Rhonda Shumway of TerraMar Travel takes a break at Alii Kula Lavender Farm in upcountry Maui. // © 2014 Rhonda Shumway
Feature image (above): Shumway recommends visiting historic sights in the town of Lahaina. // © 2014 Thinkstock
When travel agent Rhonda Shumway was a young girl, her grandparents would regale her with stories and slideshows of their vacations from around the world. Ever since then, Shumway has been enthralled with travel, which she calls “the best education possible.”
With her father Bob Holmes, Shumway started TerraMar Travel in 2000, and together, they continue to manage and run the Southern California-based agency. Her destination specialist credentials run the gamut, from Hawaii and all of its major islands to Australia, Tahiti, Fiji, France and a variety of cruise lines.
Shumway thrives on helping clients learn about the different cultures and people of the world during their travels. Here, she reflects on ways that visitors can experience the unique culture of Maui.
Why is Maui a great destination for exploring Hawaii’s culture?
Maui makes it easy to discover the rich culture and heritage of the Hawaiian Islands. Visitors can experience it everywhere — from Iao Valley in central Maui where royalty once fought for the right to rule the island, to Lahaina, the former capital of Hawaii that is ripe with historic sites.
How can a cultural tour or experience enhance a client’s visit to Maui?
Today’s visitors want to relate to the place they visit. Often, they are looking for something that is hard to describe, something that will bring them back again. A cultural tour helps visitors understand how Maui was formed, how people used to live and, in some cases, how they still live. It makes a connection to the visitor, sometimes emotional and sometimes educational.
What Maui cultural activities do you like to recommend to clients?
A luau is always a great cultural experience with its authentic music, dance and food, and some also present traditional Hawaiian games and crafts. On the road to Hana, I recommend visiting Piilanihale Heiau, Hawaii’s largest intact “heiau” (ancient place of worship). It is a little off the beaten path but definitely worth a visit. The town of Hana itself harks back to yesteryear, with many of the old Hawaiian ways still practiced there.
Do you have any favorite Maui hotels that excel in sharing the culture with their guests?
Many of the island’s hotels offer cultural experiences and activities such as hula and ukulele lessons, arts and crafts, live music and cultural discussions and activities. That said, Kaanapali Beach Hotel does a particularly good job of sharing the culture. Its staff has been highly trained so that guests are offered an authentic Hawaiian experience throughout the property.
Do you see any new trends in terms of cultural travel to Maui?
I’m finding that visitors want to give back to the destination through cultural experiences. They want to understand the place they visit and do something to help the community while there, from learning and practicing music and dance to clearing fields of invasive plants. The more that travel agents can talk about the cultural elements of Maui, the better they can add a special feeling to their client’s vacation.