Published: March 2022


March 10, 2022

HONOLULU – Is traveling to Hawaiʻi on your mind or maybe on your bucket list? As people around the world have found moments of personal reflection over the past two years about how they want their daily lives to unfold, traveling to Hawaiʻi, too, has become more purposeful. While surf, sand and sun are definitely still on the itinerary, there are many experiences waiting for you in Hawaiʻi that you won’t find in all the guidebooks just yet. So, whether you’ve been here before or planning your first trip, Hawaiʻi’s six visitable islands — Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi, the island of Hawaiʻi — always offer infinite enriching and meaningful travel possibilities.

Here are several ways you can redefine how you vacation in the Hawaiian Islands:

volunteers planting native plants

Participate in an Activity That Gives Back
While many elements of travel, in general, look very different these days, one thing you can count on as your travel the Islands is the transformative and positive impact on yourself and Hawaiʻi that comes from participating in a volunteer activity. Connecting with Hawaiʻi in this way during your visit and choosing to mālama (care for) its landscapes and surrounding ocean may even end up being the best memory of your vacation when you leave. Native Hawaiians understand the relationship between humans and the natural world as a reciprocal one; the notion being that if people mālama the land, the land will, in turn, provide them an abundance of life and care. With that crucial relationship firmly in mind, volunteer organizations and travel partners statewide are now offering a range of opportunities for visitors to engage in mindful travel through the Mālama Hawaiʻi initiative. Volunteer experiences range from reforestation projects and restoration of early Hawaiian structures to coastline cleanups, clearing invasive flora and more. Engaging with the land and culture during your visit leaves a positive impact for Hawaiʻi residents and visitors following in your footsteps, and will leave you with a more personal and deeper connection to the Islands.

Hula practioner by the ocean

Embrace and Learn About Hawaiian Culture
The Hawaiian culture holds in its engineering feats and nature-respecting practices passed on through generations many answers to questions posed by our ever-changing modern world. Other native Hawaiian experiences and activities, more simply and honestly, seek to comfort or rejuvenate one’s mind, body and soul. Both are very good things. E ala e, led by Hawaiian cultural practitioners at several resorts across the Islands, is a Hawaiian ʻoli (chant) welcoming the sun’s rise from the ocean each morning and offering all who speak its words energy and a release from life’s stresses to face the day ahead.  E ala e and other authentic cultural experiences — such as lei making workshops, hula lessons, nature walks, language lessons and the sharing of Indigenous knowledge — led by native Hawaiian cultural ambassadors for resort guests are reshaping Hawaiʻi’s visitor industry for the better in multiple ways. A large part of embracing a culture is learning about and understanding it. You’ll learn much about the history of the Hawaiian culture and its values at Hawaiʻi’s many museums and historic sites, including refuge and spiritual sanctuary Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park and the massive stone temple of seaside Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, both on the island of Hawaiʻi. Don’t mind getting your hands dirty? Visit the breathtaking Olowalu Valley on Maui to help plant native plants, remove invasive species, and restore the loʻi kalo (taro patch) at Kipuka Olowalu. On Oʻahu you can learn about ecological issues affecting Maunalua Bay with community group, Mālama Maunalua. Here you can lend a helping hand by removing invasive algae threatening marine sanctuaries in the bay’s nearshore waters. Interested in learning ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian language) or topics and history of the Hawaiian culture? The Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, a cultural values-focused nonprofit, offers visitors and residents trainings and programs exploring Hawaiian language, history and cultural stories.

local resident holding a pineapple at a farmer's market

Support, Explore and Immerse Yourself in Local
Another way to travel differently in Hawaiʻi is to immerse yourself in its local food culture, diversity of small towns and interesting districts, and community festivals and events. Take time to break away from your resort area to explore and support local towns, retailers, restaurants and more throughout the Islands. On Kauaʻi’s south shore, Poʻipū is a great small town packed with a variety of local restaurants and boutique shops, the latter stocking everything from mementos and artwork from local artisans, to antiques and Hawai‘i-made fashion and food items. While on Maui, stroll through the quaint, colorful own of Pāʻia perusing its intriguingly arty retailers, surf shops, galleries and boutiques. Enjoy a grittier, bustling and city-influenced vibe? Check out downtown Honolulu’s Chinatown district for a modern and traditional mix of restaurants and bars, small boutique shops, multiethnic foods and goods, lei makers, coffee cafes, temples, apothecary shops and much, much more. Hilo town on the island of Hawaiʻi offers one of the best spots to chat with island farmers and producers — and try their produce and food goods — at the Hilo Farmers Market. You may even discover a few things to eat you’d likely never find anywhere else in the Islands. (Fresh-picked jaboticaba, anyone?) Don’t miss an even deeper dive into the communities you visit by checking out their popular annual events and celebrations. Many of these keep elements of Hawaiʻi’s multitude of cultures alive and celebrated, such as the Paniolo Heritage Rodeo, showcasing paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) traditions, Lei Day Celebration, honoring the craft of lei (garland or necklace, often made of flowers), E Kanikapila Kakou honoring authentic Hawaiian-style music, and the Korean Festival and Okinawan Festival. The state’s many food festivals focused on Hawaiʻi’s bounty of locally grown, raised and produced ingredients include the annual Hawaiʻi Food and Wine Festival, held on the islands of Maui, Hawaiʻi, and Oʻahu, the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival and Big Island Chocolate Festival, spotlighting Hawaiʻi Island’s cacao and coffee industries.

Interested in absorbing some helpful knowledge about how you can travel pono (correctly) while visiting the Hawaiian Islands? Check out the Hawaiʻi Rooted and Hawaiʻi Travel Tips series of videos on our website, each spotlighting Hawaiʻi residents and Native Hawaiian experts and advisors making sure traditional elements and customs of Hawaiian culture remain vital, respected and perpetuated long into the future. Travel mindfully while you’re in the Islands and you'll be rewarded with a bigger appreciation of everything you see, discover and experience. You’ll also return home with amazing memories of giving back to the Islands sure to last a lifetime.

Visit to discover more about the Hawaiian Islands and all of its cultures, experiences, activities, natural wonders, parks, hiking trails, shopping, food and much more, as well as take care of all of your travel-planning needs for your much-anticipated Hawaiʻi visit.