5 Things You Can Do To Help Hawaii Island When You Visit


Hawaii is a hot travel destination this year, with many other tropical vacation spots still dealing with COVID-19 and the economy doing so well, more visitors than ever are flocking to discover not just the Hawaiian Islands, but Hawai’i  Island.

Tourism has definitely increased this year. Here are some numbers from the Hawaii Tourism Authority. 

A total of 439,785 visitors traveled to Hawaii by air service in March 2021, compared to 434,856 visitors who came by air service (430,691, +2.1%) and cruise ships (4,165 visitors) in March 2020.

What this means to Hawai’i Island is not just  good financial news for our businesses, but more impact on our island, the beaches and our reefs. I see it daily right now and especially during spring break when many people broke out of the pandemic mode and headed to Hawaii to let loose.

You can imagine after having so few people here for almost a year, that having even more people than before the pandemic started visiting the island, it makes me want to reiterate,  “PLEASE HELP OUR ISLAND and VISIT WITH ALOHA” :

 5 things you an do to help Hawai’i Island for people planning a trip to Hawaii

  1. Buy Reef Safe Sunscreen and a Rash Guard 

There are literally GALLONS of harmful sunscreen being unleashed from visitor skin to our coral every day. I see people slathering on sunscreen RIGHT before they enter the ocean (please don’t be ‘that guy” who does this). Put your sunscreen on 15-20 minutes prior to water entry for best results and give it time to sink in before it basically goes from tube to coral in two minutes.

Try staying out of the sun at peak times (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) use sunblocks using zinc oxide or titanium oxide  and covering up is best. Applying sunscreen only to your neck, face, feet and the back of hands reduces use by 90 percent, Don’t try to cover your entire body in sunscreen and get a rashguard instead- there are millions of little fish and coral polyps who will thank you. 

Some helpful hints:
  •  In addition to avoiding oxybenzone which was banned in early 2021, watch out for octinoxate, homosalate, octocrylene, and avobenzone—there is concern that these are also bad for people and ocean animals.
  • If the list of chemicals is long and hard to pronounce—avoid it!
  • Aerosol spray sunscreens are harmful if breathed in, end up on everything and everyone else, and one way or another enter the ocean.
  • Even if you don’t get in the ocean with your sunscreen on, it gets there via the shower, as all drains to the sea.

2. Pay attention to warning signs. Yes, they are there for a reason.  

People drown swimming in the splash pools under Rainbow Falls near Hilo and get sucked under the waterfall and drown.  We have also seen NUMEROUS recues and injuries from people jumping off the cliffs in Ka Lea (aka “South Point”) and trespassing in Waipio Valley to see the waterfalls in the back of the valley where one woman drowned after being swept away from rains up on the pali coming down in a torrent. (also, dammit, it is a sacred site, so please don’t go there)

If you see Kapu, it is a sacred site, if you see, DANGER, it is because tourists are injured or die there. Don’t be that guy with the selfie stick or need for an amazing YouTube video capture. What may be captured instead of you succeeding in your stunt,  is you in trouble. (See woman trapped in the surge at Ke Lea)

2. Don’t damage the coral by touching it or stepping on it.

If you are new to snorkeling, go to a shallow place like Kahalu’u Beach Park so you can adjust your mask and help your kids with your feet in the sand in the bay or on rocks, not on coral, which can also cause nasty cuts if you kick them by accident. Be sure to read these coral reef etiquette recommendations. With such an increase in tourism, more and more people are discovering snorkel sites all over the island, bringing more sunscreen, and potential harm to the reef.

Kona Sea Turtle 3. Don’t approach sea turtles, monk seals or humpback whales. They’re all endangered species and protected by law. See these guidelines for keeping appropriate distances. Also, feel free to be the wildlife police and stop people from trying to pick up a sea turtle or get too close for a photo. Have you seen the throngs that surround sea turtles when they are discovered at a beach or in a tidepool? They don’t have paparazzi managers, so give them some space.

4. Pull over.  If you are on a sightseeing drive and you notice a local driver in your rear view mirror, pull off the road at your earliest opportunity to let the local person pass. They know the roads and scenery like the back of their hands and can go at a faster pace than you. I was traveling with my friends’ visiting father behind me on the upper highway a few weeks ago. I was going 50 mph, the speed limit, and he was going 40 mph, the piss off limit. Locals  were risking their lives to get around him. Again, with so many extra people here, we gotta keep the traffic moving.

Conversely, mainlanders have a tendency to have little patience for our 55 mph speed limits on the main roads. Getting frustrated and passing slower vehicles to get one or two cars up really won’t give you much more vacation time, it can just be dangerous. We saw a guy passing five cars at once as we were headed into Waikaloa Village last night, coming up a blind hill. He jumped into the right lane within moments of three other cars coming down the hill, never knowing they were seconds from an accident.

5.  Always pick up and properly dispose of your garbage and help with ocean trash, too. 
Some out of the way beach parks like Polou’u Valley or Waipio Valley, do not have garbage cans near the beach, so please pack up what you brought and hey, take a little extra, until you find a receptacle.  Plastic ocean trash washes in to many of our beaches, as well..so please consider helping out the aina and despose of that, as well.

Additional Information Links:

Mineral-based sunscreen product ideas: https://www.today.com/shop/best-mineral-sunscreens-t185778

Sunscreen Guides:

Spread the word if you love what you heard! #365kona so we can say Thanks!

Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at 365Kona.com and MoveToHawaii365.com and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • Jeff Edwards says:

    Excellent advice! We just spent a week on the BI working on a house project and did the rash guard/sunscreen thing. Also I have to admit veering a bit while looking at the scenery but did pull over to let people go by a couple of times. Driving here definitely requires a mental reset unless your permanent setting is “laid back” or you will make everybody else around you crazy (thus forfeiting your available aloha). Not a good thing, and it took me a while to get it because I am normally a fast, competent driver on the mainland.

  • Kim Carroll says:

    Love this! I lived in Williamsburg, VA years ago and was always amazed at how thoughtless people on vacation can be. We have to remember our manners so we have a place to get away to. Otherwise, it’s going to become just like the mainland. Thank you for a great article!