Published: July 2021

Explore Hawaiʻi through Voluntourism: Wildlife 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 now offering a range of opportunities for visitors to engage in mindful travel through its Mālama Hawaiʻi initiative.

Read on below for opportunities on four islands to engage in experiences supporting healthy natural habitats for our unique and precious native wildlife and plant species. It could very well be the highlight of your vacation.


If you’re Kauai-bound, spend a part of your vacation experiencing Kauaʻi’s verdant and vibrant forest areas with the Kauaʻi 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 ʻiʻiwi bird and three federally endangered native bird species — the puaiohi, ʻakikiki, and akekeʻe — with a goal of facilitating recovery of their populations in the wild. Visitors can also view prior series segments via the Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project’s YouTube channel.


Travelers headed to Oʻahu can check in with the community group Mālama Maunalua to participate in a volunteer activity allowing them to mālama ʻāina. 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. Sightseers interested in an immersive, hands-on mālama ʻāina experience will want to consider a volunteer workday with eco-nonprofit Papahana Kuaola, sinking their feet into the satisfyingly muddy earth of its loʻi kalo (irrigated taro terraces) to do the good work of helping plant or harvest kalo, a staple crop of the Native Hawaiian diet.


Want to visit to Māui? The ocean conservation activities at the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation are a must-see. Visitors in the foundation’s Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program will want head out to Māui’s scenic coastline areas to collect and track debris — data recorded by the foundation helps to mitigate and prevent shoreline and marine life damage. If visitors want to participate in the critical environmental work of removing invasive species from Māui’s protected lands, stop by the volunteer restoration and conservation projects of the nonprofit Hawaiʻi Land Trust, which does vital stewardship work contributing to wildlife protection efforts at the island’s Waiheʻe Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge.

Island of Hawaiʻi

Visitors looking to be surrounded by nature on their travels are invited to join in on the work of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative volunteering to help restore and replant its 275-acre lowland dry forest preserve. Activities for volunteers include 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 uluhaʻ" style="color:blue; text-decoration:underline">Uluhao o Hualālai for a private eco-tour traversing the mature koa and ʻōhiʻa forests of 8,271-foot Hualālai 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.