Hawaii Reopens with Focus on Meaningful Travel

Oahu Rick Barboza of Papahana Kuaola and volunteers with masks harvest kalo (taro) from a loi
Rick Barboza of Papahana Kuaola and volunteers with masks harvest kalo (taro) from a loi

Just as we’re checking into snow tires and ransacking our closets for our parkas, the charm-soaked islands of Hawaii are reminding us that yes, Canadians are welcome back. With a welcome that will be warmer, and even more caring than in the past.

That’s because the state has taken the time, during the Covid tourism pause, to examine how and what it can do to provide a more meaningful experience for its visitors.

Hence the Malama Hawaii Program. Literally “give back,” the initiative is planned to help visitors (and locals) respect and revere nature. Visitors are welcome to plant a tree, help in shoreline cleanups and participate in other eco-friendly activities.

Malama was just one talking point during a lively chat I had October 27 with tourism reps from Kaua’i, Oahu, the Island of Hawaii and Maui. There was lots of news to share and much to celebrate.

Like much of Canada, Hawaii is cautiously recovering from Covid. Masks are widely worn and indoor capacity restrictions are common. Not everything may be at pre-Covid opening hours or capacity, so clients are recommended, as Maile Brown of Kaua’I pointed out, to “bring their patience hats.” Although not too many restaurants have closed for good (Maui’s Randy Parker estimates that all 190 of the island’s restos survived), reservations for restaurants and attractions are recommended before arriving in Hawaii. “Pre-book everything you possibly can.”

Wailua Falls Kauai
Wailua Falls Kauai

To make things a lot clearer, the state has produced a handy “cheat-sheet” for Canadian travellers.

Since one of the islands’ greatest appeals is their natural beauty, authorities have re-jigged some of the regulations to ensure some sites “aren’t loved to death.” Reservations are now necessary at some parks and it’s suggested that visitors consider renting cars but not for the entire duration of their stay. (And with gas costing more than on the mainland – almost as much as here in Canada – that’s worth thinking about.)

A key to recovery is of course bringing back lift, and there will be no shortage from Canada this year. As of mid-December, AC is flying from YUL to HNL (new), YYZ and YYC to HNL and OGG, and from YVR to HNL, OGG and KOA. WS is back bigtime with a whopping 57 flights a week on 10 non-stop routes from western Canada (YYC, YEG and YVR).

Couple enjoy the morning sun on Haleakala
Couple enjoy the morning sun on Haleakala

Since I couldn’t speak with these talented tourism types without getting some insider info, here are some fun tips:

Most romantic thing to do in Maui: Experiencing sunrise or sunset at Haleakala Crater – “Almost a religious experience,” according to Parker.

Best thing to do with kids on the Big Island of Hawaii: Deanna Isbister suggests visiting the seahorse and abalone farms at the Technology Park.

Best shopping on Oahu: Tough call: Karishma Chowfin was torn between “luxury row” in Waikiki; the outdoor Alamoana Shopping Center; shopping festivals such as the Made In Oahu festival in November; and simple Saturday Farmers’ Markets. Meet the locals and maybe bring home a hand-crafted souvenir or two.

Whatever your clients choose to do, you can be assured they will receive a warm welcome. “Canadians are very pleasant guests, mindful and respectful,” Maui’s Parker told me.

Chowfin commented that Canadians want to immerse themselves in Hawaiian culture; while Brown said that we are practising Malama already. Aloha indeed!

Martha Chapman


An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions series as well as special seasonal series. She can often be seen On The Town covering industry events. Known to all in the biz, Martha has worked her entire career in travel, beginning as a teenaged hotel receptionist in Bermuda.

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