What to Do
Once you get off the plane, you’ve got to find stuff to do (that doesn’t ravish the ecosystem). Since DIYers typically default to what they know or have read about, you need the help of someone who can take you on adventures you probably never expected, an adventure-giver who doubles as an educator. Here is a list of recognized ecoguides and volunteering opportunities, with descriptions about the activities they offer.
Bike Hawaii’s ecoguides will take you hiking, paddling, sailing, snorkeling or biking to the remote corners of Oahu. With exclusive access to private properties, they show you parts most don’t get to see. They’ll also provide you food and transportation from Waikiki.
Hawaii Forest & Trail
Tour Big Island volcanoes at night or in the daylight; see the Kohala waterfalls; summit Mauna Kea; go watch birds in rain- and dryforests, or design your own custom tour. They also offer zipline tours.
Hawaii’s first zipline tour operator (and the first in the U.S.), Skyline offers zips down slopes on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai. Fly over Akaka Falls in a harness, or over Kaanapali or Haleakala. Skyline is the first zipline company to join “1% for the Planet,” a collective of businesses that donate at least 1 percent of proceeds to a local charity. So far, Skyline has donated over $500,000 to local organizations with an eco-conscience. If you’re scared of a little height, Zipline claims to have zipped “over millions” successfully.
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy protects almost 200,000 acres of land in Hawaii including Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island. Take field trips, attend classes or volunteer at selected protected sites; opportunities are listed online.
Jack’s Diving Locker
Learn how to dive off the pristine shores of Kailua Kona, so that you’re safe for yourself and safe for the coral you’ll swim around (learning ecoetiquette such as not standing on the reef to fix your mask, as that kills the fragile reef and impacts the ecosystem). They offer snorkeling and diving classes that range from beginning lessons to professional courses.
This fleet of eco-friendly submarines are active on Oahu, the Big Island and Maui, providing educational tours under the sea. Atlantis has developed artificial reefs using planes and sunken ships, because it’s both good business and karma. More reef means more activity, and it rejuvenates the ocean’s ecosystem.
Volunteer with Paepae O He’eia (Oahu)
This private, nonprofit organization cares for the ancient Heeia fishpond. You can visit on community workdays or take a tour, and volunteers can help maintain the 88-acre fishpond while participating in service-learning projects. Monthly workdays are also available, by reservation.
Sierra Club Service
Sierra Club projects include hikes to remove invasive plant species and exotic weeds or maintain some of Hawaii’s most beautiful trails up to Koolau summits on Oahu or the Haopili trail on Maui. With opportunities and volunteer events on five islands, Sierra Club is a good way to put some heart into your staycation.