Your (Sustainable) Hawaiian Vacation

Your (Sustainable) Hawaiian Vacation

Traveling to Hawaii for the holidays? Here are 5 tips to make it your best, most sustainable trip to our beautiful islands, specifically, Oahu! 

Shop Local 

It's probably not a surprise to learn that Hawaii tourism supports a majority of the state’s economy -- our crystalline waters, year-round warm weather, rainbows for days, jaw-dropping sunsets, and sandy coastlines make it a tourist's dream come true. And it's probably no surprise either to learn Hawaii has been hit hard during the pandemic. With tourism open (check here for the latest travel requirements if you plan to travel during the Covid 19 pandemic), our local businesses are eager for your return. Here are some of our favorite sustainable, local businesses and hotels to visit on your next Hawaiian vacation - after you soak up that Hawaiian sun and feel those warm tropical breezes on your skin, of course.

Sustainable Shops

There are so many wonderful, creative, innovative local shops and artisans to visit while on Oahu. Here’s you’ll find a short list of sustainable businesses working to make our Hawaiian Islands, and the planet, a little cleaner. But don’t stop here, there are so many other eco friendly stores doing the same! 

Protea Zero Waste 

Meet the only zero waste store on Oahu, carrying dozens of local Hawaiian brands and sourcing the latest in zero waste home and beauty care. This is a store you don’t want to miss! Here’s why (from their website!)

  • After disposal, plastic takes about 500 years to breakdown
  • By 2050, the plastic industry may account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption if plastic production continues as is.
  • Only 9% of all plastic waste on Earth has been recycled.
  • By 2050, an estimated 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic if plastic production continues as is.

Down to Earth

Grocer, health foods store, natural, organic. You’ll find almost everything you need for a sustainable vacation here - stop at the hot foods bar to pick up a quick beach lunch, shop local and organic produce, or purchase sustainable goodies from their home and health section. Either way, this locally owned store has sustainability in mind, no matter what you’re shopping for.

Global Village

A local boutique with “intentionally sourced” products and a commitment to sustainable, fair-trade, and Hawaii owned businesses, the shop offers everything from beach goods, home goods, women’s, men, and kids clothing, accessories, and local art. Something for everyone!

Sustainably-Minded Hotels

And a few local hotels to spend a night or two...

Turtle Bay Resort (Hawaii Green Business Award Winner) (opening new bookings in June 2021)

Outrigger Hotels + Resorts

Keep it Clean

(aka Reef-Safe Sunblocks)

A visit to a sunny, tropical paradise definitely warrants sunblock, but did you know most conventional, well-known sunscreens contain chemicals that harm our reefs and our health? Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone, and Banana Boat are just a few of the name-brand sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which, as of January 1, 2021, are banned for sale in Hawaii.  

Hawaii is the first state in the US to ban the sale of sunblocks containing these toxins. Lucky for us, Hawaii is also full of businesses who care about keeping our oceans - and our sunblocks - clean. We encourage you to read the labels on your suncare to be sure, whether ocean, lake, or stream swimming, you avoid these harmful chemicals. 


  • petrolatum (mineral oil) which is harmful/fatal to marine life and water fowl
  • Titanium dioxide (in large quantities)
  • Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, which contribute to coral bleaching

Instead, look for: 

  • Non-nano Zinc
  • Titanium oxide 
  • Paraben free

Below is a quick list of a few of our favorite reef-safe sunblocks -- and made right here in Hawaii! These sunscreens are available online or for purchase in retail stores, visit their website for more purchasing details and keep your skin, and our reefs, safe!

Kokua Suncare

Wild Forces

Little Hands Hawaii 



Kailua Beach Adventures

Looking to immerse yourself in Oahu’s natural beauty? Kailua Beach Adventures offers guided kayak tours, kayak rentals, SUP rentals for adventure-seeking travelers while keeping its commitment to conservation. KBA started a beach cleaning initiative for tourists and kama’aina alike that allows for social distancing, and sponsored large-scale clean ups in the pre-covid era with local sustainability groups. They’ve also facilitated local beach restoration efforts and promote environmental stewardship. This local business of 38 years is an adventure you don’t want to miss.

Kahumana Organic Farm 

This gem of a non-profit takes an approach unlike any other farm-to-table. Mission driven, Kahumana works to decrease dependence on imported goods while providing shelter and work for the homeless and persons with disabilities, and they've been doing it for decades. The farm provides local, sustainable produce, offers retreats, small group tours, and dining. The setting is breathtaking, and the mission makes the trip that much sweeter. We suggest you reach out to Kahumana before driving out to get the latest on tour and dining options during Covid 19.


Clean Up Your Mess! (SCH or Surfrider)

When you stroll our beautiful Hawaiian coastlines, a must for any visitor, you’ll notice something plaguing our coastlines besides shells. If you look closely, you’ll find tons (literally!) of microplastics. Our location in the Pacific Ocean makes us the perfect tropical vacation destination, but also the perfect dumping ground for all the plastic traveling on the swells from the Pacific Gyre - a swirling “garbage patch” of microplastic and marine debris that collects from all over the world. So, why not spend a little time cleaning the beach while you’re here?

Both Surfrider Oahu and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii have traditionally offered multiple large-scale beach clean ups a year -- and even the chance to book a private clean up with them. Covid has altered the size and format of the clean ups, but we can’t ever stop cleaning our beaches! Follow them on social media to stay informed on opportunities to help, or snag a clean up kit for your own mini-beach clean up (SCH and Surfrider both offer solo clean up opportunities). We promise, the experience will change the way you see consumerism and its after-effects - for the better.


Eat with Aloha 

If you love the islands like we do, you’ll agree that trying to protect them is essential. And, Surfrider has made it easier to do that with every meal! Fresh, local seafood and produce, and a commitment to sustainability? You can find that for every meal of the day with Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurant (OFRs) program, piloted right here in Hawaii! You can find a complete list of OFRs right here, and we’ve hand-picked a few of our favorites below. Yes, we've selected plant-based restaurants to highlight, because we all know that plant-based eating is the best way to reduce our carbon footprint. And, lucky for us, Oahu boasts some of the best vegan food we’ve ever had! But the OFR list offers an array of food for all kinds - plant-based or not!

Umeke Market


Blondie’s Food Truck

We're also recommending Mother Bake Shop, not a certified OFR but they follows many of OFRs sustainable practices and have the most delicious pastries on Oahu hands down!


Malama Pono

Take Good Care

And finally, some tips for tourists before you go:

  • It's illegal to smoke at our state parks and beaches
  • Don't touch the turtles! Hawaii DNLR recommends maintaining a 6 - 10 foot distance to allow the honu (hawaii sea turtle) and 'ea (hawksbill) to rest undisturbed.
  • Leave it better than you found it
  • Support local!