Diamond Head is one of Honolulu’s most distinctive landmarks but restrictions are now in place to safeguard its future. Photo / Hawaii Tourism Authority
Hawaii is a natural gem, known for its serene beaches, exquisite abodes and translucent waters. Every day, planeloads of visitors arrive, ready to make a beeline for iconic hotspots and hidden gems.
Over the years, the pacific paradise has fallen victim to its own success. In Hawaiian culture, caring for the land is not just a responsibility for all who live on it, but is expected of those who visit. The concept of mālama is about restoring and enriching the environment and communities.
Regenerative travel seeks to find a balance between the economics of tourism and the well-being of communities, natural resources and culture. It advocates for solutions to overcrowding, traffic problems, and environmental damage.
These regenerative travel initiatives in Oahu, Hawaii offer insight into how tourism can thrive in the future, without degrading the environment.
Give back at Kualoa Ranch
Best known for the epic setting of more than 200 movies and TV shows, including 50 First Dates, Jumanji, and Jurassic Park, Kualoa Ranch is more than Hollywood’s blockbuster backlot. It has moved to a focus on authentic cultural experiences.
Kualoa’s hands-on Mālama ‘Āina experience gives tourists an opportunity to get stuck into sustainable practices that protect the land. Meaning “to love and honour the land”, Malama ‘aina is the ultimate eco-adventure which includes cleaning waterways and tree planting. It allows people to take home with them a lasting understanding of what it means to care for the planet.
Snorkel Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is a show-stopping snorkelling spot to marvel at vibrant marine life. The 7000-year-old coral reef boasts shallow waters and teeming fish. The halt in tourism at the beginning of the Covid pandemic gave the reefs a chance to regenerate and flourish while the crowds were away. Now, Hanauma Bay is continuing to combat over-tourism by capping visitors to 720 a day. A reservation system has been implemented, allowing visitors to select an allocated time up to 48 hours ahead of their planned visit. Having fewer visitors makes it a better experience for not only tourists but also the environment. The bay is closed every Monday and Tuesday, giving the reef a brief moment to rejuvenate.
Visitors must also watch an educational video before entering the water, touching on topics including coral regeneration, marine life and water safety.
In January 2021, Hawaii became the first US state to ban the sale of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are harmful to marine environments. Be sure to pack reef-safe sunscreen or purchase some when you arrive in Hawaii.
Hike Diamond Head
Diamond Head is a spectacular hiking trail that has expansive views across Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean. The hike edges around the 300,000-year-old volcanic crater and boasts a rich military and cultural history. It is one of the most popular hikes and most visited state parks in the entire state of Hawaii.
In 2022, a reservation system was implemented to mitigate environmental impacts sustained by foot traffic and vehicle congestion. The move aims to improve the experience for visitors and residents, and help preserve this landmark for future generations.
Visitors can book time slots from 6am. Be sure to book an early morning slot before the sweltering heat kicks in. Much of the path is paved but take sturdy shoes and plenty of water.
Learn about culture
To get a better understanding of Pacific Island culture, stop by the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie, Oahu to see exhibits of six island villages representing Hawai’i, Fiji, Aotearoa New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga.
The Aliʻi Luau show is a phenomenal must-see production with powerful storytelling, magical fire performances and soundscapes. You can also snap up some delicious local food from Hukilau Marketplace before the energetic, authentic Hawaiian showcase begins.
Hawaiian Airlines flies direct from Auckland to Honolulu, with connections available throughout Hawaii and the US. hawaiianairlines.com
For more things to see and do, see gohawaii.com