Live the adventurous life volunteering in Hawaii! Discover beautiful volcanoes, white and black sand beaches, incredible waterfalls, National Parks, and giving back to a vibrant island community. Combine your travels with amazing volunteer opportunities in agriculture, animal rescue, teaching, geology, and many other specialties. Diverse on all accounts, this group of islands is home to several types of flora and fauna, not to mention people of all descents, including Asian, native Hawaiian, Caucasian, and Hispanic/Latino. Volunteering abroad in Hawaii is sure to be the rewarding experience of a lifetime.
While there are several different locations to choose from within the islands, most volunteer opportunities in Hawaii are located on the big islands of Hawaii, Maui, and Oahu.
Hawaii. Also known as “the big island,” this is the largest and southeasternmost island of the chain and home to a little over 185,000 people. Also home to Kamehameha the Great, who unified Hawaii around 1800, and Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world. This island has five volcanoes, three of which are active. Hawaii is a great place for volunteering in geology and conservation or the tourism sector. Popular locations on the island to volunteer are Hilo, Kona, Pahoa, and Kalani.
Maui. The second largest island, Maui is a gorgeous combination of a volcano, lowlands, rainforest, mountains, and coastline; keep in mind the climate can vary across these different topographies. Whale watching is popular in Maui, as there are several endangered humpback whales that visit the area. Unfortunately, much of the coral reef around Maui has been damaged by tourism and pollution, but that means Maui is a good location to work on conservation efforts. Volunteering in Maui also often surrounds community projects, such as placements related to the farming of coffee, sugar, macadamia nuts, pineapple, and flowers.
Oahu. This is the northwestern most island, sometimes referred to as “the gathering place,” and home to the state capital, Honolulu. Oahu is home to some of Hawaii’s most infamous places too, including Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, and Waikiki. As one of the best locations to volunteer in the tourism industry, Oahu is also ideal for those interested in volunteering in teaching, construction, and renovation.
Volunteer Abroad in Hawaii
Volunteer programs in Hawaii can last anywhere from one week to several months, and since English is the official language, volunteers do not need any language training to volunteer in Hawaii. The most popular types of volunteer placements in Hawaii are:
Agriculture. If you love working with the earth and strengthening the connection between land and people, consider a volunteer program in Hawaii in agriculture. Organic farming and gardening are popular ways to help individual families and larger communities learn about and implement sustainable agricultural practices. Hawaii is an incredibly rich source of all types of food and flowers, including coffee, coconut, pineapple, papaya, sugar, yellow hibiscus, and red ohia, to name a few.
Conservation. Due to high levels of tourism, habitats and animals all over these islands are threatened by traffic, pollution, and high rate of deterioration. There are several ways to help in conservation efforts, including marine biology, identifying fish and researching fish behavior, studying sea turtles and nesting habits, demographics of reef visitors, animal rehabilitation, and educating tourists on how to protect these fragile ecosystems. Volunteers can also help families with their own environmental conservation projects, including tree planting, trail building, and habitat maintenance.
Tourism. Hawaii is a great place to visit and relax, and many tourists choose to stay in top notch hotels or retreat centers, for example, a cancer retreat center or even a yoga and wellness retreat center. These volunteer placements in Hawaii tend to have volunteers work in shifts at the front desk, doing building maintenance, recreational activities, teaching, kitchen work, housekeeping, or even IT work.
Construction. If you are skilled in trades, you should consider construction volunteering in Hawaii. Population demand and renovation projects are frequently happening all over the islands. Help is needed in all areas, and volunteer placements are open to carpenters, builders, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, roofers, and unskilled assistants to help bring developing projects to fruition.
Costs & Affordability
The price of volunteer programs in Hawaii will vary depending on the provider. Some are quite affordable, and others more costly, but it will come down to the length of time you decide to stay. Luckily, many organization’s require program fees that include meals and accommodation, which can be the largest expenditure and biggest perk of volunteering abroad in Hawaii.
As a premier destination, Hawaii is not as affordable as other U.S. locations, but it is more on par with large cities like New York or San Francisco. A small studio apartment rents for a minimum of $1,000, while many other apartments will be closer to $1500 per month, with utilities around $200/month. Luckily, most volunteer programs in Hawaii offer some type of shared housing to reduce costs. Groceries can also be pricey, as goods are generally shipped from the mainland to all other areas. You can expect to pay up to $7 for a gallon of milk and $3 for a basic loaf of bread.
Accommodation & Visas
Types of accommodation commonly include apartments, shared rooms or housing, volunteer or dorm style housing, hotels, bungalows, and some volunteer programs in Hawaii even have the option of camping in order to cut down on costs. Quality and amenities will vary depending on location, but generally Hawaii promotes a high standard of living.
If you are American, no visa is needed to enter Hawaii. If you are from outside of the U.S., you will need to secure a visa and possibly a work permit to volunteer in Hawaii, depending on the position. These can take some time, so we suggest you start the process early and check with your local U.S. Embassy in your country for specifics on visa, time allowed, and what type of visa you’ll need to volunteer abroad in Hawaii.
Benefits & Challenges
- Adventure. The recreational activities in Hawaii are seemingly endless, which is part of why these islands draw so many tourists. During free time, volunteers can surf, snorkel, scuba dive, deep sea fish, sail, hike, and much more on the islands that easily facilitate active, outdoor activities.
- Tourism. With so high traffic to and from Hawaii, volunteers may find it a bit challenging to create a truly authentic Hawaiian experience with the consumerism tied to tourism. Transportation, congestion, and pollution can also be challenging factors. It will be easier to meet locals and develop relationships if you are volunteering in the less touristy areas/islands of Hawaii.