Three methods to get to Malama Aina throughout Hawaii for volunteers

If you want to give something back on your next vacation.

Malama aina or “taking care of the land” plays a central role in Hawaii’s lifestyle. Here are some activities and organizations that will help keep the islands as beautiful as they were when you arrived.

1. Learn about and care for Molokai’s beautiful land reserves

Tiny Molokai Island has no resorts or traffic lights – just acres and acres of unspoiled nature, including three land reserves that are being restored and protected by the nonprofit Molokai Land Trust: Mokio, Kawaikapu, and Mo’omomi. A total of 2,835 acres is owned by the Land Trust, of which it owns more than two-thirds, and visitors are welcome to help.

“If we weren’t out there to do the job and get help from volunteers and visitors, some of these remaining natural resources would be overwhelmed and destroyed by invasive species,” says Managing Director Butch Haase, who has worked to develop these areas for the USA protect last 20 years. “Plant and animal species would move in, invade the last remaining natural resources and deplete them. That would mean that we would lose the genetics of those plants, insects, and birds that are endemic and specific to Molokai. “

Molokai Land TrustBeach cleaning with Molokai Land Trust.
Photo courtesy of the Molokai Land Trust

The largest portion of the Land Trust’s acreage is the 1,718-acre Mokio Preserve on the coast, the former pasture that was given to the Land Trust by the now-defunct Molokai Ranch. It includes 5 miles of rugged coastline, the island’s largest shearwater colony, and Hawaii’s largest dune restoration project. The 196-acre forested Kawaikapu Reservation is home to an extensive dry taro complex and a historic food forest, mostly covered by alien flora that the Land Trust is converting into indigenous forest cover.

The panoramic views on these trips are spectacular and the working days offer visitors a chance to build meaningful relationships with local residents, but this volunteer opportunity isn’t for everyone. The land is remote and harsh, often with hot, dry conditions, and volunteers are expected to be out all day removing weeds, planting trees, or building fences.

“These are very isolated places,” says Haase. “We’re talking about up to two hours of commuting on a dirt road. But there is an amazing and unique landscape that you will not find anywhere else. “He adds that these jobs are not age-limiting; Rather, they are dependent on endurance and physical abilities. “Most of our community volunteers and some of our regular visitors outside of the island are in their 60s and 70s,” he says.
The Land Trust has also been hired by conservation organization The Nature Conservancy to remove kiawe, control weeds, and manage predator trapping at Moomomi Preserve, one of Hawaii’s last strongholds for native coastal plants and animals.

Volunteers are advised to bring lunch, water, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, and layered clothing. The Land Trust provides volunteers with hand tools, work gloves, and extra water, as well as recommendations on what to wear and bring with you.

Contact Haase with your availability at [email protected] prior to your visit to the island,

2. Keep it The Garden Isle in a Bontan garden on Kauai

In Kauai’s Lawai Valley, a cliff-lined stretch of land inhabited by the early Polynesian travelers, McBryde Garden is home to the largest collection of native Hawaiian plants on earth.

In its mission to preserve rare native plants for research, conservation, and educational purposes, the garden tells a story of ancient Hawaiian life as well as modern human influences on the island landscape. The hands of a robust network of volunteers support efforts to maintain these gardens and their 16,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art horticultural facility.

mcbryde gardenMcBryde Garden, Kauai.
Photo courtesy of NTBG

“We usually volunteer with one of our gardeners so they can work side by side, remove weeds and cut things that don’t involve power tools,” says Tanya Ramseth, member manager of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG). Volunteers also help move plants and potted plants, take plants from the nursery and put them in the ground. “If they can dig a hole, they can,” says Ramseth, but adds that there is a minimum age limit of 10 years.

McBryde Garden is part of the NTBG, a network of gardens that encompasses three lots on Kauai. On the island’s greener north coast, Limahuli Garden and Preserve features a collection of plants important to the island’s early inhabitants, as well as a forest where conservationists are working to replace alien plants with indigenous people.

The NTBG’s living collection spans nearly 2,000 acres and includes thousands of tropical flora, including many threatened and endangered species. Other properties are in Maui and Florida.

For more information, please call (808) 332-7324 ext. 232 or visit

3. Attend a beach cleanup

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to give back to the islands, there’s no better way than to voluntarily ditch one of the biggest tourist attractions: the beaches.

big left monthVolunteers clean up Kahului, Maui.
Photo courtesy of Malama Maui Nui

All over Hawaii, nonprofits organize monthly events (sometimes more frequently). Sustainable Coastal Hawaii coordinates frequent beach cleanings across the state. The Waikiki Ohana Workforce performs three to four cleanups on Waikiki Beach each year in April, June, and October. On the Valley Island, Malama Maui Nui organizes year-round cleanups and encourages others to create their own.

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