The Best Ways to Travel Sustainably in Hawai’i

I’m never going to tell you that climate change is going to kill us all, or that you have to give up every convenience in your life. I believe the Earth is more resilient than others give it credit for, and that we’re better off now than they were in the Stone Age. Are you ready to rake me over the coals yet?

What I will tell you is that little things make a bigger difference on islands like Hawai’i than they appear to do on the Mainland. Millions of people visit the Hawai’ian islands, and each one makes a dent. The Hawai’ian people and locals alike have a deep respect for their islands, so we visitors should, too. I’m not here to guilt you, just to put this information out there to do with what you will.

Stay at an Eco Resort

Think you need a/c, soundproofing, and those little individual toiletries on your trip? Think again! Hawai’i is one of the most pleasant places in the world. Many Hawai’i homes have neither heat nor air conditioning because they simply don’t need it. You might be surprised at how calming it is to fall asleep to the sound of real waves instead of those from a white noise machine.

You might also be surprised at how thoughtfully the eco-friendly Hawai’ian accommodations are made. With a lean toward efficiency and preference for local materials, your eco-friendly accommodation will almost certainly be both more efficient and more charming than a “big brand” could possibly be. Even better? Your food, coffee, and toiletries will likely be locally-sourced from neighbors! Give an eco resort a try!

Take the road less traveled!
All the details: What It’s Like Staying at the Heart Core Volcano Eco Resort on the Big Island of Hawai’i

Use Reef Safe Sunscreen

Did you know that the sale of certain sunscreens is illegal in Hawai’i? You will only find reef safe sunscreens here. You could choose to bring your own, but I (and the Hawai’i Tourism Board) would urge you to only use mineral-based, reef safe sunscreens while in the islands. In fact, it’s the law in Mau’i County (Mau’i, Molokai, and Lana’i). Here are some of my favorite solid options (perfect for carry-on travel!):

Also helpful: The Traveler’s Ultimate Guide to Sunscreen

Clean Your Shoes

It’s not all about single-use plastics, sunscreen chemicals, and leaving wrappers behind. Sometimes it’s about the invasive natural invaders visitors inadvertently bring with them. Hawai’i has perfect conditions for many plants and animals to thrive, but they don’t all necessarily belong. And they certainly don’t all get along!

The plant life and animals that make up and live in the Hawai’ian ecosystem can be very aversely affected by foreign soil–and anything in it. Tiny bugs, mold particles, and foreign dirt can all cause problems for native Hawai’ian plants and animals. An easy solution is to give your shoes a quick (but effective!) scrub before you pack them. You’ll also find shoe scrubbing stations, and often a cleaning solution, at the trailhead for many hikes to keep things clean and healthy!

Every hike is an epic hike, but they only stay that way when we do our part!
Read on: The Ultimate List of Safety Tips for Visitors to Hawai’i

Malama (Give Back)

Due to such over tourism over the years, the Hawai’i Tourism Board created a shift in their messaging. All are still welcome, but now there are widely-available opportunities to take a trip that gives back (malama in Hawai’ian). In return for volunteering, visitors can enjoy a discount or even a free night at a participating hotel during their trip! The malama program is available on the Island of Hawai’i, Kaua’i, Mau’i, Molokai, and O’ahu.

Not interested in “working” on vacation? I get that. Instead, think of it as a way to give back to the islands and people who’ve been so welcoming to you. Think of it as a perfect way to really get to know the islands you’re visiting, the history, and the culture. Think of it as a reciprocal gift.

Give Hawai’i a token of thanks for her beauty!
Keep reading: Tours You Must Book Before Your Trip to Hawai’i

Shop Local

This is important wherever you live or travel! I’m a huge proponent of shopping local, whether that’s for my own home, gifts for friends and family, or just to support small businesses who could really use it. When you shop local in Hawai’i, you really are making a difference to the locals, their families, and the islands. The shorter the journey from source to consumer, the fewer emissions, the better for the islands. Shop local for your souvenirs, gifts, and meals while you’re there!

You know it’s authentic when you can see the hard work that goes into it!
More here: The Best Pro Tips for Your Trip to Hawai’i

Eat Local

Are you noticing a trend here?! Local, local, local, y’all. Hawai’i is one of the easiest places to eat local that I’ve found in all my travels. Your coffee likely came from not just a local roaster, but a local grower! The fruits and veggies on your plate possibly came from a neighboring farm, or your accommodation’s own gardens. The fish was likely caught by a local that morning while you slept in. The pork or beef came from a local hunter or rancher.

Ask your server what’s the “most local,” and give it a try! If you don’t know what an ingredient in the menu description is, ask about it and try it! Take advantage of the abundance of the islands like the locals do, and let them prepare it their way for you. I bet you’ll taste the aloha!

As local as it is beautiful!
Keep eating: The Best Foods You Must Try in the Hawai’ian Islands

Want more? Check out all the best Hawai’i tips and recommendations on my dedicated Hawai’ian Islands Page!

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