The beaches, mountains, rainforest, and ocean of Maui make it well suited for eco-tourism. People travel to Maui because of the beauty and connection with nature. Therefore, maintenance of this environment should be a concern to visitors and locals alike. Ancient Hawaiians were greatly aware that care for the environment was crucial to for their own survival so they practiced sustainability in their daily lives. Travelers today, are aware that sustainable eco-travel and revival of environmentally-challenged places is worthwhile for both the planet and their own travel experience.
One such group helping to provide eco-friendly options to visitors is the Sustainable Tourism Association of Hawaii. The group has a mission to protect Hawaii’s unique natural environment and host culture through the promotion of responsible travel and educational programs relating to sustainable tourism for residents, businesses and visitors.
While most of Maui’s attractions and vendors are very eco-friendly, some go beyond environmental dedication with eco-sustainable business practices by culturally educating visitors of “Malama the aina” and its history. These include Certified Sustainable Tourism Operators such as:
- Valley Isle Excursions
- Hawaiian Paddle Sports
- Skyline Eco Adventures
- Maui Surf Lessons
- Temptation Tours
- Maui Surf Clinics
- Hawaii Mermaid Adventures
- Maui Ocean Center
- Maui Dreams Dive Company
- Haleakala Bike Company
- Trilogy Excursions
- Pacific Whale Foundation
- Unique Maui Tours
- Redline Rafting
- Maui Stand Up Paddle Boarding
- Atlantis Adventures
- Maui Kayak Adventures
Today, people look for more than something purely based on destination when they travel. Travelers now want an emotional connection in addition to learning about the environment and culture of their destination.
In Maui, that emotional connection includes “Keeping it Pono” meaning that you’ve done right by the land and “do what’s right to help keep life in balance.” As defined in the book “Managing with Aloha”, when someone is Pono, there is a feeling of balance and contentment, that all is good and morally right. Being Pono teaches us to be positive, optimistic, hopeful and to look forward to the future. This allows us to act with aloha and bring aloha to others.
Island activities are spread out, meaning that most people will rent a car. You’ll see that rental car fleet convert to electric vehicles in future years. For now, you can give that rental car a break for a few days with some other, more eco-friendly group transportation options.
The Maui Bus travels routes hits major shopping areas. You could fill a whole day shopping by bus! Many tour operators have pickup and drop-off services for their excursions. Two of the big attractions that will need careful transportation planning is Haleakala Crater and the road to Hana. Tours with guides to both these locations have some distinct advantages.
The road to Hana is by far a favorite must-do activity on Maui. Anyone who has driven the beautiful yet challenging, narrow road can attest to over 600 hairpin turns and close to 60 one lane bridges. Leaving the driving to someone else and just enjoying the view is relaxing. Plus, there is someone to watch the vehicle while you get out and enjoy stops along the way.
To alleviate traffic congestion and fuel pollution, use of tour vans lesson the number of vehicles that would otherwise clog the road. One 12 passenger tour van takes the place of six cars on a 10 – 12 hour long route, thus helping to sustain resources and reduce emissions. Sharing a vehicle like that of the tour guides’ van allows authentic cultural experiences and stories to be shared and make the trip to Hana more memorable.
Little Things that Help Big
One of the biggest things that you can help with when visiting Maui is drinking from a reusable beverage container, and ditching single use plastic water bottles. Over 50 billion of these plastic containers are used and discarded in the U.S. each year. Some of this waste ends up in the ocean. For single-use containers you do buy, check to see if your resort offers recycling, or stop by a recycling center located island-wide.
Before you buy and leave behind beach chairs, towels and other beach gear, check with your rental company to see if the unit you are renting already supplies these items.
Be eco-friendly in the water, too. Hawaii is the first state in the US to ban the sale of sunscreen containing the coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. The new went into effect January 1, 2021. Reef safe sunscreen is widely available on the island.
Discovering something new and getting connected to the land and other people is a meaningful use of time. Maui is filled with natural wonders. Ancient Hawaiians recognized the fragility of a limited land mass and made sure to respect this from the beginning. Such a concept of this respect is coined as “Malama the aina,” meaning “caring for the land,” and remains an important part of Hawaii’s cultural story.
So why do we mention this and encourage you to learn more about the culture and values of Maui? Sometimes it is a strain to keep local life in balance with tourism. You’ll notice some popular areas now have limits on the number of daily visitors to protect the aina. We invite you to be part of doing what is pono when you are here.
Maui is not unique in its challenges. The UN World Travel Organization reports the number of people who traveled in 2015 was just over 1 billion and is estimated to increase to 4.3 billion by 2050. With this growth, we must be more caring to the places we visit so the next generation can continue to enjoy these special places.
Travelers are known to fall in love with Maui, returning again and again. The islands afford an opportunity for transformative experiences, an escape from normal routines in a unique tropical setting. What one learns in traveling becomes a part of their life story.
The Future Of Tourism
We want to welcome and share our aloha with visitors and part-time residents, and be better in doing so. We are working together as a community to find eco-friendly and sustainable solutions, creating a balance between welcoming visitors and protecting natural resources. We hope you join us in that quest, be an eco-friendly visitor and do what is Pono.