Kaila Razonable, 23, works as a hostess at a beloved fish restaurant on another part of the island, where tourists have continued to arrive for reservations they made months ago. She makes better money there than she has at other eateries, she said, and it’s a job that pays enough for her to live, as many of her colleagues live paycheck to paycheck. And a night without tips can be painful.
Ms. Razonable, whose mother is Native Hawaiian and who grew up on the islands, said this week had given her second thoughts about a long-term career in hospitality. She enjoys and appreciates her job, she said, but has bristled at the behavior of some tourists while so many locals are suffering.
“There’s literally homes being burned to the foundation, that level, and you’re complaining that we can’t get you seated early,” she said. “We prioritize tourism over locals way too much.”
Native Hawaiians, like Indigenous communities around the country, have deep connections with lands and the natural world. Ms. Razonable said that the fires were evidence that “we’re not listening to the land, we’re not heeding the signs, and this is the result.”
Ms. Razonable said she was hopeful that Hawaii would be able to find a more sustainable balance between managing tourism and protecting local communities. She hopes tourists can be more respectful of Hawaiian culture and learn to view locals as people, not servants.
“There used to be a saying that when you come to Maui, it changes you,” said Ms. Engledow, who recently moved to Oregon after 50 years in Hawaii, partly for a lower cost of living. “Now people come with so much money, they try to change Maui.”
Emily Cochrane and Kyveli Diener contributed reporting.