaiian – John Dominis Holt

~ Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands – Gavan Daws

~ The Value of Hawaii: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future – edited by Craig Howes and Jon Osorio

This is a blog on a Maui travel site, so not really the perfect spot to have a long conversation around covid, Maui sovereignty, and how to be a good visitor. But life in the time of covid has offered us a chance to reconsider our Maui dream, and maybe – just maybe – help make it a little bit better for everyone.

I’d welcome your comments and input, but please – PLEASE – positive comments only that will help everyone better understand the island we all love.