Responsible Travel: Visiting Hawai'i & the Meaning of Mālama I Ka 'Āina
E Malama ‘oe I ka ‘Āina, e Malama ka ‘Āina ia ‘oe
Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.
Hawai‘i’s remote location in the Pacific Ocean, 2,500 miles away from the nearest continental landmass, makes the flora and fauna of the island extremely unique. In fact, every living thing on the volcanic-formed landmass is believed to have arrived by wind, wings, or waves.
The National Park Service notes that seeds, spores, insects, spiders, and small plants drifted with the wind, floated on the ocean currents, or hitched a ride on migrating or storm-driven birds. Hawai‘i’s complex ecosystems are home to over 10,000 native species, with 90 percent found nowhere else in the world. The islands are home to lush, tropical rainforests, dense coral reef ecosystems, gorgeous beaches, and dramatic mountain ranges.
That said, visitors to the islands will notice that the locals are super mindful of the natural world and the best practices to protect it. That's why many live by the guiding principle, "E Malama ‘oe I ka ‘Āina, e Malama ka ‘Āina ia ‘oe" - Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.
Want to be a good guest and travel responsibly? Here are some things that can help during your trip to Hawai‘i.
Keep a Safe Distance Between You and Marine Life
Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, dolphins, and whales are thrilling to see, but to ensure their safety and longevity, you must abide by guidelines set by the NOAA. This means keeping a responsible distance from the animals!
If you spot a sea turtle on the beach or in the water, maintain a distance of at least 10 feet on land and in water. See a Hawaiian Monk Seal napping on the beach? Keep behind the marked signs, or at least 50 feet away. You'll also want to keep a generous distance between yourself and dolphins (at least 50 yards) and humpback whales (at least 100 yards) if you happen to see these magnificent creatures in the water.
See NOAA guidelines for specifics.
Use Reef-Friendly Sunscreen
The Hawaiian islands have over 400,000 acres of living reef in the main islands alone. That's more acreage than O‘ahu’s landmass! To ensure the health of everything living under the sea, use reef-friendly sunblock if you're lathering up.
Some sunblocks contain chemicals that are considered dangerous to the corals. In fact, in 2021, Hawai‘i banned the sale of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate - but it’s still up to visitors coming to the islands to make sure they are packing appropriate skin protection. To help, Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel provides reef-friendly sunscreen available upon request.
For some mineral-based-sunscreen recommendations, consider Raw Elements, All Good, TotLogic, Blue Lizard, and Jason Mineral, which were all listed as good options by the Environmental Working Group. See more approved sunscreens here.
Avoid Single-Use Plastics
Hawai‘i has some of the most progressive bans on single-use plastics in the country. Plastic bags are already banned, with new ordinances issued only recently banning businesses from providing single-use plastic beverage bottles, plastic disposable food service containers and utensils, and more. You can help by tempering your own use of plastics. Bring a reusable water bottle during your visit and consider toiletries that don't come with plastic wrapping, such as shampoo and conditioner bars, toothpaste tabs, and plastic free deodorant. Read more ideas for using less plastic when you travel.
Stay on the Hiking Trails
If you plan on trail hopping, please hike responsibly by treating Hawai‘i’s wildlife, sacred sites, and areas of ecological restoration with respect. Staying on official, marked trails is always important. Not only can doing so protect you from dangerous terrain, wildlife run-ins, getting lost, and potentially trespassing onto private property, but it is very important to the natural wonder of Hawai‘i. When you go off course, you risk damaging local plant life and make it harder to preserve the trails. Refer to Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources website for additional hiking etiquette and safety preparedness information.
We have some recommended hiking trails you’ll love. From beginner to the most advanced routes (and everything in between), visit our Blog for our absolute favorite hiking trails on O‘ahu.
Looking for a way to support or give back during your time in Hawai‘i? Check out these local voluntourism opportunities.
If you haven’t yet booked your hotel stay, consider Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, centrally-located to all the activity in Waikiki. Book a room with ocean views to enjoy stunning sunsets or of Diamond Head, an ancient volcanic crater and iconic symbol of O‘ahu. See exclusive offers only available on our website.
Nothing beats having some extra money for your travels to Hawaii. Enjoy great savings when you book directly at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel.