A Green Guide to Hawaii

Where to stay and what to do in America's 50th state

Olivia Balsinger

There is a special saying in the Hawaiian tongue: Malama ‘Aina.

It means: care for the land.  Which is especially important in America's 50th state—2,467 miles away from California's mainland. The state of Hawaii is composed of eight seperate islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and he Big Island of Hawaii. In total, Hawaii is home to about 1.42 million inhabitants.

Even though it has its share of cities and movie theaters, post offices and grocery stores, Hawaii is truly an isolated volcanic archipelago in the center of The Pacific. It also is home to arguably some of the most breathtaking nature on the planet-- rugged sky-high cliffs, beaches with gold, red and black sand and animals unique to the islands, like the Hawaiian Hoary Bat.

For locals, Mother Nature is not in the background of their everyday lives. Instead, She is intertwined in the spirituality, culture and day-to-day activities.   

Ironically, Hawaiians don't have a specific expression for interacting with nature, when in the English language expressions such as "Let's play outside!" are common. The reason for this? Because they don't believe themselves to be separate from nature. 


Hawaii can seem unattainable to visit from mainland USA. You add up the costs —the flight, the margaritas poolside, the fancy resorts on the beach; all of a sudden your dream of paradise stays just that: a dream. 

But with luxurious yet affordable budget accommodations available, that daydream you have of white-sand beaches and real life Jurassic Park cliffs of The Na Pali Coast is more attainable than you might think. Here are our picks for accommodations on the Hawaiian Islands. 


Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach

Honolulu is the captail of Hawaii, and even though it is technically a "city," it still feels quaint and connected to the mountains and beaches surrounding it.  One of our favorite affordable offerings on the island of Oahu is the newly reopened Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach in Honolulu—the 700th Hilton Garden Inn in the world. It is also the largest in the world with 623 rooms! And when we say “newly reopened,” we mean it—we were the first guests to experience the rooms, the beds, the porches with optimal views of Waikiki downtown and the brilliant blue of Waikiki Beach.


The Hilton Garden Inn allows you to experience the natural beauty and many attractions of Waikiki, but in a more budget friendly style. The beach is a five to ten minute walk away, through the dually safe and picturesque town center.

The renovation manifests in a modern, sophisticated, and chic look. However, details in the hotel still references its home, the Aloha state. Guests will fine high wooden ceilings, bordered by gallery-lit Hawaiian kapa prints on reclaimed wood and a color palette that pays homage to the beauty of the islands through natural materials, finishes and textures.

Specifically, the hotel has been redesigned from the inside out, with an aim to provide guests the comfort of never having left home, with an authentic Hawaiian aesthetic that does not let them forget they left! Most rooms include a step-out balcony with lounge furniture. Rooms on the upper levels feature stunning views of the ocean or cityscape. Head to the roof for their heated pool and sundeck and perhaps indulge in a fruity cocktail at the poolside bar. The hotel also features a meeting room with naturally lit meeting space for up to 30 people if you're looking to work while in paradise.

A leisurely five minute stroll from the main resort area takes you to the sparkling beaches that make Waikiki a prime destination for those seeking a little bit of paradise. Start your day at the Holoholo Cafe & Market, a boutique café and marketplace connected to the hotel. Grab a coconut lattes and croissant before the day's adventure begins.  After a surf lesson, or perhaps a golf game at the nearby Ala Wai Golf Course, or kayaking, snorkeling, horseback riding, paddle boarding, diving, swimming with sharks, to name a few, head down to the Waikiki Shopping Plaza for some post-sun shopping.

 Be sure to take a detour through Waikiki's happening downtown restaurant and nightlife scene before heading back to your new modern room to rest up for your next day of adventures. 

The Hilton Garden Inn Kauai/Wailua Bay

When travelers vacation in Hawaii, it is rare that they would stay planted on one island. A mere 40 minute flight from Honolulu brings you to the island known worldwide as "The Green Island"-- Kauai! Here, stay at The Hilton Garden Inn Kauai/Wailua Bay. This is the only Hilted branded hotel on the island of Hawaii and it reopened its doors in April, following a multimillion dollar redevelopment.

The hotel allows guests to rest in comfort and style in one of its 216 completely revamped rooms, suites and cottages. Open the windows for the breeze of the Bay to waft in, a reminder that this is paradise. On the beachfront adjacent to the Wailua River, the property’s convenient, central location provides the ease to all of the charming pockets of the island. Head to the north shore for the beautiful landscapes of Hanalei, or head south to sunbathe in bliss on the gorgeous Poipu Beach--have your breath taken away by the vista of Waimea Canyon and finish up your adventures with a Puka Dog, a polish sausage roasted inside Hawaiian sweet bread and dusted with the garlic lemon secret sauce.

For a more relaxing day, take advantage of the hotel's new amenities, including a restaurant, lounge and fitness center. Be sure not to miss the Hawaiian cultural sunrise ceremony that the hotel provides three days per week, right on the water, to say "Thank You" to Mother Earth for the mosaic of colors in the sky and the sun yet again rising to start another day.


