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Imagine that a respected person invites you to their house. You’d probably want to make a good impression, right? A good guest honors their host and their home: bringing a snack or drink to share, taking off your shoes, and showing gratitude during your visit.

What if we treated our vacations the same way? Hawaii is a beautiful force of nature that is fully appreciated when we respect and preserve its beauty for our hosts and fellow guests. In today’s episode, Bryan chats with Andrew Fowers, CEO of Shaka Guide, as they share 4 ways to travel responsibly to Hawaii!

Responsible Travel To Hawaii
This episode gives you insight on having a great time in Hawaii while leaving a positive impact. The 4 points discussed include:

You’re finally on vacation, and it’s tempting to go anywhere and do anything you want – but educating yourself about Hawaii before and during your stay is the safer – and more rewarding – option.

Conservation: The local wildlife is one of Hawaii’s biggest draws, and there are simple steps you can take to protect the flora and fauna for future generations to enjoy.

Respect: From cleaning off your shoes while island-hopping to knowing where to park while hiking, learn the meaning behind Malama ‘Aina, and its desire to honor Hawaii’s land and people.

Giving Back: Hear about the growing opportunities of voluntourism in Hawaii, and how you can support the local communities as a humble, helpful guest.

Today’s Guest
Andrew Fowers is the CEO of Shaka Guide, a GPS-guided app that leads travelers to Hawaii’s best destinations and stories – providing what to know and where to go. A graduate of BYU Hawaii’s School of Business and Accounting, Andrew sees Hawaii as the perfect launchpad for Shaka Guide, owing to the islands’ beauty, rich history, and culture.

As Hawaii welcomes over 9 million visitors each year, traveling responsibly ensures that the Hawaii we know and love is just as magical for other vacationers and those who call it home. Listen to Hawaii’s Best for travel tips, recommendations, and insights from Andrew and other guests!


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Hawaii's Best 0:04

Welcome to Hawaii's Best Podcast, where we help you prepare for your next trip to Hawaii. Discover the experiences, businesses and stories that make Hawaii the Aloha state. And now your host, Brian Murphy.

Bryan Murphy 0:18

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Hawaii's Best where we help prepare you for your next trip to Hawaii. And that's becoming more and more reality, as things start to continue to open up. And I'm sure where you're at right now listening to this. My name is Brian. I'm the owner of Hawaii's Best and today we are joined again with the co founder and CEO of Shaka guide, Andrew fowers. What's going on my friend?

Andrew Fowers 0:44

Hey, thanks for having me back.

Bryan Murphy 0:45

Absolutely. Yeah. Thanks for being back. Today we're talking about an important topic. How can people travel responsibly to Hawaii, we've covered some of these topics on past episodes. And we've talked about this kind of in passing as well on but we haven't gotten this in depth. And I think right now is a great time to have this conversation, as crowds have started to pick up quite a bit. But maybe from your perspective and from shaaka. Guide. What have you guys seen as far as travel picking up? And why is this conversation important to be had right now?

Andrew Fowers 1:22

Yeah, that's a super good question. So just so everyone's aware, Shaka guide, we're GPS guided app that takes people around the island, and it tells stories and tells them things to do and things to check out places to stop in, as well as hikes and just all kinds of fun stories and places. So we have a lot of customers that travel around the island. And so it's just become increasingly important that we as Shaka guy want to help the visitors that come to Hawaii, that number one, they can have a great time. But number two, they can also do so in a responsible way that would minimize negative impact to Hawaii. Yeah, that's kind of just the context for why we're having this conversation. I mean, if you think about it, if anyone's had people over to their house, like even just maybe a small group of 10. And you know, when you're hosting people, it's not always easy. And there is usually some side effects that if you think about Hawaii, in that same context, we have over 9 million visitors a year. I think in the last statistic in 2019, sometimes even close to 10 million people. And we in Hawaii, we are definitely a tourism driven economy. So we welcome visitors, because it's great for business has great for our economy to help infuse that, you know, spending, but in the same light, it also has some impact.

