The Hawaiian Islands may draw you to their other-worldly tropical beauty, South-Pacific culture and warm welcome, legendary beaches and seaside lifestyle.
But the most memorable trip to Hawaii may be the one that gives back.
The Malama Hawaii Program connects visitors to activities that make a difference to the islands’ land, ocean, wildlife, forests, fishponds, and communities. Malama means 'give back' and it puts you in a position to become part of Hawaii, leave it an even better place… and have vacation memories of a lifetime.
It’s about building real relationships between people and place, and enriching your life as well as the destination you visit.
The Malama Hawaii Program has brought together a number of hotels and resorts, tour companies, and local volunteer organizations in a collaboration for the good the Hawaii that everyone loves.
Volunteer projects range from reforestation and tree planting to self-directed beach cleanups, ocean reef preservation, and even creating Hawaiian quilts for kupuna (elders).
Visitors gain a more enriching travel experience through their positive impact, and may also qualify for perks like discounts or even a free night’s stay at a participating hotel or resort by participating in its dedicated volunteer activity.
There are opportunities to Malama on at least four of Hawaii’s visitable islands.
In Oahu, check in with the community group Malama Maunalua to participate in a volunteer activity allowing them to malama aina. Volunteers will learn about ecological issues affecting Maunalua Bay and participate in removing three types of invasive algae threatening marine sanctuaries in the bay’s nearshore waters.
Get hands-on during an immersive, volunteer workday with eco-nonprofit Papahana Kualoa. You’ll sink your feet into the satisfyingly muddy earth of its loi kalo (irrigated taro terraces) to do the good work of helping plant or harvest kalo, a staple crop of the Native Hawaiian diet.
Don’t miss the ocean conservation activities at the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation. Visitors in the foundation’s Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program head out to Maui’s scenic coastline areas to collect and track debris. Data recorded by the foundation helps to mitigate and prevent shoreline and marine life damage.
You can also participate in the critical environmental work of removing invasive species from Maui’s protected lands, by volunteering to help with restoration and conservation projects of the nonprofit Hawaii Land Trust, which does vital stewardship work contributing to wildlife protection efforts at the island’s Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge.
Visitors can volunteer to help restore and replant a 275-acre lowland dry forest preserve, surrounded by nature at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative. You may be able to be part of building trails, tree planting, clearing invasive plant life and more, all while taking in the sights and sounds of the preserve’s tranquil landscape.
Adventure seekers interested in mountain hiking and volunteer work are encouraged to look into the workdays of Uluhao o Hualalai for a private eco-tour traversing the mature koa and ohia forests of 8,271-foot Hualalai volcano. In addition to hiking to one of the volcano’s many craters and learning about the cultural significance of the surrounding landscape, visitors are also invited to participate in the group’s reforestation efforts by planting native trees.
You can spend a part of your vacation experiencing Kauai’s verdant and vibrant forest areas with the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project, and participate in a remote video review to help identify the island’s protected birds and their activity and patterns. You can also join a virtual seminar to learn more about the native forest birds and the eco-project’s conservation efforts. Held monthly, the project’s Forest Fridays virtual series focus on the protection of the threatened native iiwi bird and three federally endangered native bird species — the puaiohi, akikiki, and akekee — with a goal of facilitating recovery of their populations in the wild. Visitors can also view prior series segments via the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project’s YouTube channel.
Ask your trusted travel advisor how you can Malama on your next trip to Hawaii.
Images: Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Heather Goodman
Rick Barboza of Papahana Kuaola and volunteers harvest kalo taro