Hawaii’s warm tropical climate, abundant beaches, active volcanoes, and native culture mean it is not only a beautiful paradise, but also an excellent location to intern abroad. Comprised of hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles, the state of Hawaii has eight main islands and 750 miles of ocean coastline. The islands are home to numerous ethnic groups and the scenery is just as diverse as the population, ranging from urban cities to tropical beaches, lush rainforests, and volcanic lava fields. International internships in Hawaii span a myriad of fields, from working in ecotourism or marine research, to botanical gardens or hospitality.
While internships are available throughout the islands, the most popular Hawaii internships are on the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui.
Oahu, known as “The Gathering Place,” is home to the state’s capital, Honolulu. Interns can take TheBus, Oahu’s public transportation system, to get around the island. Summit Diamond Head, honor the military personnel who lost their lives during Pearl Harbor at the USS Arizona Memorial, or splash in the waves at Waikiki Beach.
Hawaii, “The Big Island”, is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Hike in Volcanoes National Park or travel to Ka Lae, the southernmost point of the U.S. The “hele-on bus” will get interns where they need to go. Locals joke that it is the coldest place on the island, so be sure to pack a sweater!
Kauai, known as “The Garden Isle,” is home to Waimea Canyon State Park, Nounou Mountain (Sleeping Giant), and the Wailua Falls. Public transportation in Kauai operates Monday through Saturday and is less frequently available on Sundays and holidays.
Maui, known as “The Valley Isle,” is home to Hana Highway, Haleakala National Park, and Lahaina. Those who intern in Maui can enjoy its most popular water activities: snorkeling, surfing, and windsurfing. The Kahului, Wailuku Loops, and Lahaina Village bus routes are free for all passengers.
Internships in Hawaii
While Hawaii internships are available for every taste, the most popular areas are environmental education, marine biology, and resort management.
Environmental Education is a great way to give children and tourists a greater understanding and connection to the nature that surrounds them. Those who intern in environmental education can work as teaching assistants and help engage and inspire visitors to embrace the Aloha Spirit. Duties can include preparing exhibits, leading nature walks, giving interpretive talks, conducting species identification, and more. Environmental educators are expected to intern between 20 to 40 hours per week.
Marine biology interns can gain work experience in Hawaii through hands on placements with threatened marine environments and species. A marine biology internship in Hawaii could be focused on either research or education, or both, in areas that range from reef conservation to sea turtle education. The minimum length of stay for these types of Hawaii internships is generally six weeks, but positions are available year round.
Resort management internships in Hawaii are extremely popular since the island is such a popular tourist and vacation destination. Tourists from all over the world visit the beautiful, tropical islands of Hawaii each year. Interns can gain work experience in Hawaii’s top resorts and learn the ins and outs of the hotel industry. Areas of focus include customer service, finance, and reception/concierge duties, but interns will also gain experience in marketing, PR, and business through resort internships. Interns in the hotel industry typically work 20 to 40 hours per week. Perks include beautiful ocean views and the opportunity to join guests on day trips.
Interning in Hawaii, a tropical paradise, is great for your health! Hawaii consistently ranks as one of the healthiest states due to great working conditions and low daily stress. Hawaiians are also known for their friendly nature or “Spirit of Aloha.” It’s customary to smile and say hello to strangers on the street, and the locals will often ask you to call them by family names, such as auntie or uncle. Hawaii has a diverse population, and Hawaiian and Polynesian culture, from food to architecture, is prevalent throughout the state.
Salary & Costs
A paid internship in Hawaii is hard to come by, but many internship programs offer academic credit. Hawaii does have a high cost of living, similar to large cities like New York City and San Francisco. A gallon of milk costs around $6, while gas is over $4 per gallon. A combo meal at a fast food restaurant will cost around $8, and a one-bedroom apartment generally costs between $1300 and $1700 per month. Luckily housing is generally included in internship program fees though. Flying to Hawaii is quite expensive, and will cost an average of $600 if flying from the West Coast of the United States. East Coast flights cost a few hundred dollars more, while inter-island flights throughout Hawaii average $70 to 80.
Accommodation & Visas
An Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors traveling to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program enables eligible citizens of designated countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Visas are required for individuals who plan to intern in Hawaii for longer than 90 days.
Other entry requirements for internships in the United States include: a valid passport for at least six months from the date of entry, visit must be short and temporary, agreement to leave the U.S. before the expiration of visa, visa must be valid and issued by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, identify as a foreigner, and comply with all requirements on visa issuance. In addition to these requirements, proof of a return plane ticket might be requested at Customs.
Housing is usually included in the cost of the internship program. Interns may live in dormitories or apartments, depending on location.
Benefits & Challenges
- Island Fever. Unfortunately, there are some downsides to living in paradise. Island Fever is a common complaint of those who have lived in Hawaii for a number of years. It is one of the most isolated, populated areas in the world. After gaining work experience in Hawaii, you may find it difficult to imagine working anywhere else.
- Population & Costs. All the islands that make up Hawaii are small and several are highly populated so traffic, parking, and the high cost of living are other common complaints. The good side is that Honolulu has an excellent bus system and is easily navigated by bike. Plus, since it is small, everything you could want from jungle hikes to soft sand are always nearby.
- Fun is Free in Paradise. Hawaii is a beautiful, tropical cluster of islands that offers many outdoor activities and a wide array of internship opportunities. Hawaiians are laid back, and a healthy work-life balance is important to them. With such a diverse population, the islands are full of authentic Asian cuisine, Samoan traditions, and Hawaiian history. There are regulations in place to ensure that all beaches are public property and billboards are illegal so the beauty and access to it are open to everyone.