Bryan Murphy 2:51

As super important, I think no matter where we travel into having awareness of where we're traveling is important. However, traveling to a place like Hawaii, what makes it so special, what makes us so beautiful, is one the people into the land, if we're going to be a visitor to Hawaii, or maybe we're going to call Hawaii home, it's all our responsibility to take a part in this. And there's even things that we're going to talk about today, that no matter how aware you are of the impact you're making, there are certain things to also be mindful of. So this is just to help us all get on the same page, and to be able to enjoy Hawaii test for

Andrew Fowers 3:31

exactly. people when they're on vacation. They think they're invincible. And they're here to have a great time, they spent a lot of money to come out here. And they're just super excited to have a great time. And I don't blame them. You know, I am too when I travel. But I just wanted to mention that, you know, Hawaii, really, it's not really a theme park in that there's a lot of things that people do when they're feeling invincible, or they're looking for that Instagram photo that they may actually put themselves in danger and put themselves at risks and even other people at risk to help, you know, rescue them. So there's people every year actually, that die in Hawaii, by not being safe for not following the signs. Things happen here. And so what I want to do is just kind of go over four things today to help people understand how they can travel responsibly, but also in a safe way. It's important that people come here and the minimize impact, but also returned home in one piece, right? So before I kind of set up these four things, it's everyone's responsibility to do their research in advance. If you know where you're going to look into the island, learn about the island, learn about what to do what not to do. It's everyone's responsibility to do that research in advance. And for those that purchase a Shaka guide tour we do provide an itinerary we do provide things to know before you go and that's important in terms of Having a good safe time when they're out there. Also, just as a quick setup, there are some places in Hawaii that have an insane amount of visitors every year. And as a result, Hawaii has started to require advanced reservations to some of those places. So the list is actually ever changing right now, currently, there are a few including the holly Arcola National Park, as well as the Y Napa Napa State Park in Maui. So these are an example of places that need advanced reservation in order to visit. So please, you know, do your research in advance, get those reservations, otherwise, you won't be able to go. And again, this is to minimize impact with so many visitors

Bryan Murphy 5:44

to find that info. We can link some of those in the show notes. But is there like a one stop shop to find all this info?

Andrew Fowers 5:52

Actually, there's not? Yes, this interesting thing Hawaii, this advanced reservation thing is only been about the last year and a half or so. And so there's still a lot of confusion about what they need reservations for currently, there's three, which is the quiet North Shore of past Hanalei, Maui Holly Alcala National Park sunrise reservation. And three is the why Napa Napa State Park on the road to Hana. Those are the three places that currently require reservations. Got it. So today, we're going to talk about number one, safety, number two, conservation number three, respect. And number four, giving back while you're here, okay, so

Bryan Murphy 6:34

one of the things for me, just personally, for me is like, Don't tell me what to do. And I just want to kind of, I just want to do my own thing, and I want to go where I want to go, and I want to do what I want to do. And when it comes to Hawaii signs, and safety is super important, because things can turn pretty quickly.

Andrew Fowers 6:53

Yes, that is that is so true. You know, I've lived here for a long time. And there are things that happen all the time that people just don't know, or they don't see coming. So in this context of safety, make sure you follow signs, these are signs like warnings, at the beaches, at trails, at parks, just listen, follow the science, if they're telling you not to swim, they're telling you not to hike, listen to those signs, likely there's a reason for that, in terms of keeping you safe. There's also some things about not getting close to ledges or edges of the ocean. Those are things that are also really important. Flash Flooding is a huge issue here. When it rains in Hawaii, it dumps and sometimes it's might be clear skies down the mountain. But up in the mountain, if you see it's overcast and really thick rain clouds, then what's going to happen is it'll rain up top, and then it will, you know, condense into these really narrow channels of water that create this torrents of water. And so if you start to see that it's getting cloudy, or there's a potential for rain, I would say don't swim. Because just recently, there was a really sad story of a woman who got caught in a flash flood. You know, it was raining all the sudden, it rained a lot in a very short period of time. And she was actually swept out to the ocean and was never found. So flash flooding happens if you're not sure just don't cross the rivers, or don't drive through the rivers in your car. A couple other things that happen a lot is you know, waterfall safety people feel like hey, I'm in a waterfall I want to like go and swim and take that like Instagram photo and show my friends and like and that's like totally cool. And I get it, I've been there. But don't swim underneath waterfalls. Actually, that mount of water actually moves big rocks. And I would say avoid swimming underneath waterfalls in terms of safety. And another thing is don't go off trails when you're hiking. A lot of people feel like wow, this is like nature and rain forest. People get lost hiking, and not only that, but when they get lost there sometimes they're not able to find them again. And there have been people you know going to get those photos and I saw it on Instagram. I know where it's at, right? But the truth is, is people get lost all the time hiking, so please be cautious stay on the trail. Look at the trail in advance to make sure you know where you're going and when you're coming back.

