Voluntourism: 10 Ways to Make a Difference on Your Hawai‘i Vacation
Looking to mālama (give back) on your Hawai‘i vacation? From beach cleanups to tree planting, here’s what you can do to give back to the land in a meaningful way.
E Mālama ‘oe I ka ‘Āina, e mālama ka ‘Āina ia ‘oe
Take care of the land and the land will take care of you
Visit the cultural sites and botanical gardens of Waimea on the North Shore during an ‘Ohana Volunteer Day. The family-friendly volunteer project provides the tools needed for the 2.5-hr shift. Afterwards, volunteers are encouraged to explore the valley - which is free for the day!
Launched in 1944, the world famous battleship saw action in WWII, the Korean War, and the Persian Gulf War. Today, the Battleship Missouri permanently rests in Pearl Harbor - and you can help restore and preserve the iconic memorial. Volunteer opportunities include cleaning (this is a great opportunity to see parts of the ship that are not open to the public!), sanding, sweeping, touch-up painting, and moving items.
3. Help Restore Historic Hawaiian Fishponds
O‘ahu has a few sacred fish ponds that could use your help! Help restore the Loko Ea Fishpond in Haleʻiwa on the North Shore during a Community Work Day or kindly donate building materials, make a monetary donation, or join a volunteer session every Thursday at the Loko Pa‘aiau Fishpond in ʻAiea.
4. Plant a Tree
Help return the forests of Hawai‘i to the native landscape by sponsoring an endemic Legacy Tree. Choose from a Monarch Milo, King Koa, Royal Sandalwood, or ‘Ohi‘a Lehua tree, and receive a personalized certificate, a donation to a charity of your choice, and aid in collecting and raising seedlings, planting trees, fencing out pests, clearing invasive species, and tagging so you can track your tree.
Through Hawaiʻi Land Trust, volunteers help with restoration and conservation projects, land stewardship, assisting with events, completing office tasks, and collaborating on special projects. Check their website for Volunteer Days and opportunities on Oʻahu.
Stretching along the southeastern shore of Oʻahu in-between Diamond Head and Koko Head, Maunalua Bay (meaning two mountains) has volunteer workdays to help with a variety of restoration projects. Current opportunities include restoring the marine environment by removing invasive algae from the nearshore waters and taking photos of coral, fragmenting it for outplanting, and monitoring.
Visit the beautiful Kualoa Ranch and join in their Mālama Experience, a 2-hr hands-on excursion that teaches the importance of sustainability, plus has opportunities to thatch traditional Hawaiian hale (grass huts), assist with cleaning, planting, and harvesting kalo (taro) and laʻau lapaʻau (medicinal plants).
The Papahana Kuaola education organization in Heʻeia has community work days every third and fourth Saturday of the month. Be prepared to get wet and muddy! Papahana Kuaola is all about sustainability and economic stability, so you’ll be getting up close to the natural tropical environment.
Paradise Helicopters offers a few mālama charter experiences, which include an aerial sightseeing tour of Oʻahu, education about Hawai‘i’s culture and ecosystem, and light refreshments. Plus, you can carbon offset your flight emissions by participating in a native tree planting.
Sustainable Coastlines hosts a few large-scale beach cleanups on Oʻahu each year. The grassroots non-profit organization provides all cleanup supplies, water stations, live music and guest speakers, and local sustainably-sourced food options. It’s not just a cleanup, it’s a party! See when the next one is by clicking the link above.
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