Expectations shape a person's experience. Expectations of Maui are most likely shaped by the Internet, which today's visitor is sure to look through before making a trip to "The Magic Isle." That's the name given Maui by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Maui Visitors Bureau.
Google Hawaii and you'll turn up 515,000 items. Google Maui and there are a surprising 68 million choices to pick through. Those choices included everything from letters to the editor, news websites, individual advertising of activities, resorts, bed-and-breakfast operations, wedding planners, etc. and the HTA "official" website, broken down by island.
The individual island sites are subdivided into an overview, "guidebook, regions, experiences and plan a trip."
"Welcome to Maui," the copy reads under a slide show of various aspects of the island. "From its heavenly beaches to its scenic natural wonders, there are plenty of reasons why Maui has been vote 'Best Island' by readers of Conde Nast Traveler for seventeen years.
"Discover your own reasons to love Maui as you stroll the seaside streets of Lahaina and the lovely beaches of Kaanapali. Feel the mana (power) of Haleakala National Park or discover the arts and culture of Kahului and Upcountry Maui. From championship golf course to the scenic road to Hana, your vacation on the 'Valley Isle' promises to be unforgettable."
In the copy, the words Lahaina, Kaanapali, Haleakala National Park, Upcountry Maui, golf courses, Hana and humpback whales are links to specific pages. The first page on humpback whales doesn't mention the fact that the critters are long gone between about April and December.
One of the more interesting sections is "Maui FAQs." For the uninitiated, that's frequently asked questions. The first one you hit is "what is the time difference from the continental US?" No. 2 is "where is the main airport on Maui?"
No. 3 speaks to the major change in tourism on Maui since the bed and beach days of yore. "You can get around Maui by shuttle, tour bus, taxi or public transportation. But to really experience Maui, you should consider reserving a rental car in advance from Kahului or Kapalua Airport."
One question - "Do I need my passport to get to Maui?" - revives a 40-year-old memory. A couple of tourists, identifiable by their matching aloha wear, were walking around Ala Moana Center on Oahu. "Look, honey," she said. "There's a Sears just like back in the states." Just outside the store was a trash can identified by one word, "kokua."
The whale season and "big wave surf season on Maui's north shore" are covered by the FAQ "When is a good time to Visit Maui?" The answer begins "anytime of the year."
Can't help thinking these practical questions probably were not at the top of "real" questions submitted to the HTA/MVB. Is there anyone capable of spanning oceans for a vacation who doesn't know the basics about Hawaii, if not Maui?
The main links of Maui's first page are, in this order, "Maui Adventure, Maui Romance, Maui Culture, Family Fun on Maui, Maui Golf, Maui Weddings, Maui Honeymoons, Unexpected Maui."
"Romance" looks mostly to be a duplicate of weddings and honeymoons with the addition of a list of activities centered on the ocean. At least there's no mention of liaisons with beach boys or hula girls.
"Unexpected Maui" yields plugs for what might be called stomach and agricultural tourism. "Farmers' Markets" includes "sample Maui-style cooking, from gourmet plate lunches (an oxymoron if I ever saw one) to Hawaii Regional Cuisine." Right after markets, there is a tour and traffic note: "Follow the farm to table process by touring the upland farms of Upcountry Maui then dine in the prestigious restaurants of west and south Maui."
There's too much seat and eye time involved to go through all the listings, but a prospective visitor would get a solid idea of Maui. It's all a little rosy, but that is expected with marketing material.
I was pleased to see a page on ecotourism and the line: "On Maui, respect for the land is an integral part of our local lifestyle . . . appreciating the gift that is our natural environment."
That section begins with "You don't need to be an environmentalist to appreciate the value of leaving a small footprint on the places you visit." If only all would. Maybe that should be the No. 1 expectation listed by the "official" HTA/MVB website.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.