Courtesy of Hawaiian Tourism Authority
What is malama? Tap into the Hawaiian heritage of respecting the earth and culture for a life-affirming trip to Maui—filled with natural beauty, fascinating history, local character, and more.
The Hawaiian ancestral term malama means to care for or nurture. It’s a concept that’s never gone out of style on the idyllic island of Maui—in fact, it’s a way of life here—and the chance to take part ensures a journey here is great in more ways than one. The island’s inhabitants have taken great lengths to protect the natural environs over the centuries, and today encourage visitors as well to join them in cultivating a compassionate way of travel. Embedded in the idea is a stewardship of the hallowed ground for future generations to enjoy.
More than a way to dive deeper into local customs and terminology, practicing malama is a chance to truly relax, knowing you’re making conscientious choices. Afterall, malamalama means clarity of thinking or enlightenment. When visiting the lands and waters of this spectacular region of the world, travelers are invited to take the Maui County Malama Pledge to do what is right, or “hana kupono” in the local language. This means being humble and appropriate in one’s actions when mindfully experiencing the scenic splendor of the ‘aina (ancestral land) and the welcoming aloha spirit of the kama‘aina (local people).
Caring for yourself and others has never been more of an imperative as we begin to travel more after a year of mostly staying close to home. Practicing social distancing and wearing masks when indoors goes hand in hand with the concept of malama. And Maui remains committed to protecting the health and safety of its inhabitants and visitors, continuing with the state’s Safe Travels pre-travel testing program, even for fully vaccinated passengers. (Travelers must have their negative test results prior to departing as an alternative to Hawaii’s mandatory 10-day quarantine. Be sure to check state policies for updates before you go.)
There are many other ways to put this pledge into action too, from the simple act of respecting the awesome power of nature—be it the ocean currents, rushing streams, and variable unfamiliar terrain of the island—to admiring the abundant wildlife from a safe distance. (Hawaii is often referred to as the endangered species capital of the world, so there’s even more reason to take good care when in the midst of its creatures).
Try enjoying less-visited sites or making a point to travel in the off-season (spring and fall), when less people are there and you can make an impact on the local economy. With more than 30 miles of postcard-worthy sandy beaches along the coastline of Maui, there’s an embarrassment of riches. Remember to put on eco-friendly bug spray or sunblock (like the locally made Raw Love Sunscreen) and to leave no trace when you depart—another key aspect of malama.
Hamoa Beach, an isolated gem on Maui’s eastern tip that’s just off the iconic 64-mile Road to Hana, offers a magnificent, palm-fringed shoreline and in summer months tends to have a mellow swell well-suited for boogie boarding (bring one with you). And Hookipa Beach Park on the north central coast is a draw for expert surfers, whom you can watch shredding the waves from Lookout Cliff. (You’ll also want to keep an eye out for Hawaiian green sea turtles, or honu, who head to shore before sunset to slumber in this gorgeous locale.)
To truly immerse yourself in the culture and land, visit historical sites and take in the awe-inspiring scenery of the national and state parks. For instance, when cruising the Road To Hana—driving the malama way by pulling over to let more experienced and local drivers pass, among other safety practices—you’ll find the Keanae Peninsula, where a traditional village, a stone church from 1856, and vast taro fields await. Spend an afternoon basking in the area’s serene natural setting and afterward stop by Aunty Sandy’s, one of the best of the many banana bread stands along the Hana Highway, for a fresh, warm slice or shaved ice.
A requirement of any trip to Maui should be an exploration of Haleakala National Park. The dormant shield volcano makes up more than 75 percent of the island’s land mass. Traveling the 38-mile, two-and-a-half-hour drive to peer into its crater will take you 10,023 feet up from sea level through several different ecological zones, offering ample opportunity to appreciate Maui’s topography. Pro tip: Go in the afternoon to skip the sunrise-seeking crowds and stay for next-level stargazing (the Summit District is open 24/7). And go the road less traveled and check out what’s known as the “backside” of Haleakala, where lava flows met the sea, the Kipahalu District. This detached section of the park is home to hiking trails ranging from easy to moderate, stunning waterfalls, and ancient cultural sites.
Along your travels, shop local to support homegrown businesses whenever possible and bring back a story. Perhaps you’ll find your “aloha” spirit at CocoNene with locally made souvenirs and gifts like jellyfish coasters. And what could be more authentic than a flower crown from Haku Maui, bursting with either fresh or silk blooms?
Volunteering offers another profound way of traveling when you’ve set your intention to actively nurture; giving back to the local land and community adds more purpose and meaning to any trip. It’s a win for all. As part of the Malama Pledge, the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative is providing guests the thrilling opportunity to help in the restoration of Hawaii’s rarest native forests. “These ecosystems exist nowhere else on earth and now with visitors’ help, we can all leave a lasting legacy for this generation and generations to come,” notes Jeff Dunster, executive director of the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative. Other volunteer efforts include self-directed beach cleanups and creating Hawaiian quilts for elders of the area.
As a bonus, travelers who sign on for the volunteer efforts also get a free night tacked on to their stay at the many partners in this initiative (ranging from the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort and Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea to The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua). Beyond that, guests go home with a deeper connection to the land and culture, and memories that last a lifetime.
Wherever you travel and whichever activities you enjoy on Maui, always keep this saying top of mind to help you practice malama: “The land is a chief, man is its servant.” On that note, take nothing but memories and leave nothing but gratitude.
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