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A food truck owner on Maui said it's irresponsible for people like Jason Momoa to tell tourists the island is closed because local businesses that weren't destroyed are now struggling too

An aerial view of the wildfire devastation in Lahaina, Maui on August 11, 2023.
An aerial view of the wildfire devastation in Lahaina, Maui on August 11, 2023.Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • Some have been encouraging tourists to stay away from Maui after fires ravaged parts of the island.

  • Daniel Kalahiki, owner of the food truck Like Poke, said it was irresponsible and hurting businesses.

  • He said tourists should avoid Lahaina, the hardest-hit area, but visit other parts of Maui and volunteer to help locals.

Some tourists have been encouraged to cancel their planned trips to Maui after fires devastated parts of the island, but one food truck owner said telling tourists to stay away could do more harm than good.

Jason Momoa, an actor and Native Hawaiian, was among those urging tourists to stay away from the island. Other residents and activists also took to TikTok to tell travelers not to visit or to leave if they were already there.

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But Daniel Kalahiki, owner of the food truck Like Poke, posted a series of Instagram videos saying those messages were misguided. Kalahiki's food truck is located in Wailuku and was not directly hit by the fires that impacted Kula and burnt much of Lahaina to the ground, killing more than 100 people.

"Lahaina's closed. We grieve for them, we cry for them, we do everything we can for them, and it will never, ever be okay or be the same," Kalahiki said, adding the only people who should be in Lahaina are residents or those who are rebuilding. "But we still need the rest of the island to be open so we can continue to live."

He said most of Maui still needs and wants tourists to come.

"Kihei, Wailea, open. Wailuku, Kahalui, open. Paia, Haiku, open. Hana, open. All of those places are still open," he said. "All of those local businesses — hundreds of local businesses that depend on at least a little bit of tourism, as do I. Although my business is based on locals, I still need that little bit of tourism."

Kalahiki said in another video that what he feared was already becoming reality, adding that people all over Maui were being financially impacted, even losing their jobs or businesses, because people are telling tourists to stay away or confronting the ones who are already there.

He mentioned several celebrities and prominent figures that he thought were acting irresponsibly by telling people not to come, including Momoa.

"Jason Momoa, have fun on your late-night shows throwing spears with your buddies, but what're you guys going to do for us now?" he said.

A representative for Momoa did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Kalahiki urged tourists coming to Maui not to cancel their plans but to vacation responsibly by staying away from Lahaina and instead visiting areas on the east side of the island that were not hit by the fires. He encouraged any tourists to take some time out of their trip to volunteer while they are on Maui and to support local businesses.

Kalahiki did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment via Instagram and phone.

"We all still need to pay our bills so that we can contribute to helping the people in Lahaina and Kula that have lost everything. We still need to survive," he said, adding: "It will be the worst day of my life, if I lose my house to the bank because of Maui being 'closed.'"

Read the original article on Insider