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  • Writer's pictureMonica, Your Travel Gal

Explore Hawaii through Voluntourism

In Hawaiian culture, caring for the aina (land) is not simply a responsibility, but an act that connects to life itself. As I am planning your travel to the Islands, I will invite you to malama (care for) Hawaii while you are here. Volunteer organizations and travel partners statewide are offering a variety of opportunities for visitors to engage in mindful travel while in Hawaii. Check out the examples below that will help guide you toward visiting in a way that offers enriching experiences, and a real connection to our lands, ocean and people. Or, just reach out to me and I can help plan your own personalized trip to Hawaii with a malama option included.

Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
Morning along a Koloa beach - Poipu, Kauai

Kauai - If you want to spend as much time as possible on Kauai’s luxuriously sandy beaches, why not participate in a beach cleanup with the Surfrider Foundation? Volunteers are asked to help this environment-focused nonprofit remove marine debris and other debris from shorelines to preserve and protect land and sea life.

Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Ben Ono
ATV tour group stopping for a scenic break - Kualoa Ranch, Oahu

Oahu - If you are heading to Oahu, visit Gunstock Ranch for a unique opportunity allowing you to malama aina. The ranch’s eco-tour takes guests into Oahu’s lush forests via horseback or ATV on a mission to support reforestation efforts by planting native trees as well as learn about the cultural and ecological significance of Hawaii’s forests. Another option if you want to combine volunteering with a day exploring one of Oahu’s most breathtaking valleys, is to visit Kualoa Ranch. Activities include planting and harvesting kalo (taro), thatching a traditional Hawaiian hale (grass hut), rebuilding Kaaawa Valley’s auwai (freshwater streams) and more.

Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
Front Street during sunset - Lahaina, Maui

Maui - Going to Maui? Stop and check out the ocean conservation activities of the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation. Participants who help their Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program will head out to Maui’s scenic coastline areas to collect and track debris. Maybe you love history? I recommend visiting the sites of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, a nonprofit working to restore and preserve the historical and cultural legacies of Lahaina. Volunteers will enjoy opportunities to learn more about Maui’s rich cultural history through the foundation’s hands-on activities. Some of the activities include photographing, measuring and transcribing historical artifacts from Lahaina’s past, including items from the Kingdom of Hawaii, missionary, whaling and sugarcane-planting eras.

Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
Couple looking onto Pololu beach from hiking trail, Pololu Valley, Island of Hawaii

Island of Hawaii - If you are looking to be surrounded by nature on the island of Hawaii, why not join in on the work of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative? They help rehabilitate the area’s native ecosystem and activities for volunteers include clearing weeds, building trails, tree planting and more. Plus, you get to take in the sights and sounds of the landscape you are in. Are you interested in learning more about the Hawaiian Islands’ indigenous flora species? I recommend heading to the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, founded by noted Hawaii botanist Amy Greenwell. Volunteers are invited to learn about the more than 200 endemic species that live in the garden, care for the plants and remove invasive weeds.

These are just a few ways to give back or malama to the Islands of Hawaii. I want to make sure the islands are well cared for so, the next time you visit, it will be just as beautiful and wonderful as your first visit!

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