During my Maui trip, I wasn’t just lying on the beach or by the pool; instead, I was standing barefoot in the mud after my sandals came off, dirt got between my fingernails, and, despite wearing one of those plastic ponchos, I was soaked from the downpour.
The state’s largest private nature preserve, the Puu Kukui Watershed Preserve in West Maui, is where I spent my Saturday morning. I participated in a group of around 30 volunteers who rose early to trek up a hill and manually plant hundreds of native tree saplings as part of the preserve’s conservation efforts in cooperation with the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua.
The preserve seeks to protect endangered native Hawaiian plant and animal species through its tree-planting activities. Increased tree cover protects the watershed from erosion and increases rainfall. The island as a whole benefits from a healthy watershed.
One of Maui’s wettest locations, the watershed is only five minutes away from the resort and provides 60% of the island’s freshwater needs. Rainwater eventually drains into the ocean and the coastline.
We also learnt throughout the programme about the cultural significance of these indigenous species, such as how Native Hawaiians have long crafted canoes out of koa trees.
I returned from my trip with a stronger sense of connection to Maui and a sense of satisfaction that I had contributed in some way to the place I was visiting.
I’m not the only one who wants to use my travels to make a bigger positive difference. According to the 2023 Booking.com Sustainable Travel Report of more than 33,000 respondents, 68% of American travellers said they want to leave the locations they visit better than when they arrived and to have holidays with “maximum positive impact.”
Locals worry about overtourism and its effects on their community at the same time. 67% of Hawaii locals responded to a study conducted in 2022 by saying they believe “their island is being run for tourists at the expense of local people.”
How can I travel to Hawaii in a way that is ethical?
There are many options to engage in comparable volunteer work while travelling, which can enhance your trip to Hawaii and help you save money.
In order to encourage visitors to volunteer with a nearby organisation and be eligible for a special discount from participating hotels, the Hawaii Tourism Authority established a programme called Mlama Hawaii. Mlama, which means “take care” in Hawaiian, was introduced as the islands began to recover from the pandemic. Free dinners or even a free stay are possible deals.
The programme featured 35 organisations and 59 hotels across the state as of the beginning of April, and it offered chances like beach clean-ups, reforestation activities, and marine animal projects. Those who are interested in the programme should make direct reservations through the hotel website and select the package.
In order to help you plan your upcoming trip to Hawaii, the hotels listed below have provided some volunteer opportunities.
A luxurious, contemporary hotel with a view of Ala Wai Harbour, The Prince Waikiki offers ocean views from every room and the pool. There is even an infinity pool that looks out over the water. The Prince is about a 20-minute drive from the airport and is situated on the outskirts of Waikiki.
A DIY beach clean-up kit, complete with trash bags and gloves, is available to guests as part of the hotel’s association with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. By clearing some rubbish from the beach and the surrounding Ala Moana Beach Park, guests can earn a free fourth night at the hotel.