Nine Tips to Help Ensure an Environmentally Friendly Trip to Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands are renowned worldwide for their natural beauty and pristine environments, which help to attract almost 10 million visitors a year. And it is easy to see the allure of the volcanic islands, they are an oasis of nature in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and something that generations of Hawaiians have cherished and strive to protect. 

And safeguarding the islands is more than just the job of locals, but something visitors should strive for too. Together we can help ensure that the majesties of Hawaii’s jewels are there for future generations to behold and enjoy as well.

Limit Single-Use Plastic

Nothing hurts more than enjoying a beautiful afternoon in nature only to have it sullied by the sight of plastic trash bobbing amongst the sea foam. Unfortunately, there is a lot of plastic, we produce over 300 million tons of it a year. And not only is plastic waste ugly, but it can also be a danger to humans and wildlife alike, killing millions of animals a year

Therefore, it is best to limit the amount of disposable plastic you use during your visit. Consider taking reusable water bottles and straws with you wherever you go and pack a tote bag to cut down on the amount of plastic you might use. 

Team Up with a Local Partner That Cares About Sustainability

When choosing which activities you want to try when visiting Hawaii, it is important to do your homework when it comes to the outfitters you choose to patronize. Ask any provider what steps they take to minimize their business’s environmental impact. You’ll find that some may pay lip service to environmental stewardship, while for others it will be a guiding principle.

We fall in the second camp here at Dive Maui, our natural workspaces are a public good and something we strive to respect and maintain in everything that we do. We are proud to be one of the pioneering Maui dives shops that have provided sustainable moorings at locations around Lanai that we frequent. Conservation is something that we care about deeply and underpins our core philosophy of appreciation and care towards nature’s wonders.

Help Conserve the Hawaiian Islands’ Resources

The Hawaiian Islands are rich in natural beauty, but other resources on the island can be scarce. Stuff that you might take for granted on the mainland can be more precious on any island. This is why the conservation of things such as water and electricity can be so vital in a place such as Maui.

You can help do your part by taking simple steps such as limiting your shower times and being conscious of your electricity consumption. Little steps, such as turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, can quickly add up. And every bit helps lessen the strain visitors put on Hawaii’s infrastructure. 

Use People Powered Transportation When Possible

The vast majority of visitors to the Hawaiian Islands will arrive via airplane and will rent a car to get around. While this is somewhat unavoidable, there are steps you can take to make this greener. 

First, consider renting a bike to get around. Many of Hawaii’s communities are friendly for biking with dedicated trails and lanes. Crisscrossing an island like Maui by bike is one of the best ways to truly experience it all. Best of all, every mile you travel by bike is one less you will have made by car.

Second, if you must drive try to rent a car with the best gas mileage possible. Some electric and hybrid vehicles can be found in places such as Honolulu and can be an alluring rental choice thanks to the compactness of the islands.

Third, if you are island hopping, when possible, try traveling by boat. While interisland travel via ferry from every island isn’t always possible, some popular routes feature frequent service and are by far the most environmentally friendly way to get from island to island. For example, a ferry from Maui to Lanai departs multiple times a day, seven days a week, and will cost you $30 dollars per person.

Lastly, if you are inclined (and can afford to do so), consider purchasing carbon offsets for your flight to Hawaii. While not a perfect solution, it can help ease the impact of your Hawaiian vacation. Another way to assuage any guilt you may have over flying to Hawaii is to take stock of your personal carbon footprint and help offset your impact by being more efficient in your day-to-day life practices. 

Don’t Feed the Wildlife

The Hawaiian Islands contain many unique species of wildlife that can only be found within its bounds. This is why protecting the natural habitat you see is so important. One of the best steps you can take to minimizing your personal impact is to not feed the wildlife. Not only can human foods be indigestible and deadly to many creatures, but illicit feedings can also cause a dependency to form on handouts from humans that can be dangerous if suddenly halted.

Respect Everything in the Water

While it may be tempting to touch coral that you come across while scuba diving or snorkeling, this is a bad idea for a few reasons. The first would be that coral is incredibly fragile and that by touching it you risk permanently damaging or killing it.

Another reason why this is a bad idea is that certain zoanthid and other corals can contain toxins that they may expel when disturbed that are fatal in the right concentrations. And coral isn’t alone as marine animals such as seals and turtles are also best enjoyed from a distance.

Strive to Leave No Trace Behind You

Most of those who enjoy Hawaii’s natural areas do so responsibly and don’t litter. This can be easily accomplished with a little forethought. Just remember to bring something to pack away any garbage you may produce away in, once you’ve reached a suitable area simply dispose of it properly.

Another important part of leaving no trace is not bringing anything with you when you leave. This can include items that may seem outwardly trivial or insignificant such as shells and rocks. While such items may seem to have a nearly endless supply on the Hawaiian Islands, removing them can have an extremely detrimental effect on the local environment. 

Use Reef Safe Sunscreen

The chemicals in some sunscreens you find on the mainland may cause harm, like bleaching, to the islands’ many coral reefs. So much so that the State of Hawaii has banned the sale of all sunscreens with such formulas within its territory. While you won’t be able to buy this sort of SPF on the islands after 2021, it is still important to educate yourself on the matter.

Clean Your Gear

The last piece of advice we have is simple but impactful: clean your gear. This applies to anything you use and transport through differing natural areas. It is important to clean such gear as it helps eliminate the chance of invasive species or microbes finding new areas to infect. Proper cleaning will include washing with water and a mild detergent after every use, along with frequent inspections and care for towards typical transmission points to help halt their spread.