Tovin Lapan
Tovin Lapan

Environmentally minded travelers today demand more than a lung-scorching hike in a nature preserve or exhilarating dive in a marine sanctuary; they also want to reduce their carbon footprint when purchasing everything from transportation to food.

Interest in travel with minimal environmental impact is growing steadily. Nearly three quarters (72%) of travelers surveyed in a 2019 Booking.com report said they believe people need to "act now to make sustainable travel choices to save the planet for future generations." A similar percentage also said it would like to see travel companies offer more sustainable travel options. During the four years that Booking.com has commissioned the study, the percentage of respondents who said they planned to stay in an ecofriendly or green accommodation has climbed from 62% in 2016 to 73% in 2019. 

Tour providers as well are stepping up to reduce their environmental baggage, and in Hawaii sustainability is often at the forefront out of necessity. The less reliant the isolated islands can become on traditional energy sources and products that are shipped from overseas, the more affordable and stable life in the Aloha State will be. Hawaii tour operators are introducing new options and technology to meet the consumer demand for experiences that consider environmental impact and reduce carbon emissions. Of course, unless you plan to arrive by wind power like the first Polynesian settlers of the islands, you might want to buy a carbon offset for that flight. 

Here are three new tours that help visitors support Hawaii's unique environment and species.

Bike Hawaii introduced a Honolulu Rainforest Ride at the end of 2019 that uses e-bikes charged by solar power. The Bike Hawaii's Honolulu headquarters recently installed 24 photovoltaic solar panels. The Koolau rainforest tour uses 250-watt electric-assist mountain bikes that give riders a boost during the excursion's five-mile, 1,600-foot climb. The route takes participants through rainforest thick with eucalyptus, bamboo and banyan trees in addition to a variety of birds and other wildlife. From the top, riders can appreciate views of Manoa Valley, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor and more. Bike Hawaii also offers "tag-along trailers" for bikes, which can hold children 5 years and older who weigh up to 85 pounds.

On one hand, helicopters are not the most ecofriendly way to see the islands. On the other, it's hard to see the beautiful valleys, waterfalls and cliffs hidden behind dense rainforest and steep mountains without taking to the air. To make you feel better about the fossil fuels spent on your tour, Paradise Helicopters' new Oahu Eco Landing Tour lasts approximately five hours and includes a landing and native tree planting at Gunstock Ranch's Hawaiian Legacy Forest.  Paradise Helicopters also partners with Legacy Carbon to offer carbon offsets for each seat it sells starting at $6. The tour departs from Kalaeloa Airport in west Oahu.

On Kauai ATV's new Makauwahi Cave Tour, visitors have the chance to participate in preserving Hawaii's endangered native species. The four-hour tour goes over Kauai's southernmost point on plantation trails, visiting an inactive volcanic crater and famous movie filming locations. The tour stops at Makauwahi Cave Reserve, one of the most important dig sites in the Hawaiian Islands. The limestone cave, known for its wealth of fossils drawing archaeologists and visitors from around the world, holds important clues to decoding the lifestyles of the earliest inhabitants of the archipelago. The tour also includes a visit to a tortoise ranch and stroll through a thousand-year-old native Hawaiian forest. A portion of the tour proceeds go to the Makauwahi Cave Reserve and its mission to restore the landscape to its wild state and support the survival of native coastal plants and animals. Participants can also plant a native plant at the reserve during the tour, which wraps up with a relaxing catch-and-release fishing session at Waita reservoir.

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