Photo by Derek Owens
Photo by Yang Liu
Eco-consciousness knows no bounds on Maui. Here’s how travelers can get involved—while having fun.
Silence reigns in Haleakalā crater, the enormous 19-square-mile mouth of Maui’s largest volcano, where ‘āhinahina (silversword) pom poms soften ancient lava flows. Writer and adventurer Jack London once called this cinder desert “a workshop of nature still cluttered with the raw beginnings of world-making.” The dormant mountain’s heart remains one of quietest landscapes in all of America.
At dawn, visitors gather on the summit, reverently watching the sun rise from the Pacific, some 10,000 feet below. The National Park releases reservations two months in advance for this dazzling experience—and they sell out. But travelers can turn to Skyline Eco Adventures for the Haleakalā trifecta: daybreak on the peak, mountain biking down 32 switchbacks, and the first zipline adventure course built in the United States. It has five lines, plus an Indiana Jones-style swinging bridge and the state’s only pendulum line, where adventurers reach speeds over 45mph.
And participants can feel good about it, too. “We give to 1% for the Planet,” says Senior Sales Manager Jamie DeBrunner. “We’ve donated $1.4 million to local conservation nonprofits since 2002.”
It’s all about kuleana, the company’s website explains: the uniquely Hawaiian value of accepting responsibilities. “The idea drives us to preserve Hawaii’s natural beauty, motivates us to teach our guests about conservation, and inspires us to give back to our community.”
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A Long History of Environmental Love
This idea has deep roots, stretching back to the Polynesian voyagers who settled the islands around 300 to 600 CE, says Nicolette van der Lee, program coordinator for the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui. “They lived in harmony with nature and practiced intentional stewardship of natural resources. We seek to learn from Native Hawaiian systems of sustainability, including the ahupua`a, a natural resource management system from mauka to makaʻi (land to sea).”
Today, Hawaii is a global leader in developing local solutions to sustainability challenges across energy, food, water, education, and green building, as exemplified through its Hawai'i Green Growth initiatives. Visitors can support sustainability on Maui through donations to local nonprofit organizations including the Auwahi Forest Restoration Project, to conserve rare native forest species, and the Hawaii Farmers Union Foundation to create vibrant, regenerative farming communities.
Eco-conscious travelers can also make responsible choices, such as bringing refillable water bottles; using reef-safe sunscreen; eating locally grown, caught, and harvested food; and picking up trash on trails or beaches, since plastic debris put turtles and other sea life at great risk. Van der Lee continues: “To sustain the beauty of Maui, travelers play an active role in sharing the aloha spirit of the islands by treading lightly and leaving no trace.”
Here are six activities to do your part.
Maui Nui Botanical Garden. This nonprofit occupies the grounds of an old zoo, where seven acres of native and Polynesian-introduced species now flourish. Discover the local varieties of sweet potatoes and sugar cane, as well as Maui’s history and traditional uses for plants, via an audio tour or docent-led walk.
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O'o Farm. This working farm takes a sustainable, naturally cultivated approach in the Upcountry. Weekdays it invites visitors to start their day in the misting forest of Waipoli with a Seed to Cup Coffee tour. Not an early riser? Choose the Lunch Tour, where you can help harvest ingredients for a gourmet feast.
Pacific Whale Foundation. This nonprofit protects the ocean through science and advocacy. Marine naturalists lead its Eco-Adventures, which range from whale watching to sailing the Kaʻanapali coastline and snorkeling the extinct volcanic crater of Molokini. It also has a free Volunteers on Vacation program, so guests can give back to the local community.
Surfrider Foundation. Join a beach cleanup, clearing trash and plastic pollution from Maui’s shorelines. No reservations or equipment are required: Just check the schedule and show up!
Learn more about Maui’s conservation and eco-consciousness at gohawaii.com/islands/maui.
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