Malama Aina: Ecotourism in Maui

Long before the “green” movement, recycling, environmentalism, and ecotourism became popular, the ancient Polynesian cultures of the Hawaiian Islands had developed and practiced the concept of Malama ‘Aina, which basically encompasses a deep love and respect for the land and surrounding environment. As such, native Hawaiians practicing Malama ‘Aina placed great importance on the conservation of land and natural resources for future generations through various methods of sustainability.

Today, the tradition of Malama ‘Aina continues throughout the Hawaiian islands, particularly on Maui, where ecotourism has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry. Below we’ll take a closer look at some specifics of ecotourism on Hawaii’s second-largest island, which are almost sure to have you checking out Maui condo rentals in preparation for your next vacation.

Behind the Numbers

Tourism is one of Maui’s major industries (along with agriculture) with total tourist expenditures contributing over $3.5 billion annually to Maui’s economy. A majority of the available tourist attractions and activities fall under the category of ecotourism, which involves travel to and interaction with pristine natural areas, as well as interesting and/or plants, animals, and cultures. In Maui, the main ecotourism draws are Haleakalā National Park and Hana Highway. Covering an area of over 33,000 acres, Haleakalā National Park boasts the largest amount of endangered species of any national park in the United States. The main feature of the park is Haleakalā, the dormant volcano, along with the surrounding crater, which stretches nearly seven miles across and 2,600 feet deep. Along Hana Highway, drivers are treated to stunning views of tropical rainforests and multiple waterfalls. At the end of the Hana Highway, tourists will find the “Seven Sacred Pools,” which is a series of pools created by various waterfalls along the route.

In addition to the attractions that Maui has to offer, there is a huge variety of outdoor ecotourism activities that visitors can participate in.

Ecotourism Activities in Maui

With an abundance of sea life and extraordinary coral reef formations, it isn’t difficult to understand why snorkeling is one of Maui’s most popular ecotourism activities. Maui is home to over 30 snorkel-friendly beaches, with Kaanapali Beach being a particularly popular diving and snorkeling location.

Surfing & Windsurfing
Hawaii has long been regarded as the birthplace of surfing, and Maui certainly has its fair share of world-class surf spots. Places like Lahaina Harbor, Rainbows, Ma’alaea Harbor, Honolua Bay, and Dumps keep local and visiting surfers stoked. Maui is also home to one the world’s biggest and most feared waves—Peahi, otherwise known as ‘Jaws.’ Kanaha Beach Park has also become popular in windsurfing circles, along with Ho’okipa.

Starting in December, humpback whales can be seen off the coast of Maui as they make their way down from Alaska to the warmer waters of Hawaii. Whale watching tours abound in Maui, many of which take visitors to the southern and western shores of Maui where the best views of the migrating whales are to be had.

Wherever you go, whatever you do—Malama ‘Aina can be part of your experience. Remember to respect the places you visit, and do your best to take only pictures and leave only footprints.

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