Hawaii’s Big Island Ecotourism
Hawaii’s Big Island and all of the Hawaiian Islands are complex and fragile ecosystems that can be easily affected by introduced influences and outside factors. In fact, the Hawaiian Islands have the highest number of endangered and threatened plant and animal species anywhere on the planet. Though the Hawaiian Islands are some of the most remote in the world, they are by no means isolated, hosting more than seven million visitors each year, or seven times more than the resident population.
The day-to-day influx of visitors can put stresses on the physical environment from the beaches and rainforests to the historic places and hiking trails, the very elements that make visitors want to come and enjoy Hawaii. Sustainable tourism on Hawaii’s Big Island is about protecting, enhancing and conserving these resources for the enjoyment of future residents and visitors.
The model for sustainability on the Island of Hawaii and other Hawaiian Islands was already in place and practiced here for more than a millennium, by the first inhabitants, the Native Hawaiians. Their fishing, farming, planting, aquaculture and methods of creative food sustainability and use of ahupuaa (contiguous land divisions which extended from the uplands to the sea) are widely regarded as the most efficient in the Pacific.
You can learn about these ancient methods at museums and historic places like Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and see modern practices of sustainability in the efforts of Hawaii Regional Cuisine as well as the ranches of Waimea, the coffee farms of Kona and Holualoa, as well as the botanical gardens and farmers’ markets located throughout the island. With so many natural wonders to explore you can learn about everything from marine biology at spots like Kahaluu Beach Park in Keauhou, to volcanology in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, to astronomy on top of Maunakea.
The Hawaiians understood and were keenly attuned to their environment and how to keep in balance with it. These traditions serve as a guide to aspire to as we live in harmony with this special place today.