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The cost of a Hawaiian vacation varies dramatically depending on when you visit, how long you stay and what you do while you’re there. But one way to potentially reduce your travel expenses — and make a difference at the same time — is to volunteer during your trip. Here are a few voluntourism opportunities to consider on your Hawaiian vacation.
How to Take a Volunteer Vacation
Ranging from just a few days to several weeks long, there are numerous volunteer opportunities in Hawaii you can incorporate into your trip. Although many people balk at the idea of working while on vacation, voluntourism helps you give back to the community you’re visiting and lets you connect to the area in a whole new way.
There are some volunteer projects and tours you have to pay for. Others are free, and still others will actually pay you for your time! In Hawaii, many volunteer projects will also earn you rewards at participating hotels. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
1. Volunteer on Workaway
Workaway.com is a favorite among travelers looking for new experiences. Host families and individuals post listings looking for help with specific projects, such as farming, winemaking, construction or pet care. They usually offer housing in exchange. Some hosts also provide meals and even a stipend for your work.
For this type of Hawaiian vacation, you might spend several weeks or months doing a few hours of labor each day. You’ll have the rest of the time off to enjoy Hawaii’s beaches and nightlife. With 137 islands to choose from in the state, there’s no shortage of possible adventures.
Project lengths on Workaway vary. Many hosts live on homesteads or farms, but there are also Workaway projects in urban areas. Some hosts are looking for au pairs or nannies to teach their children a second language.
The cost of a Workaway experience varies. In many cases, the only thing you have to pay for is the plane ticket to and from Hawaii. If the host doesn’t provide a stipend, you’ll also need extra cash to explore the islands in your free time.
2. Volunteer Through WWOOF
Want to get your hands dirty? World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a group of international organizations that help you volunteer on organic farms. They have sites in over 130 countries. As of 2023, there are 139 WWOOF hosts in Hawaii.
Much like Workaway, the WWOOF site lets you sort through different listings and find the perfect home base for your Hawaii vacation. You can filter the results based on the type of lodging the host provides, whether you eat a special diet and which farming practices you want to help with.
Hosts always provide meals and lodging. However, they never offer a stipend. You’ll need to pay for your own transportation to and from Hawaii, plus cover any expenses like going out to eat, taking snorkeling lessons or enjoying tours.
3. Volunteer With Malama Hawaii
If you’re looking for a shorter trip, Malama Hawaii offers free hotel stays and hotel rewards to anyone who participates in its volunteer projects. This program can significantly cut the cost of your Hawaii vacation depending on current hotel rates. Malama Hawaii has a wide range of projects to choose from, including:
- Malama Loko Ea: Help restore a Hawaiian fishpond. This cultural tour educates you on the significance and history of the Loko Ea fishpond, then allows you to get hands-on and work to restore it. Tours cost $50 for adults.
- Hawaii Legacy Rainforest Initiative: Enjoy fresh scones and coffee, then embark on a guided tour of the forest. Along the way, you’ll plant a native tree and get to enjoy the natural scenery. Adult tours cost $175.
- Battleship Missouri Memorial: Help clean, sand, sweep or paint the USS Missouri during your Hawaii vacation. You must volunteer for at least two hours. Volunteering is free, and you may get to see parts of the ship closed to the public.
- Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program: Become a community scientist for the day and help clean up Maiu’s coastline. Then, input your findings on the marine debris database to guide future mitigation efforts. Volunteering is free.
- Surfrider Foundation: Join a scheduled beach cleanup and volunteer with a group, or borrow a cleanup kit from a participating hotel. Spend the day outdoors helping to beautify Hawaii’s beaches. Volunteering is free.
4. Participate in Hawaii Volunteer Days
The Hawaii Land Trust (HILT) hosts weekly or monthly volunteer events on Kauai, Oahu and Maui. Whether you’re restoring coastal wetlands or cleaning up beaches, one thing’s for certain — you’ll get to see some of the wildest, most beautiful parts of Hawaii. Head to the HILT site and sign a volunteer waiver to get started.
5. Kualoa Ranch Malama Aina Experience
Located in Oahu’s Jurassic Valley — where Jurassic Park and King Kong were filmed — Kualoa Ranch offers a variety of tours. If you want a short, hands-on farming experience in this scenic spot starting at just $55, the Malama Aina tour could be a great addition to your Hawaiian vacation.
The two-hour-long outdoor tour emphasizes sustainability and taking care of the land. You might learn to clean, plant and harvest taro plants or thatch a traditional grass hut. The tour guides may also teach you about caring for medicinal plants. The tour is appropriate for children aged five and up.
6. Volunteer With Paepae of Heʻeia
This private non-profit group takes care of the ancient Heʻeia fishpond, the only Hawaiian fishpond fully enclosed by a wall. Paepae of Heʻeia relies on volunteers to restore and maintain the pond.
Every second and fourth Saturday of most months, volunteers can help move rocks and coral, haul floating barges through the water, pick up trash and remove invasive limu and mangrove. Staff will provide lunch. There are also weekday morning projects, although lunch is not provided on weekdays. Contact the organization on their website to get started volunteering.
The Cost of a Hawaiian Volunteer Vacation
How much does a Hawaiian vacation cost if you volunteer along the way? It depends on where you volunteer. Some opportunities are free, others charge for the experience and some will even pay you. Others provide discounts on hotels. Almost all voluntourism trips require you to buy your own plane tickets and many require you to pay for lodging, food and the tours themselves.
No matter how you choose to help, you’ll almost certainly gain a new appreciation for Hawaii’s rich culture, gorgeous landscapes and friendly people along the way.
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