Worldwide travel continues to soar, with the number of people visiting other countries recently surpassing one billion a year. While travel can have positive economic impacts and increase cultural interaction, it also poses significant threats to the environment and local communities. In response, there has been a growing movement towards "responsible tourism," or also referred to as "sustainable tourism" or "ecotourism."
We believe travel can be incredibly rewarding and fun, but we do not think it should be at the expense of others or the planet. Travel activities can be harmful and unsustainable for local communities, wildlife, and the environment. In deciding what to do on your trip and which businesses to use, you are also making a decision on what kind of impact you will have.
We do the work for you. We carefully evaluate all businesses so that you can trust you will not be leaving your destination worse off.
Travel can also have a positive impact by increasing awareness of other cultures and boosting local economies. Many activity providers go beyond serving you and take actions to improve the local community and preserve the environment. When selecting vendors, we favor these where possible, and we educate and encourage our other vendors as well.
We hope you share our values of leaving your destination a special place for future travelers to also enjoy, and if possible to also leave it a little better off. We've done the hard work so you can have peace of mind and spend your dollars in a way that reflects your values.
As you can see from the high quality and fun activities we feature, being a responsible traveler doesn't mean making sacrifices. Through many of the activities we have selected for you, you may also have a more enriching experience by better connecting with the authentic culture.
For your trip to Hawaii, share in the Aloha Spirit by respecting its natural beauty and culture and protecting them for locals and future travelers.
Examples of how our vendors positively affect communities
- Locally owned so that revenue and profits stay in the community rather than be sent elsewhere
- Preserves and promotes traditions and culture
- Has an educational and cultural mission
- Minimizes negative impact on residents
- Provides financial or in-kind support to worthwhile local organizations and causes
- Provides jobs for local people
Examples of how our vendors positively affect the environment
- Institutes practices and training that minimize impact on the natural environment and its living creatures
- Demonstrates environmental leadership, such as advocating for regulations and other initiatives that protect the environment
- Implements green practices in their operations, such as recycling, fuel efficient or alternative fuel vehicles, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and water conservation
- Offers organic products
- Uses local ingredients and materials
- Provides financial or in-kind support to worthwhile environmental organizations and causes
Responsible Tourism Travel Tips
While we’ve got you covered for paid activities, here are some tips on what else you can do, with a focus on Hawaii:
- When to go
- Consider going in the off season (mid-April through mid-June or September through mid-December) if possible – not only will there be less crowds, the weather at its best, and reduced prices for flights and hotels, but you will be helping to reduce the problems that mass tourism can cause. Crowds of tourists strain the environment and infrastructure and can result in overdevelopment that could be avoided if travelers were more spaced out over the year.
- This is the biggest contributor to the carbon footprint of your trip. Choose the most direct flight possible. Also, consider taking longer trips rather than shorter, more frequent trips.
- Where to Stay
- When choosing your accommodations, keep an eye out for green-friendly practices (renewable energy, water conservation, etc.). Consider a vacation rental (using sites such as VRBO.com and airbnb.com) or a local hotel, rather than big hotel chains, in order to have your travel dollars more directly benefit the local community. In general, there is no need for air conditioning (an energy hog), especially if you are not right on coast (further inland = higher elevation = lower temperatures at night).
- Car rental
- Rent a fuel efficient car. Car rental companies often post mpg for their cars, or just ask. This could also save you a lot of money, especially if you plan on seeing much of Hawaii (note: the Big Island specifically is over 4,000 square miles or about the size of Connecticut). A 4-wheel-drive vehicle should only be an option for a day or two, since most of the sites on the island are accessible via good roads. A white car requires less air conditioning to keep cool than a dark colored car.
- Water activities
- In the ocean, do not stand on or touch the coral. Not only is coral sharp and can cut you (and cause an infection), but touching coral will damage it and kill the living things that make up coral. In fact, you should not even stand nearby, as your flippers will kick up sand that will cover and kill the surrounding coral. Coral destruction is a real problem, with once prime snorkeling locations around the world having already disappeared. Also, do not feed the fish, which can cause unnatural and aggressive behavior, disturb the food chain and ecosystem, and sicken them (especially bread).
- Ocean Wildlife
- While there are some unique and exciting opportunities to view ocean wildlife such as turtles, seals, and dolphins, do not approach or try to touch them. By law, you must stay 50 yards from dolphins and 100 feet from turtles and seals.
- If you go, practice catch and release. Overfishing is a major global problem; don’t add to it for sport.
- Have a garbage bag with you to carry out any waste. Stay on trails. Going off trail may not only get you lost and in some areas in danger of falling into a crevice or old lava tube, but will also add to the destruction of vegetation and the natural habitat.
- Eating & Shopping
- Try a non-chain, non-touristy local eatery or shop, especially if it looks popular among the locals. You will not only be ensuring your dollars support the local economy and culture, but you will also benefit from a more genuine local experience. In addition, 90% of Hawaii’s food is currently imported, requiring significant energy (and associated carbon emissions) for transportation and sending money out of the local economy. Hawaii is trying to restart its domestic agriculture industry, and you can help by eating at restaurants that use local ingredients and by shopping at farmers markets.
- Don’t speed. This endangers and annoys residents, and it also will increase your gas bill. The speed limit is relatively low, especially in the towns, and does not exceed 55 mph anywhere on the island. So follow the signs, and enjoy the laid back Hawaiian island lifestyle and the scenery.
- This can be a valuable way to interact with locals, as well as positively impact the community.