Meet the Locals Helping Travelers Better Connect With Maui

A Maui resident, and founder of a business seeking to unite locals and travelers, offers suggestions on how to visit more conscientiously.

Meet the Locals Helping Travelers Better Connect With Maui

Members of a traditional voyaging community are welcomed home with a honi, a traditional Hawaiian greeting.

Photo by Brendan George Ko

Lesley Texeira, is the cofounder of the Maui-based company Aloha Missions. She and cofounder Tamika Recopuerto help visitors better connect with—and give back to—the island.

“My best friend Tamika and I were both born and raised on Maui. We were frustrated [with the impacts of tourism] and wanted to figure out how we could influence our island in a positive way.

So we created Aloha Missions based on the aloha spirit. We created little missions [such as learning about using native plants in lei-making or how moon cycles are used in daily life, such as when to farm or fish] to share with visitors and our local community, because even our local community needs a little aloha.

COVID paused our in-person experiences. It’s allowed us to reflect on where we want to go. We’ve taken this time to listen to others on the island and ask, “OK, what’s our next step, as a brand and as a business, to positively influence our community?”

We would love to build a community space where people can come and get our real, local view on their itineraries. Our whole thing is about interaction. I would rather meet you and develop a relationship with you so that you can come to us and talk about your plans and what you want to do and how you can be a good visitor on our island. This would also be a space where people, especially local community members, could feel more at ease, and where the host community and visitors could come together positively.

[In the meantime,] I would like to see more people reaching out to us over email and Instagram [asking for travel advice]. We’ll give our honest opinion about where you should visit and what you should do.

Because the minute you step off the plane, you have a responsibility to the people of Hawai‘i to mindfully think about what you’re doing here, where you’re going, where you’re shopping. Hawai‘i is a special place. When you come, what is your intention?

It comes back to cross-communal interaction. If visitors were personally to meet the farmer that grows the food or the local family that owns the shop down the road, they’d feel more of a connection and more of a kuleana, which is responsibility, to be a better traveler. Then, when you go back home, you can feel good about what you contributed to our home.” –as told to Aislyn Greene

>>Next: A Better Way to Visit Hawaiʻi

Aislyn Greene is the associate director of podacsts at AFAR, where she produces the Unpacked by AFAR podcast and hosts AFAR’s Travel Tales podcast. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito.
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