In the Hawaiian culture, caring for the ʻāina (land) is not just a responsibility for all who live on it, but an act that connects to life itself. As visitors plan their travel to the Islands, participating in opportunities to mālama (care for) Hawaiʻi while traveling will provide a profound connection to our natural world. Volunteer organizations and travel partners statewide are offering a range of opportunities for visitors to engage in mindful travel.
With an abundance of organizations dedicated to preserving O‘ahu’s most precious resources, there is sure to be something for everyone looking to make a difference while exploring the beautiful island of O‘ahu.
There may be a lot of “don’ts” when it comes to the wildlife around O‘ahu but there’s also a lot you can do. Travel2Change focuses on volunteer tourism, with a wide variety of activities from guided nature hikes and restoration or invasive species removal to a beach cleanup and yoga sessions.
On the Windward side, Papahana Kuaola is a non-profit that creates educational programs focused on environmental restoration and economic sustainability, all integrated with Hawaiian knowledge. It hosts monthly community workdays in the He‘eia ahupua‘a, traditional native Hawaiian land divisions that ran from the mountains to the sea. On the third Saturdays of the month, help restore the upper reaches of He‘eia stream with native plants, and on the fourth Saturdays, work in the kalo lo‘i, or terraced taro patches, by weeding, planting and harvesting kalo, and repairing lo‘i banks and walls.
Also in He‘eia, Kāko‘o ‘Ōiwi is a non-profit whose mission is to perpetuate the cultural and spiritual practices of native Hawaiians. One of its long-term goals is to restore almost 405 acres of wetlands to agricultural and ecological productivity. Join its monthly community workdays and help build ‘auwai (irrigation ditches) for new lo‘i kalo or help maintain existing lo‘i.
Mālama Loko Ea Foundation works to revive the Loko Ea fishpond in Hale‘iwa to once again become an abundant and thriving fishpond. Visitors can help with restoration efforts, learn and practice land stewardship, nohona Hawaiʻi (living and practicing Hawaiian culture as a way of life), and ʻike kuʻuna (knowledge of traditional Hawaiian practices). The tour includes an exclusive cultural history and walking tour with moʻolelo (stories, myths, and legends) and mālama ʻāina (to care for the land) activities with getting hands dirty to work together to help build the dream of Loko Ea and provide for the local community.
Check 808 Cleanups’ calendar to join a beach cleanup or other event to help restore Hawai‘i’s natural beauty.
Following the spirit of Duke Kahanamoku, AccesSurf continues to be a pioneer in the advancement of adaptive water sports, ocean recreation, and therapeutic instruction for people with disabilities throughout the O‘ahu and worldwide. This non-profit organization builds an inclusive community that empowers people with disabilities through accessible beach and water programs.
Established in 1850, Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve’s vision is to be role-model stewards of its 4,000 acres: Kualoa, Hakipuʻu and Kaʻaʻawa. Kualoa Ranch realizes its vision with a hands-on Mālama ‘Āina (“to care for and protect the land”) experience offering guests opportunities to learn how to protect and create sustainable practices preserving the land’s natural beauty. The eco-adventure voluntourism tour includes knowledge of the cultural importance of kalo (taro); cleaning, planting and harvesting kalo; and helping mālama (“care for”) lāʻau lapaʻau (medicinal plants) growing in the area. This year, the experience will expand to include native Hawaiian tree planting to support reforestation efforts.