Long before sustainability became a buzzword, there was Malama 'Aina.
In Hawaiian, this means to protect and nurture the land, so that it can continue to provide for future generations. Given the remote nature of Hawaii, island natives have been practicing their own form of sustainability for centuries.
According to Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the state had more than 8 million visitors in 2014—more than five times the number of residents on these islands.
With the sheer number of people visiting the islands every year, it's critical that travelers also commit to Malama 'Aina for sustainability to succeed. Luckily, it's not that difficult to make your visit to the islands more sustainable. Just follow these easy tips and—trust me—the islands will continue to say mahalo (thank you) with its stunning beauty.
1. Stay on Paths When Hiking.
Like many places of natural beauty, Hawaii is home to rare plants and small creatures. Walking off hiking trails brings unnecessary harm to the island's ecosystem. And in a place like Hawaii, where steep drop-offs are made more treacherous by frequent rainfall, heeding this advice keeps you safe too.
2. Respect Hawaii's Marine Life
Hawaii's coral reef ecosystem is home to more than 1,250 unique species found only around the islands. The best way to protect marine life is to simply follow the no-touching rule. It also against federal law to touch sea turtles.
3. Pick Up Trash On The Beaches.
Would this sunset be as soothing and calming if a plastic grocery bag or beer can was floating between these mossy rocks? Probably not. While you're already good at cleaning up for yourself, you may come across some trash on a beach left by previous visitors. If you see trash, just go ahead and grab it. It keeps the beach beautiful and protects marine life too.
4. Choose Sustainable Tours With Local Guides
Whether it's paddle boarding or snorkeling on the water's surface or diving into the depths of the ocean, there's no shortage of tour options. The multitude of tours puts a strain on Hawaii's marine life. Make sure to choose a tour that is third-party certified for its sustainable practices. The Hawaii Ecotourism Association provides a list of sustainable tours.
5. Take Only Pictures.
While these islands are beautiful and your trip is likely to be far too short, resist the urge to take home a shell, stone, or an irresistibly adorable gecko. Simply remember your trip through memories and amazing images of sunsets, mountains and gorgeous beaches.
6. Go with an Environmentally Efficient Car Rental.
Many of the best views on Hawaii—including this one of Menehune Fishpond—are only accessible by car, so you'll likely need to rent a vehicle. Just try to avoid the temptation to go for the gas guzzling SUV. We all want to feel like we're off-roading in Jurassic Park, but the hybrid vehicle will sit better with your conscience long after the trip—and fantasies of dinosaurs—end.