Let's go eco on the Hawaiian island of Maui

There's more to the Hawaiian island of Maui than grass skirts and ukeleles. Helen Truszkowski and her two boys went exploring

With its backdrop of lush volcanoes, the view from the beach is perfect; I could lie here for hours. But it's 7am and we're already late. I'm here in the Hawaiian islands with my two sons, George, 10, and Jack, 11 months, on Maui, a land-mass in the shape of the figure eight. The locals say: "Maui no ka oi" - Maui is the best, the bee's knees, the cat's miaow. And there's good reason for the superlatives: this is a fantasy location.

The Hawaiian chain is commonly accepted to have 18 islands, of which Maui is the second largest. The exotic Valley Isle has made a name for itself with its striking scenery, cultural history, and mile upon mile of powdery beaches.

Modern tourism did not reach the Hawaiian islands until 1936, when visitors first flew to Honolulu from San Francisco. Numbers crept up steadily, but it took Elvis Presley's 1961 movie Blue Hawaii to attract big numbers of young travellers, who came to holiday like the King. Forty years later, and our own kids have rediscovered the draw of hula, aloha shirts and ukuleles, courtesy of Scooby-Doo and Disney's Lilo & Stitch.

On Maui this level of movie success has led to problems. There are too many cars, and luxurious mega-resorts are swelling the island with ever swankier accommodation, leading to increasing concern about water use. Thankfully, though, much about Maui tugs in the opposite direction. While mass tourism remains alive and well, something else is happening: a shift to eco-preservation.

It is a 40-minute drive from the west coast beaches and up the Kuihelani Highway that slices through the middle of the island. We pass swaying sugar and pineapple plantations. A vicious shower evaporates into a heavenly rainbow. It's head-spinning stuff. I'm taking the boys to meet John White of Maui Eco-Adventures. Named 2005 Ecotour Operator of the Year by the Hawaii Ecotourism Association, John runs tours off the beaten track. By forging strong relationships with private landowners and environmental organisations, by donating time and money to groups such as the Maui Coastal Land Trust, and by helping to restore and maintain trails, the company has a unique take on the island.

We reach Kahului heliport just in time. Our pilot is gagging to probe the gulches and crevices of Mount Haleakala. The land here rises sharply - in just 38 miles, you can go from sea level to 10,023ft. We do it in minutes, being treated to a fine view of the islands of Molokai and Lanai.

We descend on foot into the crater of the world's largest dormant volcano. It is a wilderness, resting on a crumpled sheet of ancient lava eroded into cinder cones and coloured in slabs of russet and slate. We are far above the clouds; the air is thin. Dave, our guide, sees children as the eco-travellers of the future and wastes no time coaching them for the role. He points out the ahinahina plant that studs the barren moonscape and asks the boys to watch for the elusive Nene Goose. George is ecstatic. It's like all his favourite scenes from Star Wars and Indiana Jones rolled into one.

Maui is an island of epic bio-diversity. Its 33 miles of public beaches are great for snorkelling and in winter hundreds of humpback whales give birth offshore. Add in the arid lands of Kihei, the swampy bogs of the West Maui Mountains, the rainforest of Hana, and the desert of Kaupo and you have an unbeatable family holiday playground. The boys explored the depths of the Ocean Center, rodeon a steam train, snorkelled with green turtles, and sat in on a Hawaiian Luau. We checked into the Napili Kai Beach Resort, which runs a non-profit foundation committed to showing children the dances, language, history and crafts of Polynesia.

The ancient Hawaiians instilled in their keiki (children) respect for people and nature. If you are anything like me, you take your kids on holiday to have a good time, not to save the world. Still, it is worth knowing that it is not all grass skirts, coconut-shell bras and mai-tais. Your family can also play a part in helping to preserve the land and the wildlife, and a culture based around Mana, the life energy that exists in everything here.

Return flights from London Heathrow to Maui via Washington with United Airlines cost £608 through expedia.co.uk. The writer stayed at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa (001 808 875 1234; grandwailea .com) and at the Napili Kai Beach Resort (001 808 669 6271; napilikai.com). Feel Good Maui Maui Eco Adventures (001 808 661 7720; ecomaui.com) offers hiking tours from $80 per person. General information from Hawaii Tourism Europe (020-7202 6384; hawaii-tourism.co.uk)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea