High School Programs in Hawaii

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A Guide to High School Programs Abroad in Hawaii

There is nothing quite like the Hawaiian experience. The dazzling beauty of the islands, combined with the native Hawaiian culture and Asian influence, make Hawaii one of the most exotic and diverse U.S. states. High school programs in Hawaii can provide students with valuable exposure to everything from conservation and marine life to farming, geology, ecotourism, and resort management. The incredible recreation offered in Hawaii also means that high school students are sure to have plenty of opportunities for adventure, as they foster an early appreciation for meaningful travel.


Hawaii is the largest island in the chain, followed by Maui, Oahu, and Kauai. As the product of volcanic activity, this region is alive with movement and new growth, mostly near the “big island,” which is located over a volcanic hotspot. Each of the eight islands offers its own Hawaiian experience, ranging from opportunities to visit historical landmarks, learn about native traditions, sample local cuisine, and attend cultural activities.  

Hawaii. With over 185,000 people, the “big island” is home to Mauna Kea, five volcanoes, and world-famous black and white sand beaches. Many high school programs in Hawaii, especially in the summer, will spend at least some time on the island of Hawaii. The largest cities on the island are Hilo and Kailua-Kona. There are a number of high school program opportunities in Hawaii, and as one of the more heavily traveled tourist destinations, the islands offers tons of recreational activities to create incredible program experiences.

Maui. A stunning combination of coastline, rainforest, and mountains, Maui is the next best place to look for high school programs in Hawaii. Since the surrounding reef network has been damaged by pollution and human traffic due to tourism, Maui is an especially opportune place for high school students interested in conservation, sustainability, and the marine sciences. Marine life around the island of Maui is diverse and abundant; for example, endangered humpback whales are known to visit the area surrounding the island frequently.

Oahu. Home to Honolulu, the state capital, this welcoming island offers multiple high school program options. Some popular destinations for student travel in Oahu include Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, and Waikiki. Students interested in studying or working in tourism and hospitality will find plenty of opportunities for learning in Oahu, as well as exposure to a variety of activities and businesses.

High School Programs in Hawaii

Most high school programs in Hawaii are centered on language learning, community service, outdoor adventure, or a combination of all three. There is usually no experience required to participate, except a desire to explore and experience life in Hawaii.

Language Immersion focused high school programs in Hawaii usually entail living in a homestay, to provide maximum exposure to native English speakers. Some programs offer advanced, private English lessons as well, to challenge students to reach their true speaking potential. Types of English taught through language programs in Hawaii can vary from beginner English to business English, or other specialized topics.

Community Service. High school programs in Hawaii focused on community service and volunteering include running day camps, helping with building construction and maintenance, and getting involved in environmental conservation projects. Sometimes recreational activities, such as surfing lessons, are built into volunteer programs too.

Adventure Travel. With so much to do in terms of recreation, some high school programs in Hawaii offer special tour activities for students to get up close and personal with the wonderful outdoors. Adventure programs are highly active and can be very physically demanding. Possible activities include hiking, climbing, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, biking, and kayaking.

Scholarships & Costs

High school programs in Hawaii can be costly, but luckily there are programs of various lengths, which also means various costs. Thankfully, high school students will have the opportunity to apply for scholarships, and sometimes financial aid, to assist them in covering the costs of high school programs in Hawaii.

As one of the premiere travel destinations in the world, the cost of living in Hawaii is definitely more expensive than the average American city. Food is typically pricey, as goods are generally shipped from the mainland to all other areas. Luckily, most high school programs in Hawaii are comprehensive packages, which usually include food and accommodation costs in program fees.

Accommodation & Visas

Students who choose a high school program that provides accommodation via local host families will generally have their own rooms and be provided with daily meals, as part of program packages. More travel focused programs tend to offer hotel, apartment, or shared room accommodation more frequently. Quality and amenities available will vary by location, but Hawaii possesses a relatively high standard of living, especially in larger cities.

If you are American, no visa is needed to participate in a high school program in Hawaii. If you are from outside of the U.S., you may be able to enter on a tourist visa, otherwise you may need to secure a student visa, depending on the length and structure of your program. The visa process in the U.S. and be strict and take some time, so students should start the process as early as possible.

Benefits & Challenges

Costs. High school programs in Hawaii can come with an intimidating price tag. If you are interested in traveling to Hawaii, but don’t have the finances, think about asking family and friends to help financially support your trip; you could even set up an online campaign or Facebook page dedicated to fundraising for your travels.

Distance. The Hawaiian islands are quite secluded, and it may take some time to get used to being so far away from your family. Luckily, as a highly developed region, there are plenty of resources to help you stay connected to loved ones back home, including easy access to internet, email, and video chat.

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A Guide To
High School Programs Abroad in Hawaii


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