Hawaii: Help while you holiday

Hawaii: Help while you holiday
By admin

Hawaii is one of the earth’s most precious ecosystems and holiday-makers are becoming increasingly conscious of both their impact as well as ways they can contribute to maintaining the island’s natural riches through volunteering. 

One of the locals who is leading the charge on the voluntourism front is Cherie Attix, who runs an organisation called Volunteers on Vacation. Attix believes the intrinsically Hawaiian concepts of Laulima, meaning many hands, and Kuleana, which translates as responsibility, means that the island state and its people have a unique sensibility that lends itself to voluntourism. 

Attix believes there are many reasons to volunteer in Hawaii, including a laid-back attitude that helps accomplish goals and an appreciation for visitors and their help. “The sheer beauty of the surrounding nature is a gift, and most of us recognise, cherish and want to protect it,” Attix said. 

Most visitors combine vacation time with volunteer time and the volunteer projects are geared toward flexibility. “Some guests pick a particular place, like an animal sanctuary, and really focus on that place daily. Others will pick an environmental project and spend one day doing that.”

A volunteer on the Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership said it gave him a different perspective on Maui. “It’s a great change from the normal tourist life which for many only takes place at the beaches,” volunteer Dario Gallas said. 

One advantage is that volunteers gain access to national parks and locations that are off the tourist trail. “The sense of giving back to a very special place in the world goes hand in hand with protecting that place for future generations,” Attix said. And where are the best spots for those who want to get involved? Attix recommends the Maui Coastal Land Trust as it has a weekly outreach day as well as Leilani Farms, which involves much interaction with animals. 



Hawaii is one of the most unique ecosystems on earth and a growing number of producers are steering away from using pesticides and chemicals on their crops to ensure their survival. WWOOF is the acronym for willing workers on organic farms. Being the tropics, one of the most significant organic products in Hawaii is coffee. Coffee plantations are frequently looking for WWOOF volunteers. The deal is you help out with any agricultural work in return for food and board. As you’d expect, the accommodation is basic but the reward is an authentic local experience and a chance to be part of a community of like-minded individuals. WWOOF says that the experience is one of your own making; how you approach it is as essential as what you do. WWOOF also advises that potential volunteers ask plenty of questions to clarify their expectations about the volunteer placement. You don’t need specific experience per se, but you do need enthusiasm and flexibility. 



Dolphin Dreams Images operates a volunteer program filming marine life. If you’ve always dreamed of being a nature documentary maker, this could be an ideal experience. Volunteers can take on a four, five or six week placement working alongside full-time underwater photographers and videographers. Program participants will spend their days swimming with manta rays, dolphins, green sea turtles and the occasional humpback whale. 

The workload is four days per week with eight to ten hour days. Volunteers will need to snorkel or scuba dive with the crew in order to obtain the footage. There are also peripheral activities associated such as checking dive equipment and post production of films into DVDs and uploading them online. 

The job also includes maintaining video and photo archives. The most rewarding elements for volunteers involve education and research, and the collation of data on manta rays and dolphins is also a volunteer responsibility. The program also offers certifications for academic studies.



Haleakala Crater is a tourism drawcard. But you can give it an alternative spin by assisting the national park it is found in. Friends of Haleakala National Park operate two to four day service missions that include hiking, stargazing and cabin accommodation. The work volunteers undertake includes weed and foreign plant removal, native plant seeding and cabin maintenance. 

But it’s not all work – there is scheduled time for exploring the moon-like terrain. This is a rare opportunity to spend more time than tourists are usually permitted in a remote and barren landscape. Better yet, the conservation efforts reward you with a free nature encounter. Everyone from the age of seven up are able to participate and the trips take place monthly. The weather is very changeable at such a high altitude, so it’s best to come prepared for sun and snow. There will also be plenty of photo opportunities thanks to the glorious sunrises and sunsets.



Pacific Whale Foundation runs a specialist “volunteering on vacation” program that is flexible in its responsibilities. Volunteers can help at community events as well as on research, conservation and education initiatives. And it pays off beyond the feel-good factor, with volunteers earning credits toward free tickets on the association’s eco-adventures. Volunteers can also attend training programs and expert lectures on the marine conservation. The volunteer projects often collaborate with the national parks of Hawaii and community groups.

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

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