Hawaiʻi has always been a favorite vacation destination but most tourists don’t know that some of the best adventures NOT found in any guidebook and they may be missing out on some of the most life changing experiences that the islands have to offer that go far beyond the beaches and popular attractions.
Visitors have been eager to return to Hawai‘i to enjoy its natural beauty and the spirit of the islands rooted in native Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian islands are legendary for their stunning natural beauty, plants and animals that exist nowhere else in the world, and the tightly knit community of 1.4 million residents that welcome visitors with the Spirit of Aloha to the tropical place they call home.
John De Fries was born and raised in Waikīkī and is the President and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA). In recent TV interviews, he shared, “It’s time to reclaim all the things we love including travel and experience destinations on a much deeper and meaningful level. Hawaiʻi’s beautiful beaches are always a main attraction, but we have so much more to offer.”
Most visitors don’t know that the Hawaiian islands have amazing voluntourism opportunities where they can be part of a circle that enriches everything and everyone. In fact, through the Mālama Hawaiʻi Program, visitors can engage in volunteer activities working alongside members of the local community to experience Hawaiʻi on a much deeper and connected level, so they return home more rejuvenated and inspired by this unique experience.
De Fries says, “Mālama means to care for and whether you’re visiting the islands or Hawai’i is your home, we have so many ways to work with our community side by side and immerse yourself in our unique land, ocean, and unique wildlife projects so that you’re not just a visitor, but you can become part of the fabric of our islands as well.”
Some of the voluntourism experiences include hiking deep into Hawai’i’s forests to plant native trees that are being permanently threatened. Also, Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles and coral reefs are highly endangered and visitors can get involved in projects to replant coral reefs or self-directed beach clean-up that help protect marine life. Finally, one of the world’s most famous battleships, the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor, has a restoration project that visitors take part in to help preserve this iconic American treasure.
John De Fries concluded, “We’ve also implemented a reservation system for certain tourism “hotspots” like Lēʻahi, or Diamond Head State Monument, to distribute capacity for the well being of natural resources, visitors, and residents. Traveling to Hawai’i comes with a kuleana, or responsibility and privilege. A kuleana to not only care for the land, but for all the people and wildlife who call the islands home and we’re inviting tourists to join us in that effort.”
Hawai’i is home to unimaginable beauty and living things that inhabit Hawai’i are found nowhere else in the world and that is why it’s essential to protect the islands for future generations. To find about more about how to take a trip that gives back, visit GoHawaii.com/malama.