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)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape