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Responsible tourism in Hawaii 

The concept of responsible tourism in Hawaii and all the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, and Oahu goes back many generations. We are just the latest ones to inherit what the islands’ ancestors called kuleana to the land. This translates as ‘responsibility’ and traditionally this was a two-way engagement. We show care and respect for the land and it will return the favor with food, shelter, and a home. At The Coconut Traveler we celebrate this ethical exchange. We endeavor, therefore, to offer a responsible tourism experience in Hawaii and we ask you kindly to return the favor.

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What responsible tourism in Hawaii means to

The Coconut Traveler

Secret Hawaii is responsible

In many ways, responsible tourism in Hawaii is only just awakening. For a lot of visitors, it is simply the sunny, surf and sandy state - an extension of the rest of the USA. They don’t venture beyond the resorts. They don’t see the ‘otherness.’  The Coconut Traveler work is to show visitors hidden Hawaii while using their visit as a force for good. By traveling with us, your stay will have a positive effect on volunteer organizations whose work supports this beautiful destination. We like to think of ourselves as an impact company that sells travel.

Sustainable Tourism Hawaii certification program

We are a proud corporate sponsor of The Sustainable Tourism Association of Hawaii (STAH) which has been operating for over 25 years. We work in partnership with many STAH members whose missions align perfectly with ours which is to provide Hawaii experiences that support local communities, respect cultural heritage, and protect the environment. From wildlife watching to stargazing, trail walking to paddle boarding, it’s our kuleana to support our community.

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Protect Hawaii’s coral reefs through our watersheds

In Hawaii, we take our reef protection so seriously that we are the first US state to ban the sale of toxic suntan lotions. Since January 2021, the sale of coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate is no longer allowed here. So, if your plans include a lot of time in the ocean, shop locally for your sun protection or rash guard with UV protection. 

Our reefs are part of who we are on the Hawaiian Islands. They protect 25% of our marine wildlife species and over a thousand endemic species and plants. Hawaii’s coral reef also protects us from storms and flooding, but they are susceptible to global threats including climate change and overfishing, as well as local ones of irresponsible diving, snorkeling, and plastic pollution. This is why we wholeheartedly support the work of the Hawaii Association of Watershed Partnerships (HAWP) which lobby for the love of our reef. For the second year, we are donating a part of our guests’ Responsible Tourism fee, included in our invoices, to HAWP. This gift will buy native flora that is needed to restore these vital ecosystems.

Managing the trails for hikes we enjoy

For the first time, part of the Responsible Tourism has been donated to Aloha Tree Alliance. This Hawaii-based non-profit organization is dedicated to mitigating climate change. Their volunteer restoration work includes mitigating erosion and trail cutting. The organization takes trail management to another level and because our guests frequent the spectacular Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail, it was a natural fit with our mission of using tourism to make a positive impact. Many organizations can’t or don’t grow their budget through tourism, yet tourists enjoy the benefit of their work. You can donate on their website, here.

Another new organization for us this year is Conservation Dogs of Hawaii. This organization trains dogs to detect invasive species to mitigate their negative impact on wildlife and the ecosystems of Hawaii, detect endangered species for research and conservation purposes, and their professionally trained dog-handler teams conduct field surveys for proven applications. They also contribute to feasibility assessments for new applications through proof-of-concept and pilot projects. In addition to their work in the islands, they contribute to 1% for The Planet. Supporting their work supports the destination you love to visit. Click here to donate.

Secret Hawaii is responsible

In many ways, responsible tourism in Hawaii is still a bit of a ‘secret Hawaii.’ For a lot of visitors, it is simply the sunny, surf and sandy state - an extension of the rest of the USA. They don’t venture beyond the resorts. They don’t see the ‘otherness.’ Which is why we love nothing more than showing you how to get off the beaten path in Hawaii. 

From locally-owned luxury villas on Kauai, where you are enveloped by its emerald environs, to walks in Maui’s Haleakala National Historical Park, guided by a local, we will help you seek out those sustainable secrets. And in so doing, we help tackle some of the growing issues of overtourism in Hawaii. There is already a move to reduce visitor numbers at certain hotspots, such as on the Stairway to Heaven along Oahu's Ko'olau mountain range, where trekking is now banned, or Hanauma Bay where visitor capacity is limited through a new reservation system.

Be one in a million and donate to ReTree Hawaii

Another part of our guests’ Responsible Tourism fee is donated to ReTree Hawaii. This is a local NGO that has responded in crisis mode to the climate emergency by planting trees on every major Hawaiian island. Trees are one of the best carbon sinks, but planting must be well planned and suitable for the region where the project is taking place. We have chosen this charity because it aligns with Hawaii’s pledge to plant one million trees by 2030, as highlighted by Hawaii’s Governor Ige at COP26 in November 2021. Each and every guest at The Coconut Traveler is one in a million - and now, with their generous contributions,  they can live up to their name!

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Wildlife is life itself in Hawaii

Conservationists have dubbed Hawaii “the Extinction Capital of the World” as nonnative species destroy our native plants, wildlife, and habitat. For a second year, we have donated to Malama i na Honu which recently opened a second office on the island of Kauai, expanding its mission to protect Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles through education, public awareness, and conservation. Working with NOAA since 2007, Malama i na honu has worked under the authority of the Endangered Species Act, to support public outreach activities that promote respectful behavior towards honu. To donate or adopt a turtle visit their website, here.

For the first time, we donated to Hawaii Wildlife Center on the Big Island of Hawaii. Their work in providing emergency response, medical, and rehabilitative care for native birds and bats statewide, alongside conservation programs that aim to create a community where native wildlife thrive aligns with our mission. This organization focuses on caring for native birds which are vital to the islands; our birding guests are benefactors of their work. Click here to support the preservation of Hawaii’s native wildlife and donate today. 

Hawaiian culture and respect

Respecting and sharing the history of the Hawaiian Islands and the heritage of everyone who lives here is at the core of our mission at The Coconut Traveler. Tradition and rituals are very much part of Hawaii’s responsible tourism raison d’etre. We support organizations that fundamentally understand Native Hawaiian culture rather than commercialize it. We promote rural tourism in Hawaii with accommodation and experiences that connect with small, culturally-rich communities.

Accessible tourism in Hawaii

As a company specializing in tailor-made, luxury vacations in Hawaii, we create itineraries and adventures to suit all needs. We celebrate equality and inclusivity and recognize that tourism does not always cater for people with special physical or cognitive needs. Talk to us and we will do our very best to create a truly accessible and responsible vacation in Hawaii for you.

Protecting the Ōhiʻa tree

The ancient and sacred Ōhiʻa tree forms the basis of our forests, a flowering evergreen that is endemic to the six largest islands. It is, sadly, very vulnerable to a fungal disease and, if struck, the tree can die within weeks. Aptly named Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death or ROD, please save the Ōhiʻa and prevent the spread of disease by cleaning your shoes thoroughly before entering a forested area, avoid touching the bark, never remove any of the wood, leaves or blossoms and try not to walk on the roots. Because breaking part of the tree creates an open wound which makes it all the more vulnerable to disease.

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Swimming with sea turtles in Hawaii

Five of the world's seven species of sea turtles honor us with their presence around the waters of Hawaii. These islands are also their home and, as per the Hawaiian tradition of always asking permission to enter (E ui no ka ‘ae), we must always enter the turtles’ environs ethically. Marine conservation in Hawaii is enforced by law, it is illegal to touch or disturb sea turtles, and you are required to stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) from them. Our guests’ Responsible Tourism Fee is also shared with Malama I Na Honu, a local sea turtle conservation charity. 

Protect Kaho'olawe Ohana

The organization's vision of ‘Aloha ‘Āina’ or “love of the land,” drives their mission, ‘To perpetuate Aloha ‘Āina throughout our islands through cultural, educational, and spiritual activities that heal and revitalize the cultural and natural resources on Kaho’olawe.’

Kaho’olawe, the only Hawaiian Island named for a Hawaiian god was given the name Kanaloa, the ocean god - the island was deeply connected to the ocean. It has been used as a penal colony at one time and ranch lands. Once a thriving island with native plants and seabirds, the center for celestial navigation, and where native priests carried out cultural and religious rites. Today, Kaho’olawe remains a sacred island. We couldn't be more thrilled to support this group.

Whether you are seeking a luxury villa in Hawaii or an adventurous experience, we guide you to people who respect and protect our biodiverse islands. The Hawaiian archipelago is home to eleven of the world’s thirteen microclimates, the largest active volcano in the world, and unique biodiversity providing habitats for at least a third of all endangered species in the US and it’s vital that we protect them.

Shedding light on watersheds

There is rightly a lot of talk about our reef, however we also highlight the importance of the islands’ watersheds. These are the elevated regions where rainwater gathers and is stored, flowing down eventually to the oceans. Keeping these waters clear of pollution, and also the forests that surround them, not only prevents toxins from flowing into the reef, but also ensures protection from flooding, provides important wildlife habitats and drinking water for all of us.

To sum up responsible tourism in Hawaii, it's to ‘travel pono’

Another gem of the Hawaiian language, ‘pono’, translates as ‘do the right thing’. It can be applied perfectly to responsible tourism in Hawaii and we like to think that it is also the kernel of The Coconut Traveler. We invite all our guests to sign up to the Pono Pledge, to enlighten visitors about the sensitivity of our islands, and encourage them to protect them.

Gifting, the transfer of something without the expectation of receiving something in return.


Generosity, the quality of being kind.


Charity, the voluntary giving of help to those in need.


The Coconut Traveler and its clients embody the belief that GIVING offers support and comes from a place of caring. 

  • The gift of time volunteered to benefit a program

  • The gift of sharing your expertise and experience

  • The gift of resources to restore a fish pond or eradicate invasive resources


GIVING means different things to different people.

It’s an emotion.

It’s a sense of responsibility.

It’s paying it forward.


Scientists maintain that it’s even good for you, releasing endorphins in the brain that create that positive, feel-good feeling.

The Coconut Traveler creates experiences that forge relationships between kama’aina (people of the land), locals (residents), malihini (strangers and newcomers), and visitors. We share. We experience. We give back.


By carefully choosing our partners—including everyone from our private jet provider to biologists, environmentalists, and small, locally-owned businesses—we ensure every piece of your journey inspires you and sustains the local community, economy, and environment. 


Whether you choose to give your time or dollars (or both!), The Coconut Traveler works with you to find the most meaningful and appropriate venue for your generosity to this special place.


To tackle the effects of climate change, all of our itineraries include the price to offset carbon emissions resulting from the journey to Hawaii.  


Ask how The Coconut Traveler can align GIVING activities with your lifestyle and passion.

Tourism Declares supports tourism businesses, organizations, and individuals in declaring a climate emergency and taking action to reduce their carbon emissions.

Tourism declares Climate Emergency

In alignment with Tourism Declares, The Coconut Traveler is taking purposeful action to reduce their carbon emissions.

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