Protect the Ocean: How to Sustainably Vacation in Hawaii
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Once you get past the initial excitement that you are headed to Hawaii for a family vacation, it’s time to start prepping for your trip. As you plan, it’s important to be aware that every experience you have on the islands is carefully maintained and managed by a community who is conscious of the ecological footprint tourism leaves on this popular destination.

Just a few weeks ago Hawaii became the first state in the country to ban specific chemicals (oxybenzone and octinoxate) used in most commercially available sunscreens. This is one of many steps Hawaii has made to be good stewards of the oceans and provide education about the importance of caring for our sea life.

According to Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, a non-profit research organization, sunscreen chemicals stay in coastal waters long after beachgoers pack up and head home from vacation. These chemicals pollute young coral and contribute to coral bleaching, ultimately damaging the reef and ocean life for many years. While no one is going to specifically police your sunscreen, the legislation prohibits the sale of sunscreen with damaging chemicals within the state. Alternative natural sunscreens are commonly available, and Hawaiian Airlines has even gone as far as to provide reef safe sunscreen options to passengers on their flights.

Ways to lower your ecological impact on the islands:

  • Use Reef Friendly Sunscreen even if you are not entering the ocean. Waste water from pools and showers can still make it back to the ocean.
  • Don’t request a straw. While its hard with little ones to encourage drinking out of a cup, bring your own reusable straws or use only paper ones if available. Most island restaurants will not serve drinks with straws due to the large percentage that end up in the ocean.
  • Select green-friendly excursions. Adventuring with experts who know the islands and how to best care for them can ensure that you follow the adage of leaving only footprints and taking only memories.

Throughout the Hawaiian Islands, sustainability and maintaining the health of the coral reefs and ocean that make Hawaii beautiful is top of mind. We’ve outlined a few of our favorite Maui vacation options that will help you plan out a vacation that teaches your crew how to keep our oceans healthy.

Cruising with the Pacific Whale Foundation

A non-profit organization, the Pacific Whale Foundation provides eco-adventures with 100% of the profits supporting their mission of research, education and conservation. Depending on the time of year you visit Maui, you can choose from whale watching for endangered humpback whales during breeding season (January through March) or snorkeling the crystal blue waters of  Molokini.

Every trip is led by certified Marine Naturalists who provide education as you enjoy the ocean waves. Guests are educated on the importance of reusing disposable cups during their ride and meals are served on reusable plastic plates. The added step of washing each dish helps prevent additional waste.

Relaxing at the Hyatt Regency Maui

Located on the Ka'anapali Beach, the Hyatt Regency Maui is a prime example of sustainable tourism. Each guest is provided a keepsake reusable water bottle upon check-in, ensuring that no excess plastic waste makes it into the ocean during your stay.

The entire property was built with sustainability in mind and was one of the first LEED-EBOM certified resorts on the island. With native landscaping and solar panels that power the resort, you'll enjoy knowing that your stay in a green resort has helped preserve the beauty of the island for years to come.

Surfing with Maui Surfer Girls

Surrounded by ocean reef, the island of Maui is the perfect backdrop for learning how to surf and Maui Surfer Girls is one of the oldest surf schools serving families on the island. With small class sizes, instructors take the time to focus on the individual needs of the students and offer full education about how the natural beauty of the island allows for a robust surfing experience.

Instructors provide reef-friendly sunscreen and educate students on the landscape of the ocean and importance of the ocean reef to the island. New surfers are taught how to properly dismount from a surfboard without damaging the fragile reef structures that take decades to build.

Adventuring the Road to Hana with Valley Isle Excursions

As more tourists head to Maui, protecting the natural beauty becomes the mission of tour operators who frequent high volume tourist destinations like the Road to Hana. This beautiful winding trail is a bucket list activity for many families. Journeying to Hana as a group allows you to leave less of an impact on the natural experience while experiencing the highlights only a local would be aware of.

Valley Isle Excursions educates every guest on the importance of living the Aloha lifestyle not just on the island, but when they return home as well. Tour operators select stops throughout state, county and national parks that are ideal for experiencing the beauty of the island while lowering the ecological impact. Beverage containers and picnic utensils are recycled and even the tour vehicles are selected with tires that reduce the wear on the road as you journey.

No matter how you choose to experience the Hawaiian Islands, paying attention to your ecological impact should be top of mind. This beautiful, natural destination can only remain that way with our conscious help.

By Anne Murlowski