Ever since the Maui Visitors Bureau (MVB) introduced Malama Maui, a formalized program to promote the island group known as Maui Nui (Maui, Molokai and Lanai) beyond their beaches and tourist areas in 2005, interest in those islands’ local culture has grown.
The word malama means “to preserve and protect,” and Malama Maui’s overall focus is to preserve and protect the destination’s authenticity as it seeks to foster enriching experiences for visitors.
The program focuses on agritourism, by promoting the island’s upcountry farms and small towns; history, by highlighting, for example, the historical perspective of the Iao Valley, the site of one of the most deadly battles of King Kamehameha’s time; natural attractions, which include the Iao Valley, as well as Haleakala, Maui’s dormant volcano, where visitors can drive to the top to see the sunrise, hike into the crater and bicycle down the slope; local churches, which reflect the cultures of immigrant groups that settled there; and such mom-and-pop businesses as the Hasegawa General Store and Home Maid Bakery.
In one rare example, the MVB recently received a thank-you letter from a couple who met local entertainers who invited them to their house for a ukulele jam. Though not everyone will have that type of experience, there are plenty of opportunities to interact with locals.
The MVB also focuses on cultural events, such as the annual Celebration of the Arts at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. The festival celebrates traditional Hawaiian arts, which visitors learn to create from local artists and craftspeople.
Another cultural event is the annual International Festival of Canoes. At this event, teams from various Pacific islands build canoes and paddle them out to sea.
Visitors can experience Malama Maui on Molokai and Lanai as well. In fact, the vast majority of businesses on those islands are locally owned and operated. There are also many historic sites (such as Kaunolu, King Kamehameha’s summer fishing village, on Lanai and dozens of ancient fishponds on Molokai) and natural attractions (such as Garden of the Gods on Lanai and the Halawa Valley on Molokai).
In addition, as a direct result of Malama Maui, a local agritour was launched on Molokai in 2007. It visits a fishpond, where preservation efforts are underway; a plumeria farm; a hydroponic lettuce farm; and the Coffees of Hawaii farm.
For more information, visit www.visitmaui.com.--Mimi Kmet