In Hawai‘i, the term kokua is an integral part of the culture. Kokua is about giving to others without expecting anything in return, thereby strengthening the community as a whole. The spirit of kokua can be found in Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) Volunteers on Vacation (VoV) program, which aims to help visitors and residents alike easily find meaningful service projects to benefit Maui’s environment and community. PWF conducts advocacy work on ocean vessels and offers guests the ability to support marine Research, Education, and Conservation through donations and memberships, but VoV gives the opportunity to take things to the next level of conservation, doing. From mauka to makai (the mountain to the ocean), everything is connected, as Hawaiians demonstrated they understood with the ahupua‘a land management system that divided tracts of land from the top of the mountain all the way down to the ocean. What is done on land directly impacts the health of our ocean environment, which is why we advocate for volunteering with these organizations, whose missions match our own. Why not spend a few hours of your weekend or vacation giving back to the local community while enjoying access to “off the beaten trail” places and learning about the history and natural ecosystem of the area? There are several different sites and organizations you can give aid to, with various days of the week available to accommodate diverse schedules.
Haleakalā National Park
1st and 3rd Saturday of each month from 7:30-3:30pm – Volunteers are given free transportation and admission to the summit of Haleakalā, where you’ll work alongside a PWF Certified Naturalist and Haleakalā Park staff to remove invasive plant species or help with other projects to preserve this park’s native ecosystem.
Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge
Every Friday from 8am-12pm – Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge is a remarkable coastal area rich in Hawaiian history and bird watching. You’ll help remove invasive plant species and clear brush and weeds, helping restore critical native wildlife habitat while preserving one of the most significant cultural sites in Hawai‘i, once populated with two thriving Hawaiian villages, Kapoho and Kapokea.
Hoaloha ‘Aina – South Maui Volunteers
Every Monday from 7:30am – 9:30am – Help “Friends of the Land” maintain South Maui’s scenic coast. Possible activities include clearing an oceanside trail, restoring sand dunes, cleaning up litter, and/or removing invasive species.
Every Saturday from 9am-3:30pm – Volunteer with Malama Honokōwai and visit the beautiful and hidden Honokōwai Valley, an area closed to the public. Among Hawaiian archaeological sites, you’ll learn about Hawaiian history and culture as you help to remove invasive weed plants and possibly plant native species.
Every Wednesday from 8:45am-11:30am – O’o Farm is a unique and multi-faceted 8.5 acre organic farm in the forest of Waipoli in Upcountry Maui that provides Maui restaurants with locally grown produce, offering a true ‘farm to table’ option. Lend a hand with farm chores while learning about organic farming techniques and supporting locally grown food.
Hāmākua Mālama Day
Last Saturday of each month from 9am-12:30pm – Volunteer with the Sierra Club Maui for a community service outing to remove trash and keep coastal trails open on 267 acres of Hāmākua lands purchased by Maui County. The area is mostly shrub non-native vegetation, criss-crossed with trails, and surround by cliffs with striking ocean views.
Coral Reef Alliance
Second Saturday of every month from 8:30am-12:30pm – Clean water is vital for both communities and coral reefs. Sediment and nutrient pollution from land makes its way to the ocean, threatening coral reef and human health. Revegetating eroding landscapes with plants can stabilize soil, absorb nutrients and sediments, and prevent pollutants from reaching the ocean. As a volunteer, you will help the Coral Reef Alliance revegetate stream banks with native plants, create sand bag corridors, and take part in other fun stream restoration activities in the West Maui Mountains.
Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program
Any Day, Any Time! – Participate in Pacific Whale Foundation’s marine debris citizen science research when you select a beach of your choosing to clean up and fill out a data sheet recording what debris items are present. This allows our researchers to expand their data set and analyze the trends and patterns of debris on Maui’s beaches and shores. Pick up your supplies (gloves, recycled bag, datasheet) at Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Stores, or at participating retailers – Maui Brewing Company or Three’s Restaurant.
To thank you for your part in improving the environment and community of Maui, you’ll receive a free tote bag from PWF made of recycled materials when you volunteer for 3 hours or more. Visit the Volunteers for Vacation page for more information.