Adventure

The Best Outdoor Activities On O’Ahu For You And The Environment

You’ve ticked the carbon neutral flight option on your airfare to Honolulu, said no to the straw in your juice at the airport and packed your own reusable water bottle for the plane, but the eco-friendly choices on your Hawaiian holiday don’t have to stop there.

Hawaii’s main island of O’Ahu offers plenty of activities for your pleasure, without putting the good of the environment in the back seat. If anything, this new wave of tourism on the island is championing environmentalism.

From tree planting to data gathering, booking yourself in on one of these eco-friendly activities comes with a pretty minimal carbon footprint, and zero guilts.

Yoga and a beach clean

 

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How does yoga give back to the environment? Well, on its own it doesn’t. But Travel2Change in Honolulu offer 1-hour beachside yoga sessions with Mana Yoga, paired with a quick 30-minute beach comb, so you can do the environment some good before easing into your downward dog. Bags and gloves are provided for the cleanup, you just need to bring your enthusiasm and sharp eyesight.

Non-yogis can find plenty of environmentally friendly outdoor activities to do on Travel2Change too. There is a bike ride tour combined with a beach comb, a hike above Waimea Valley and native forest revival, or a kayaking trip along with some restoration of Kaneohe Bay.


Horse riding and tree planting

 

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Give back to the Hawaiian countryside by finishing up your scenic 2.5-hour bareback horse ride with some native tree planting in Gunstock Ranch’s Legacy Forest.

Because of introduced species, there are very few native trees left on the Gunstock Ranch property. The ones that are left are rare, some even highly endangered. Post ride, you get to pick out your own baby Milo tree (an ancient Hawaiian native), select a spot for it and give it a new home in the ground.

The neatest part of the tree planting on Gunstock Ranch is that you can track the location and growth of your tree over its lifetime, thanks to electronic ID tags. Just pop the tree ID into the website, and you get a satellite view of your growing tree baby.

For context, planting just one Milo tree will offset a family of 4 staying in a hotel for one week. That’s quite a significant contribution to minimising the carbon footprint of tourism on the island!


Hike Huaka’I Nui

 

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What could be better than hiking through private conservation land above Hale’Iwa, spotting rare natives and learning from local tour guide, Keola of North Shore EcoTours? All of that, plus the knowledge you are supporting the regeneration of native Hawaiian forest; that’s what.

North Shore EcoTours don’t just walk you along a trail with amazing scenery. They are heavily involved with the conservation of the North Shore patch of land you are hiking through too. Along with the owners of the land – Kamehameha Schools – North Shore EcoTours actively clear out invasive species like strawberry guava (which they repurpose into erosion control methods along the track), and are currently working on a program to out-plant native species and rebuild the native plant population in the forest.


Swim with turtles on an eco-tour

 

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There are plenty of no-no’s when it comes to animal tourism, but Wild Side Specialty Tours does animal encounters the right way. Rather than packing tourists on board a boat for the dollar, Wild Side invite guests on board their twin hull catamaran as they go out on their daily research missions. It’s just you, the marine scientists, a handful of other guests, and whatever is swimming by in the big blue.

The deluxe wildlife charters start with a snorkel over a reef, where you’re almost guaranteed to spot a sea turtle or 3. It’s strictly no approaching and no touching, leaving the turtles to go on their merry little way. If you’re lucky, you might even get to jump in the water with a pod of spinner dolphins too. Should all the stars align, it’s also possible you will catch a glimpse of some pilot whales or whale sharks.

As well as doing the right thing by the sea life, Wild Side give a portion of all charter proceeds to the Wild Dolphin Foundation for conservation purposes. And that research they’re doing? That all goes to Cascadia Research Collective, to help ID all the whales and dolphins in the area. Cue the warm-fuzzies.


Dive with the sharks

 

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You won’t see any burly shark lures here. Instead, guests on the One Ocean Diving shark dive/snorkel can expect to encounter sharks swimming about in their natural state – safely, of course.

Before jumping in the water to get up close with the misunderstood creatures, a little lesson on the biology, physiology and behaviour of the sharks is given, as well as a guide on how to safely interact with the sharks while you are in the water. Once you’re in the water, you are free to float about and watch them glide about, doing their thing.

But this swim isn’t just about the enjoyment of the tourist, there is some important research going on too. While you are in the water experiencing the company of the gentle beasts, the marine team are taking important notes on shark ID and their behaviour.

(Lead image: Serban Cosmin / Unsplash)