Travel Experiences That Make a Difference in Hawaii
PHOTO: The scenic Waihee Ridge on Maui. (photo by Will McGough)
These days, many hotels encourage their guests to give back to the destination by holding small beach cleanups as part of their daily activities. It’s a painless way of chipping in for an hour, and hanging out on the beach isn’t all that bad.
The same goes during turtle hatching season. Many hotels block off the nests and even allow guests to help release the baby turtles into the sea. It’s a great idea, and as long as the activities are interesting enough, guests are excited to take part.
In Hawaii, a new website called Travel2Change aims to take that voluntourism concept to a new level.
The idea is to expand outside of hotels and into the local communities on Oahu and Maui, to partner with local nonprofits and eco-friendly companies for an active, engaging volunteer activity.
It goes beyond the meandering beach cleanup (although they do offer some of them) to fun, adventurous outings that pair restoration, education and preservation, making them feel like an organized tour—one in which you take full part. In this way, you are set up to do good, but you’re also guaranteed a good time and to feel like you’re traveling and exploring while meeting the locals.
Travel2Change has listings for both free and pay-for experiences; some are of the “clean-up” variety (beaches, invasive plants, etc.) while some focus on teaching tradition and culture. Here are five more examples that give you an idea of what Travel2Change is trying to do. Consider checking one out on your next trip:
Outing Description: This scenic hike through Honokowai Valley showcases an intact example of a native Hawaiian village. Along the way, help clear alien overgrowth from the rock walls and see the layout of the village while your guide shares stories to help you feel the presence of its former inhabitants.
Top Perks: Learn the history of the place that once included a native Hawaiian Village and its artifacts; Visit a site on private land that few get to see; and enjoy a sweeping view of west Maui’s from the Pali Hills in the coffee plantations above Kaanapali.
Outing Description: Run by nonprofit Lokahi Canoe Club, this program aims to educate travelers about the Hawaiian paddling culture with respect to the traditional practice. On this tour, you will paddle an outrigger down the Ala Wai Canal to the ocean in view of Waikiki, Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park and Diamond Head.
Top Perks: Learn to paddle an outrigger canoe; incredible views of Waikiki and Diamond Head.
Outing Description: Guava is tasty, but it’s also one of the most invasive plants in the Hawaiian Islands. Take a hike up the scenic Waihee Ridge Trail to help control their spread (i.e. cut some of them down), while learning about the threats they impose on Hawaii’s native rainforests.
Top Perks: Safely hike the Waihee Ridge with a guide; Check out the Makamakaole Waterfall; Pick and eat fresh strawberry guava.
Outing Description: If you’re obsessed with sea turtles and have participated in previous activities—such as releasing baby turtles back to the sea, or observing their nests on the beach—this will be a good next step for you. Run by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, this outing allows you to link up with local researchers and help them record data as the Honu (sea turtles) come ashore at Hookipa Beach, a famous windsurfing spot.
Top Perks: Learn what kind of data the Hawaii Wildlife Fund collects on sea turtles; help prevent other tourists from harassing the turtles; hang out with the honu.
Outing Description: If you’ve never heard of an ancient Hawaiian Fishpond, it’s time to get caught up. Hawaiians masterfully used these man-made ponds to ensure the health and sustainability of the fish population.
Unfortunately, invasive plant species have found their way into them—as well as the rivers, valleys and estuaries—encroaching on natural irrigation routes. This outing takes you to Heeia State Park where you will learn about the fishponds and remove invasive fauna (which will be chipped, composted and repurposed on site).
Top Perks: Learn about a traditional Hawaiian fishpond and work in the beauty Kaneohe Bay.
Courtesy of Will McGough.