Volunteering on Vacation in Maui
Ever considered volunteering on vacation in Maui? In these days of ecotourism, many travelers enjoy doing a little volunteer work while vacationing. Why? Other than the obvious satisfaction of doing a good deed and having a positive impact on the place you are visiting, voluntourism offers other perks: a chance to see areas that are not usually open to visitors, experience “the real thing” outside of typical tourist activities, work side-by-side with local residents (and gain their heartfelt appreciation), and create a unique vacation memory unlike any other.
On Maui, there are visitor volunteer opportunities suited to a variety of personal interests relating to land, sea, and animals. Here are some suggestions for fun and meaningful volunteer activities on Maui — and if you do any of these, let me just extend my own personal “Mahalo” to you right now!
UPDATE: This blog was updated in May 2021, but due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, some of the organizations and volunteer activities mentioned in this blog could change their operations. As things are constantly evolving through this pandemic, please check with these places directly to verify their operating status. Mahalo!
IDEAS FOR VOLUNTEERING ON VACATION IN MAUI
Malama Hawaii: Participate in a Volunteer Activity and Get A Free Hotel Night!
The Hawaii Tourism Authority has joined with a selection of hotels, condos, and non-profit organizations across the state to create the Malama Hawaii program for visitors. (Malama means “to take care of, tend, care for, preserve, protect”.) This wonderful new program was designed to encourage more responsible tourism by giving visitors a free night at participating accommodations if they take part in a specified volunteer activity during their stay in the islands. More details and a list of participating hotels on Maui here.
Lend A Helping Paw to a Homeless Dog
Are you a dog lover? Will you miss your pet while visiting Maui? Share a little love with one of the Maui Humane Society’s homeless shelter dogs by taking one out for an afternoon excursion! The “Beach Buddies” program is designed specifically for visitors who want to enjoy some time with a canine buddy—go to the beach, go hiking, or just hang out together for a few hours. You’ll be rewarded by seeing a very happy dog (see photo at bottom)! You are provided with instructions and all the doggy supplies you might need in a “beach buddy backpack.” Advance sign up is required. This popular program often fills up several months in advance…so make your arrangements well ahead of your arrival. Offered every Wednesday and Friday, by appointment only. Details (UPDATE: This program was temporarily suspended due to COVID, but will restart beginning September 1, 2021.)
Remove Invasive Plants from Honokowai Valley
Honokowai Valley in the West Maui Mountains is usually not open to the public, but you’ll get a rare glimpse of this protected area by volunteering to remove invasive plants, helping to restore and preserve the valley. You’ll see rare archaeological sites and learn about Hawaiian history and culture, as well. Every Saturday. Advance sign up is required. Details
Jump In and Clean an Ocean Reef
Tour boat company Trilogy has a wonderful volunteer program called “Blue ‘Aina” that both residents and visitors can participate in. Once a month, they take a group of volunteers out to clean up reefs, and the program has been successful in removing hundreds of pounds of debris from Maui’s fragile reefs. You’ll board one of Trilogy’s catamarans, head out to a reef, hop in the water, and get to work. There is a fee of $50 (which is donated to a local charity) and lunch is included. Details, upcoming dates, and advance registration. (Photo © Polinahe Photography)
Protect the Environment at Haleakala National Park
Hike into Haleakala and help remove invasive plants or work on other projects to protect the area’s unique eco-system. Free transportation and admission to Haleakala National Park is included in this outing, which is led by a certified naturalist and professional guide from the Pacific Whale Foundation. Bring your lunch and enjoy a picnic above the clouds while volunteering on vacation in Maui! Every 1st and 3rd Saturday. Advance sign up is required. Details (UPDATE: This program has been temporarily suspended due to COVID.)
Pictured: A Haleakala Silversword in bloom. This rare plant is a threatened species protected by federal law.
If you are into birding, the National Audobon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count is for you! This century-old bird census takes place in the latter half of December across the United States, including each of the Hawaiian Islands. The program relies on “citizen scientist” volunteers to do the counting. Details on this and other year-round volunteer activities.
Clear and Restore Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge
This is an extraordinary area along the island’s northwest coast that boasts some of Maui’s last sand dunes, as well as numerous birds and a rich Hawaiian history. Volunteers remove invasive plants, pull weeds, and clear brush to preserve and restore the area. Every Friday. Advance sign up is required. Details
Help Maintain South Maui’s Coastal Area
Help restore South Maui sand dunes, maintain an oceanside trail, pick up litter, and remove invasive plants from various public beach parks along the South Maui coast. Most Monday mornings. Advance sign up is required. Details (UPDATE: This program has been temporarily suspended due to COVID.)
Get Into the Garden with the “Weed and Pot Club”
Join this group of volunteers (love the name of this club!) at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens in Kahului to weed in the gardens and pot plants in the nursery facilities. Be dressed for garden work and wear closed-toe shoes. Tools, gloves, sunscreen, refreshments, and expertise is provided. Wednesday mornings. Details (Photo © Polinahe Photography)
The annual Great Whale Count in winter is organized by the Pacific Whale Foundation and gathers critical information to support the organization’s ongoing research relating to the North Pacific Humpback Whales that migrate to Hawaii’s waters every winter. Volunteers (“citizen scientists”) are stationed at a dozen spots around Maui to track and count the whales. A call for volunteers is usually posted on PWF’s web site a month prior to the event. Details
Be A Turtle Monitor (and More)
The Hawaii Wildlife Fund sponsors a number of great volunteer programs on Maui, including activities that track and monitor hawksbill and green sea turtles in order to assess the population, protect nests, and assist injured creatures. They also host volunteer beach cleanups, in-water reef cleanups, monk seal watches, and more. Details
Do Your Own Beach Clean Up
Some of the above conservation-oriented activities and other opportunities are listed on this volunteer on vacation site, provided by the Pacific Whale Foundation in partnership with various community groups and nonprofit organizations on Maui. In addition, the Pacific Whale Foundation will provide you with gloves, bags, and marine debris data sheets if you’d like to do your own beach clean up. So choose your favorite beach and go for it!
Maui Ocean Center (the fabulous aquarium in Maalaea) also hosts beach clean ups and other volunteer opportunities throughout the year, so take a look at their site for more information.
MAHALO FOR HELPING US CARE FOR OUR LAND, SEA, AND ANIMALS ON MAUI!
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Candy Aluli, Publisher
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