Bryan Murphy 9:29

Everything we post on Hawaii's Best and on Shaka guide. We try really hard to make sure that we're not showcasing or promoting any spots. And sometimes I mistakenly I know I've posted something and like oh, that's that that has changed since the last time I knew about that and you take that post down and you know you'll never see us promoting Stairway to Heaven. I could have stairs, even though as beautiful as it is. It's a super Dangerous hike and it's illegal.

Andrew Fowers 10:02

Yeah. And that's the same first shocker guide. I mean, there's this beautiful hike in the road to Hana called the red sand beach. It gets tons and tons of, you know, Instagram photos. And we have now removed that from our tour, due to safety concerns, there's actually people that have tripped and fallen on the trail. And it's just had a huge impact to erosion in the area. And so we have since removed it after local sentiment. So it's just something that, you know, it may be a beautiful place, but maybe it's not for you to visit this time home. And we need to respect the local sentiment of people who live there, you know, watching out for that potential negative impact. Something else I want to mention is rogue waves. I mean, this just happened the other day, my mom was visiting in Hawaii, she was on the Big Island, you know, just having a great time. And a way the corner from behind and she was just on the beach, a wave caught her from behind, she face planted, and she hurt her arm was she tried to stop herself with her arm and then her arm dislocated us. So very painful, just a surprise wave. And these are what we call rogue waves. And a lot of people try to take photos with, you know, the ocean and the ocean, the waves splashing around background. Well, what happens is it only takes one big swell. And that swell can actually, you know, knock you on your butt and then sweep you out into the ocean. And if it's on the rock ledge, there's actually been people die, just by turning their back and trying to get a photo and then having a wave washed them into the ocean and then drowning this happens actually more than more frequent than you think. So if you're taking a photo you're getting next to a water sledge do not get anywhere close where it's wet. Just stay in the dry section, you can see where the water breaks don't get on wet rocks near the ocean.

Bryan Murphy 12:02

A good accountant to to follow on Instagram is Honolulu Ocean Safety. They're constantly posting some great best practices when it comes to Ocean Safety. Awesome. And also you get to see how many rescues there really are. And it's pretty overwhelming.

Andrew Fowers 12:19

Yeah, so that leads me to the next part is just the do not swim advisories. The ocean is so powerful. I mean, sometimes it's little waves you underestimate how powerful those waves are. And they can actually break bones there's people all the time that are in the ocean and get caught in a wave and it you know cracks them on to the ocean to the beach. Very large force and it can it can break bones. Always have a swim buddy with you. There's accident snorkeling. I hate to be the downer on the all this. I mean, I know you know, vacation in Hawaii is like super fun. And I love living here in Hawaii. And I love experiencing all of these this nature. But But nature bites too. It also pushes back. So we have to respect it. Keep the rules as much as possible to avoid those unforeseen circumstances. Well,

Bryan Murphy 13:12

you're talking about that shorebreak. And there's a reason why sandy beach is also referred to as neck break.

Andrew Fowers 13:21

Yes, and we tell people in our tour to look but don't, don't even try. So there's one last thing I want to mention about safety. And this is actually I wish I didn't have to talk about this. But there are car break ins quite frequently in Hawaii. locals are great people, but there are a group of you know, bad apples there and they will take stuff if they have the opportunity to and so just with car break ins if you have valuables in your cart, take them with you or don't display them openly so they can't cannot see them through your window. Car break ins happen quite frequently in visitors kind of get out for a quick picture. And you know, just 20 feet away. There's someone that's breaking into your car smashing

Bryan Murphy 14:09


Andrew Fowers 14:09

yeah smashing grabs. So just be really cautious with car break ins take valuables with you as much as possible. Let's talk about conservation. This kind of goes along with Ocean Safety. When you're swimming out in the ocean, you will see wildlife and just so you guys are aware there's a $25,000 fine if you touch a sea turtle or a monk seal. So you may see them you're snorkeling you want to go and touch them. This is not a petting zoo. There are serious fines in regards to touching wildlife. So just keep your distance enjoy from a distance. They are beautiful, amazing animals.

Bryan Murphy 14:49

what's crazy is I mean this is a serious serious thing. We were hanging out in the Coleen that resort area and there happened to be, you know, a seal just, you know, doing this thing getting some sun And yeah, there was an employee from one of the resorts who came out. And he stood there the whole time with that, roped off the area. So you might might see that as a very serious thing. Yes.