Hilton as a brand makes a tremendous effort to preserve the environment. Hilton Worldwide has reduced energy use by 14.5% since 2009. Hilton's "Living Sustainably Campaign" helps educate Hilton Team Members and franchise employees on responsible energy practices by providing examples developed by their colleagues from around the world for improving their daily operations and inspiring collective action.

The goal is to emphasize changes that drive performance on energy, water and waste. As stated in a Hilton press release, "Throughout the first quarter of each year, every Hilton Team Member and franchise employee is encouraged to implement low- or no-cost changes that drive energy efficiency and deliver enhanced value to help reach our energy reduction targets. Hotel are also required to track and complete improvement projects each year, enabling us to uncover and share learnings and best practices from more than 4,800 energy efficiency projects."




Glide N Ride Tour, Princeville Ranch Adventures If there is one thing that the the Glide N Ride Tour in Princeville proves, it is that there is more than one way to experience the lush beauty of Kauai’s natural landscape, and each is just as thrilling as the last. Combining a leisurely horseback ride, where sprawling pastures open up to magnificent views of the island’s mountain and ocean scenery, with an exhilarating adventure of zip lining off the edge of a valley and across the verdant tree canopy, the tour is sure to give you an enriched perspective of the island’s natural beauty.

Experienced guides will be with you throughout the whole adventure, well equipped to answer questions about ranch and cowboy history, as well as teach about some of the native flora and fauna you see along the way.

Na Pali Raft Expedition,  Captn Andy The sparkling blue waters of Hawaii are alluring as they are mysterious, but Captain Andy’s day-long Na Pali Raft Expedition offers thrill-seekers an chance to become familiar with the “ebb and flow” of the pristine aquatic landscape of the Na Pali Coast in Kauai. During the six hour expedition that begins after scuba instructions, you will meander through sea caves, shower in refreshing, gorgeous waterfalls, and explore the complex, bustling reef system of which the ancient Hawaiians relied.

If weather permits, your guide will take you to the remote beach of Nualolo Kai for more snorkeling adventure, as well as for an instructional hike to the ruins of a Hawaiian fishing village that dates back to 800 years.  

Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours For over 25 years, Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours has received critical recognition as a leader in air-tours and the only one to service all four major Hawaiian islands. Its helicopters remain at the forefront of leading-edge innovation and feature 60 feet of panoramic glass to ensure a clear view of breathtaking vistas. Your journey begins with a flight to Hanapepe Valley, then continues on to Mana Waiapuna, commonly referred to as "Jurassic Park Falls." Next it's up the Olokele Canyon before moving on to Waimea Canyon, the famed "Grand Canyon of the Pacific” where you'll explore many hidden waterfalls.

Then, the sculptural masterpiece of the Na Pali Coast gives way to the Bali Hai Cliffs, and the pristine blue waters of Hanalei Bay and the Princeville Resort area. While admittedly our stomachs may have dropped a bit at the thought of being at such an immensely high altitude in such a small vehicle, our fear just dissipated as soon as we left ground. Our captain weaved both facts and Hawaiian legends into the landscape, making the journey feel as though we were flying through the pages of an epic fantasy novel.

We even visited the Mt Waialeale, in the heart of the ancient volcano, known as the wettest spot on earth for its average rainfall of 450-500 inches annually. 

Koloa Zipline Tour Soar high above the diverse, unparalleled beauty of Kauai’s Grove Farm area with the island’s premier biplane operator. Koloa Zip Line let’s guests explore the incredible beauty of Kauai’s south shore as they glide and wind over 22,000 acres of what once was Hawaii’s first sugar plantation. With 8 equally thrilling lines of ziplining (including 3 of the longest on the island, such as the Waita Zip Line that stretches a half mile!), you will experience all aspects of the land’s astonishing beauty by flying through the jungle, over the forest and across the water.


Pearl Harbor – USS Arizona and USS Bowfin Submarine After completing nine successful patrols following the attack that sparked the second World War, the USS Bowfin reached her peacetime berth in the waters of Pearl Harbor. During these patrols, the ship proved to be a formidable adversary by sinking 44 enemy ships, earning its nickname “The Pearl Harbor Avenger.” Within walking distance to the Arizona Memorial, the Bowfin Submarine Museum recreates what it was like to live and work aboard the iconic World War II submarine, with over 4,000 submarine-related artifacts to cover its history.

With the 75th anniversary of the infamous attack just months away, the harbor allows an opportunity to learn about one of the most monumental events in America's history. 

Waikiki Beach – Surfs up! A visit to Hawaii is never complete without a trip to one of the state's hundreds of beaches. With its stunning turquoise waters and fine white sand, crystal clear views of Diamond Head and long, rolling surf perfect for catching that morning wave, there is pretty good reason why Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world. We highly recommend a drink (or all-hours shin-dig) at the iconic Duke's bar, smack dab in the middle of beach action. And yes, they will serve you even if you're in a bathing suit with sand between your toes!


Hawaii is a dream retreat--it is rich in nature, history, fauna and culture. But now with affordable, yet classic options for hotels--namely the Hilton Garden Inns in Kauai and Waikiki--along with our guide of the hottest activities on the island, Hawaii doesn't need to be an unattainable destination anymore.

Time to grab your most colorful, vibrant lei and give a warm "Aloha" to The Aloha State.