I decided to detail volunteer opportunities on Oahu because I think too often we visit a place without genuinely learning about that place. Having lived in Hawai’i on and off for over ten years, I can tell you what you’ll learn from touring Kualoa Ranch (not that you shouldn’t experience it) is far different than what you’ll learn from volunteering your time and working in the lo’i. If you don’t know what a lo’i is, this post is for you.
Volunteering can be an incredibly fulfilling way to travel, and countless volunteer opportunities exist here on Oahu. In this post, I’ll highlight six places to volunteer on island, including organizations dedicated to environmental conservation and animal welfare.
Whether you’re a local or a visitor, these volunteer opportunities offer a chance to connect with others, positively impact the world around you, and learn a little along the way.
Aloha Animal Sanctuary
Of course, I am biased, but my favorite organization to volunteer for is Aloha Animal Sanctuary.
Aloha Animal Sanctuary is an undeniable asset to the animals and residents of Oahu. Still a relatively new foundation, the sanctuary has done incredible things in just a few years.
Aloha Sanctuary is a haven for previously abused and neglected farm animals and educates the community on animal welfare issues here on the island and beyond.
If you’re on island, be sure to schedule a visit or (even better) reach out and volunteer your time. The love you’ll share with the animals while on site is unmatchable to anything I could describe. If you’re interested in the sanctuary and want to show virtual support, check out their online merchandise (website linked in title card), or follow along with each animal’s journey via Instagram @alohaanimalsanctuary
Paepae O He’eia
Volunteering at Paepae O He’eia is a unique and rewarding experience for anyone looking to connect with Hawaiian culture and support environmental conservation efforts. I first volunteered for the fishpond when teaching at a local charter school. The experience was rewarding beyond restoration because I learned so much about the cultural significance of the fishpond during my visit.
Paepae O He’eia’s mission is to restore and preserve the ancient Hawaiian fishpond of He’eia, which once served as a vital food source for the local community. Volunteers can get involved in various activities, including restoring the fishpond’s walls and waterways, planting native plants, and engaging with the community to promote sustainable practices.
Not only is volunteering at Paepae O He’eia a chance to give back to the environment and the community, but it also offers a unique opportunity to learn about Hawaiian cultural traditions and the history. Additionally, volunteers work alongside experienced educators and cultural practitioners who can provide insight and guidance throughout the volunteering process.
At Ho’okua’āina, volunteer work is interconnected with cultural practices and traditions. Volunteering in the lo’i is something I encourage every person taking space in Hawai’i to do.
During your visit, you will learn the history of Kalo and its importance in Hawaiian culture and a better understanding of the lo’i – an understanding that surpasses farming practices but from a spiritual perspective.
The program is open to people of all ages and skill levels, making it a unique opportunity for everyone to get involved and engage in meaningful cultural and environmental practices. Check out their website for in-depth details on volunteer opportunities.
21 Degrees Estates | Chocolate Farm
Have you ever wanted to learn where your chocolate comes from? Better yet, do you desire to be a part of the chocolate-making process?
I have the perfect spot for you! 21 Degrees Estates is a locally owned and operated chocolate and honey farm on the windward side of Oahu, Hawai’i. Aside from monthly farm-to-table dinners, 21 Degrees offers a unique volunteer opportunity where you get hands-on with chocolate’s beginning stages.
During your time volunteering you will learn about cocoa bean harvesting, fermentation, and drying processes while gaining a deeper appreciation for this precious commodity.
Full travel guide here – 21 Degrees Estates Experience
Interested in a beach day that gives back? This ones for you.
808 Cleanups is a non-profit organization dedicated to cleaning and restoring the environment. They aim to create cleaner and healthier communities by organizing beach cleanups, litter pickups, and invasive species removal projects. The organization is heavily focuses on education and community outreach.
Not only does 808 Cleanups remove waste, but volunteers are involved in planting native species and educating the public on eco-friendly practices.
Their website offers resources and information for those interested in volunteering and promotes upcoming events and fundraisers. So check them out to get involved!
Hawai’i Marine Animal Response (HMAR)
This opportunity is geared more toward residents of Oahu who can invest routine time.
Volunteering with Hawai’i Marine Animal Response (HMAR) is one way to help support the conservation of Hawaii’s marine life. The organization is specifically committed to preserving Hawai’i’s marine ecosystem. Volunteers and staff regularly works to rescue, rehabilitate, and release marine animals back into the wild.
Volunteers at HMAR have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities related to marine animal response efforts. This may include responding to marine animal “strandings,” assisting with animal rescues and transports, conducting surveys or monitoring, and helping with community outreach and education initiatives. For example, there is a beach by my house that a mama seal often sunbaths on HMAR volunteers routinely post up to ensure uneducated individuals do not approach.
HMAR also offers various training opportunities for volunteers to develop knowledge and skills in marine animal response and conservation. These training programs help equip volunteers with the necessary skills and experience to respond to various issues facing Hawaii’s marine life, such as the impacts of pollution, climate change, and human activity.