Andrew Fowers 15:11

Another thing about ocean we're talking about, you know, conservation, minimizing our impact to the ocean is the choice of our sunscreen. So there is now a law in Hawaii that we need to use what's called reef safe sunscreen when you're in the ocean or the rivers. And the reason is, is there is a chemical in those older sunscreen that actually destroys the reef, it actually suffocates the reef. So just be aware of that the sunscreen you buy should have something called reef safe labeling on that. And that's again, just to protect the reefs, the the fish live in the reef, they feed off the reef, that they're an important part of our reef to protect. Another thing about conservation really is just trash. I mean, you so many people driving all over the island and visiting here and visiting there. You know, we love this island, and we like to take care of it. And no one likes to see trash piled up on the beaches or piled up on those sides of the roads. So just again, just pick up your trash bring it with you. I mean, really gross example is there was a local, I was speaking to who lives on the road to Hannah. And I was talking to her about this and that and she's like, you know, just tell the visitors to bring a trash bag with them, because there was a diaper that she found like a fresh diaper full of you know, on the side of the road. And this is where she walks her dog. And this is where she lives and please, you know, bring it a trash bag with you. There aren't really trash cans on some of those remote areas. And so you need to kind of be responsible for your own trash.

Bryan Murphy 16:50

Yeah, or even if you you see something and just doing your part to pick it up. Even if it's not, not yours.

Andrew Fowers 16:56

Yeah, definitely pick it up, take it with you. Another thing, just the impact to the trails in the mountains, try to brush your feet when you're hiking, there are invasive seeds that are pretty prevalent that you may have, unknowingly brought with you on your plane right over here are invasive seeds and weeds and, and things. So just make sure you brush your feet. Or take a quick look at what possible seeds you might have accidentally brought.

Bryan Murphy 17:24

So this is before you actually hike, brush your feet or after,

Andrew Fowers 17:29

I would say before you start hiking just do a quick once over with your shoes. Some of the trailheads actually have brushes that you can brush your feet. Otherwise, what I would do is just do a once over look at your clothes, look at your specifically your shoes to see if there's any seeds caught it, there is a very tricky one, which is called rapid ohia death. If you're traveling between islands, there's a really weird fungus that infects a tree called the Lake laiho. Here tree. So what you're going to want to do is actually clean your shoes with some type of a chemical or soap. If you're traveling between islands, this type of fungus suffocates the tree and then it dies. So we're not really sure how it spreads. But with visitors, we just have to do our best and see if that helps with the the negative impact of the spread of ohia death. Now let's just talk about general respect. Locals love the tourism economy. But there are some locals that don't like visitors coming. And you may see some negative things on social media. But the truth is, is there a very small percentage of the people here in Hawaii, we welcome you we know that you're visiting and that you bring great benefit to our economy. We are more than happy to have you come and spend your money here just as long as you can be respectful of the locals in a respectful of our environment. We're more than happy to have you out here. And one way that you as a visitor can show respect to locals is following some of the rules of safety. This is just kind of on the edge of the Coronavirus kind of winding down here but nonetheless, I do want to say there currently is a mask policy in Hawaii where if you are outside that you need to be wearing a mask and then social distancing. And this is really just because locals live here and you know having so many visitors coming from the mainland it does expose them to some risk. And locals really get upset when they see people not wearing a mask. So please be aware of that and show respect when you're out here. I know it's uncomfortable, but please wear your mask until it's been deemed no longer a loss.

Bryan Murphy 19:48

I know it's definitely for indoors and out in about wearing a mask. Is it on when you're hiking as well and on the beach.

Andrew Fowers 19:57

I would say on the beach. Yes. Specifically, if you're not swimming, if you're on the beach, you should wear a mask when you're hiking, I mean, you can use some judgment there. If there's no people around, then you can maybe pull your mask down. But I would have it ready to put on at any moment just in case there's someone else you pass on your hike. So another way that we can show respect is just by following the rules at parks and sacred places, there are no point in heyhow just show respect for the science course not trespassing on private property that also shows respect when you're visiting here. Let's talk about just the last thing here. Before we wrap up, you know, giving back while you're here, there are unavoidable negative impact by visitors traveling here and driving and, you know, living and trash and all of that. And we can try our best to minimize that. But there's also some things that visitors can do to give back to help support in that sustainable effort. And what I mean by this is something that's called voluntourism, this is a big effort right now, for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. And for many organizations, you know, visitors come out here, they're walking on the beach, you know, maybe you guys can help pick up some trash as well. So there's a cool example, there's a hotel and Koi working with the Surfrider Foundation, and they provide like buckets to visitors. So if you're going on a little beach walk, you know, here's a bucket, here's a bag. And what you can do is actually help pick up trash on your little beachwalk. And so it feels like it at least in a small way, what you can do is start to help give back. There are some great organizations called travel to change. And they have a bunch of volunteerism opportunities, where you can actually come and volunteer to do a beach cleanup, clean a fish pond, there's just a ton of great opportunities on every Island. And when you're out here, it's it really does feel good to know that you're helping support Hawaii in a positive way. So I encourage you to look for some ways you can give back when you're traveling here in Hawaii. Again, this is a great way to show respect, it's a great way to minimize impact and also to help support the conservation efforts here in Hawaii. Brian with water, kind of some of your thoughts on some of this before we we wrap up.

