Hawaii Ecotourism Association (HEA) announced the winners of sustainable tourism awards at a luncheon today in Waikiki. Twenty-three tour operators were certified as sustainable tour operators by HEA, a local nonprofit organization that protects Hawaii’s unique natural environment and host culture by promoting responsible travel.
Valley Isle Excursions, a company known providing luxury and eco-friendly tours to Hana and the road beyond, was awarded with the coveted the 2016 Sustainable Tour Operator Award. “This outstanding example of a sustainable tour operation far exceeds HEA’s mission and goal of protecting the unique natural and cultural resources of Hawaii nei,” said Aaron Lowe, President of HEA’s Board of Directors.
The 2016 Ecotour Guides of the Year were announced as follows: From Oahu – Manly Kanoa of Hokupaa and Andrew Puchalski of Kailua Beach Adventures; from Kauai – Abraham Frehm of Na Pali Experience, from Maui – Rowdy Lindsey of Hawaiian Paddle Sports and Curtis Geary of Maui Kayak Adventures; from Hawaii – Ben Catcho Jr. of KapohoKine Adventures and Richard Lindberg of Hawaiian Legacy Tours. Guides make each tour guest feel connected to Hawaii’s natural resources and Hawaiian culture. HEA is delighted to recognize the contribution of the award winners.
The Travel Writer of the Year was awarded to Shannon Wianecki. She is a prolific freelance writer who shares the natural and cultural history of the Hawaiian Islands with the readers of local and international travel magazines and books.
The twenty-three tour operators were awarded HEA’s Sustainable Tourism Certification for 2016-2018. They include: Under the Sea Hawaii, Hopkupaa, Dolphins and You, and Ocean Joy Cruises on Oahu; Kipu Ranch Adventures, Holo Holo Charters, and Na Pali Experience on Kauai; Aloha Kayaks Maui, Maui Nei Native Expeditions, Haleakala Bike Company, Temptation Tours, Maui Dreams Dive Company, Valley Isle Excursions, Maui Ocean Center, Maui Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Maui Surf Lessons, and Hawaii Mermaid Adventures on Maui; and Body Glove Cruises, Mauka Makai Adventures, Essential Hawaii Tours, Kona Honu Divers, Sea Quest Hawaii, and Kohala Ziplines on Hawaii.
“As a founding member of the organization, I am excited that the number of certified operators across the State more than doubled since the 2014-2016 certifications were awarded,” said Annette Kaohelaulii, HEA Board Treasurer.
IUCN recognized HEA’s Sustainable Tourism Certification Program in the tours organized especially for this event, which just ended. The Hawaii Tourism Authority also supports HEA efforts to educate commercial tour operators and community stakeholders on best management practices for the use of natural and cultural resources. HEA’s Certification Program is only one of two statewide programs in the U.S. providing a third party, comprehensive assessment of tour providers whose operations positively affect the State’s natural and cultural resources, contribute to conservation and help sustain local communities.