Published: February 2022

Explore Hawaiʻi through Voluntourism: Aquaculture and Reforestation Preservation


HONOLULU – 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.

Read on below for opportunities statewide to engage in experiences supporting the health of Hawaiʻi’s forests and oceans. It could very well be the highlight of your vacation.


Travelers visiting Kauaʻi can check out Surfrider Foundation, Kauaʻi Chapter – which provides visitors with recommended ways they can protect shoreline flora and fauna as well as marine life as part of its Ocean Friendly Visitors Program. Keep beaches free of marine debris and protect endangered seals, turtles and coral by participating in a scheduled weekly cleanup or a self-directed beach-clean up through one of its many hotel partners on the island.


Mālama Loko Ea Foundation offers travelers a hands-on tour of its 400-year-old Loko Ea fishpond. The tour allows visitors to learn about Loko Ea’s ancient legends, fish, give back to the land, and restore the fishpond through meaningful and fun work activities. The 3-hour tour includes a walking history tour, bamboo-pole fishing, stone gathering, and throw-net demonstrations. The Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative is a nonprofit working to reforest endemic trees and restore native wildlife habitats. Visitors can support its native-tree-planting efforts on Oʻahu by sponsoring a seedling and monitoring its growth in the years to come via RFID tracking. To make native-tree reforestation even more personal, participants can plant the seedling they sponsor in-person during a special tree-planting ceremony at Gunstock Ranch. A variety of experiences can be incorporated from a private picnic lunch to a horseback tour of the property.


Maui-bound clients can help conserve and protect Hawaiʻi’s native forests one zip at a time with Skyline Hawaiʻi. Since 2002, the company has planted over 8,000 native koa trees, replacing invasive Eucalyptus trees which are harmful to endemic wildlife and require excessive water. Skyline is just as committed to providing thrilling eco-adventures with ziplining tours over 250-foot waterfalls to sunrise views at the summit of Haleakalā as they are to protecting the environment. For those seeking a deeper connection to the Hawaiian culture by way of volunteering can do so at Kipuka Olowalu (the Olowalu Cultural Reserve). Located in the breathtaking Olowalu Valley, travelers give back by planting native plants, removing invasive species, restoring the loʻi (taro patch) and learning about the importance of freshwater flow and connectivity to the ocean.

Island of Hawaiʻi

Traveling to the Island of Hawaiʻi? The Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation hosts a monthly volunteer cleanup at Hale O Lono fishpond, a 3-acre loko iʻa on the island’s east side just outside of Hilo. Hale O Lono is still home to the many different fish species raised in it by early Hawaiian residents of the area. The foundation welcomes volunteers for restoration days at Hale O Lono. If you’re interested in learning about the island of Hawaiʻi’s forests, participate in a volunteer workday with the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative. The Waikoloa area is one of Hawaiʻi’s driest, while the 275-acre Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve within it protects some of the region’s last remaining native trees. The nonprofit’s mission aims to rebuild a native-dominant forest with a thriving ecosystem in the area.