Category Archives: Travel

Vacation Rentals Closing in Maui

The County of Maui, led by Mayor Charmaine Tavares, is cracking down on illegal vacation rentals and forcing them to close unless they obtain a permit. Most of the businesses affected by the closures are located in the residential areas of Upcountry and on Maui’s North Shore, where hotels are few.

For the property owners, operating illegal vacation rentals is far more profitable than renting the units to long-term tenants. Maui is among the most expensive places in the U.S. to live, and with median house prices topping $600,000, many property owners need all the help they can get to pay the mortgage.

The County argues that illegal vacation rentals have helped to drive up the cost of homeownership and rents, along with the bubble market and waves of retiring baby boomers moving in. Many people have gotten into these huge mortgages that would otherwise not be affordable precisely because of the income from vacation rentals. Rates average about $200 per night. Multiply that by Maui’s average occupancy rate of 80%, and the return is much healthier than the $50 to $100 per night for long-term rentals.

Illegal vacation rental owners argue that the kind of tourist they host is exactly who residents want here–people with an interest in local culture and nature that travel in smaller groups. Their impact is less and their attitudes are better. They spend more money on local goods and services.

One well-established and popular vacation rental, the Olinda Country Cottages & Inn, closed its doors in November 2007 after being cited by the County for not having a permit. The Inn operated illegally for many years after not being able to obtain a permit, despite ongoing efforts. Owners feel targeted by the County and wonder why, especially when there are more serious problems facing Maui, including water shortages from overbuilding luxury vacation homes and golf courses on Maui’s South Shore.

It’s not clear if locals will benefit from the closures or not. So far few vacation rentals have been put back into the pool of long-term rentals. Rents are still sky-high, averaging $2,000 per month for a 2-bedroom/1-bath home Upcountry. Many locals have lost their jobs cleaning and caring for the vacation rentals. Overall visitor numbers to Maui are still up so any negative impact on local business is hard to gauge.

One art gallery owner in Paia, who preferred to remain anonymous, summed up the impact of the closures, “If people are spending more–$300 to $400–per night on a hotel room, they’re not buying as much in my gallery.”

Hawaii Superferry Runs to Maui

Today the hotly debated Hawaii Superferry (HSF) made its first trip to Maui from Oahu and back after the State legislature passed a special law allowing it to sail without first completing and environmental impact statement. How is the possible? Simple. Corruption. What the military wants, the military gets. What developers want, developers get. Protesters waive. Business as usual.

Between the beaches, fancy hotels and golden sunsets, visitors to Hawaii don’t see how little regard the State has for its natural resources. This may not make sense at first, but there are a few important concepts to understand that may not be obvious to the untrained eye.

More is More

To the State, developers, hoteliers, realtors, construction and any other industry that relies on growth to fill its pockets, more is better. A healthy economy generally benefits everyone, but an overbuilt environment with strained resources does not. People who profit from growth typically don’t get this concept because the money in growth is too big. That’s a huge disconnect. That the State passed a special law exempting the superferry from an EIS is just another example of the State’s indifference to shared natural resources.

Perhaps as Hawaii drops in the ranks of top visitor destinations (it has recently fallen to #2 for honeymooners for the first time in years behind Italy), an awareness of what brings people here–the natural beauty–might creep in. Hopefully, it will happen before any endangered humpback whales (or calves) are sliced dead or all the nene eggs eaten to extinction by mongoose introduced from Oahu.

I Work Hard, I Deserve It

Our parents and their parents worked hard and were free to ruin their natural resources (their gift to us that keeps on giving) because they didn’t know any better. We do. Allowing vehicles to literally carry Maui away by filling up cars with rocks to sell to Oahu landscapers does not qualify as improving quality of life. Neither does supporting a superferry that turns a blind eye to stolen property or illegal drugs. The airlines don’t pose these risks, offer cheaper fares and use less gas per person anyway. Tragic that the superferry makes the airlines look environmentally and socially responsible.

Love It To Death

We have done this so many times in the past, this seems like an easy one to spot. But no, especially when big bucks are at stake. Take Hawaii’s coral reefs. Most are overfished or crushed beneath the fins of snorkelers standing on them. Many local people’s livelihoods depend on coral reefs, but the legislature doesn’t pass a special law to protect them. The State remains indifferent.

So if you decide to ride the Hawaii Superferry, be prepared to see protesters waiving on both islands. I’ll be there. Riding may be a novel way to see Maui on the last day of vacation, but the superferry is nothing less than a fatal blow to the neighbor island’s way of life–one that many travel so far to see.

Perhaps we could love the superferry to death.

Maui Storm Passes


Blue skies and a gentle breeze greeted me this morning after a week of torrential downpour in Maui. Sitting on my front porch sipping a cup of tea, I watched nature dry out.

Four green-bellied finches fluttered from flower to tree, slurping back sweet nectar brought by all the rain–their light chirping audible again now that the thunderous clouds are gone. A caravan of snails with mottled, twisting shells on their backs were making the long trek from under the porch to the bush by the front steps. I accidentally crushed one when I lept off the porch to retrieve the morning paper.

The forecast for the immediate future is clear skies and light tradewinds. In other words, business as usual. Just in time for all of the holiday-makers, who descend on Maui this time of year, to recover their overworked spirits at the beach.

Official updates from Maui County are available at .