Bryan Murphy 22:26

I think the main thing to take away is there are certain things to just know like even for example, I'm sure brushing your shoes prior to a hike is probably something that was new to maybe to you. But you know the conversation of like picking up your trash. It's like yeah, of course I want to pick up my trash. But you'd be surprised how many you don't pick up the trash. And yeah, exactly when it comes to that respect. What I love most about Hawaii is the people of Hawaii and the culture of Hawaii. And by just humbly asking questions, even wherever you're staying, the concierge or whomever? Or your waiter or waitress, asking about their favorite spots, or asking them what do they love most about like that puts you in a posture of you know, one being able to receive but also this connection, and he starts feeling this, this deeper connection to Hawaii, it's so much more than the land. It's the people once you feel and this connection with locals and this hospitality that I know I've never experienced anywhere else, you have this foundational base of respect. And it becomes a part of you even though like if you don't live in Hawaii, there's this part Hawaii is in me. There's this. I feel like I have home in Hawaii, like when I'm there, I feel ownership. And I think that's really what we're wanting to convey in this conversation. Yeah, that's

Andrew Fowers 23:56

so awesome. You're not visitors, you're part of this home, and we share that home with you. And so that's that's, I think, really powerful. Just some final thoughts here. As we're wrapping up, you know, we've talked about a lot today talked about safety. We talked about conservation. You know, we've talked about respect, and we talked about giving back while you're here. So just some final thoughts. When we're thinking about all of this. There's a phrase in Hawaii that has been used to explain what respect is, and it's a phrase called Malala. I know and just to explain what this means. Malala is used in Hawaii to indicate a relationship of care and preservation. On the other hand, aina means land and their identification in terms of the Hawaiian people with this land. So therefore, if you put the two words Malala and Iona together, it means to care for and nurture the land so that it can give back always Need to sustain life for ourselves, for our families and for future generations. And it's really important here that visitors understand and try to internalize this concept of Malala. I know, in other words, to be a responsible visitor so that when you come out here, you guys can have a great time, you know, minimizing your impact as much as possible, and then really trying to leave no trace. When you return back home, I really hope that you guys can listen to this and understand and really try to incorporate some of these things into your trip. And remembering that, as visitors, it's really important that you Malema Ayana, during your visit to Hawaii,

Bryan Murphy 25:44

Andrew, thank you so much for this important conversation. I think that can't be expressed enough. So I hope that you took some notes, we'll put all the stuff in the show notes and listen back to this and maybe even listen to this on your way over to Hawaii on the flight. And as I say that, to think where we're at now, compared to where we're at exactly a year ago, it's pretty incredible that we're able to have these conversations and to be excited about travel again. And travel to Hawaii is definitely a reality right now. And you can do that safely. We've talked about all those things in previous episodes. So be sure to Let's listen to that as well. But as you are preparing, just as important as making sure you pack the right swimsuit, and this ought to be just as much as part of your preparation over to the islands. So Andrew, thank you so much again, for your your wisdom and for taking time today to discuss these important things.

Andrew Fowers 26:41

Yeah, no problem. I mean, we a Shaka guide. We take people around the island. And we want you to have a great time, you know, using our app, but we also want you to be responsible and to have a great time in a safe way. So super glad to share this on the podcast today, Brian, and thanks for having me on.

Bryan Murphy 26:59

Absolutely. Well again, thank you so much for listening, and be sure to subscribe to stay up to date on the latest things and travel to Hawaii because they are ever changing. But these things we talked about today are pretty much evergreen, so be sure you download this episode and re listen to it. Till next time as you are planning your next trip to Hawaii be well. Aloha.

Hawaii's Best 27:23

Thanks for listening to Hawaii's Best podcast. To stay up to date on future episodes. Be sure to subscribe. For more information to help you plan your next trip to Hawaii visit Hawaii's Best travel.com

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Bryan Murphy
Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.