You’re on vacation, soaking in rays, snacking on pupus, sipping on drinks, yet something is amiss. Maybe a sense of purpose? Visitors to O‘ahu have multiple opportunities for everyone to pay it forward, while enjoying the island’s boundless natural wonders beyond Waikiki and learning about traditional Hawaiian culture. If you’re looking to do some good and leave some good on your next trip, here are five ways to malama (take care of) the island of O‘ahu.
Photo credit: Paepae o He’eia fishpond
Preserve an Ancient Temple
The Maunawila Heiau Complex on the Windward Side includes a heiau ho‘ola, a lava rock temple (heiau) dedicated to healing and medicine. Known as a wahi pana, or sacred and storied place, as well as a wahi kupuna, a place of the ancestors, it’s now the site of cultural educational programs for students from elementary school to college age as well as self-guided tours. Since Hawai‘i Land Trust acquired the property in 2014, volunteers have removed trash and invasive species, installed signage and planted gardens devoted to indigenous and medicinal plants, among other tasks. They still meet at Hau‘ula Elementary School on the second Saturday of the month from 8:30 to 11:30am; be sure to sign the volunteer waiver on the website before joining them.
Hawai‘i Land Trust, Maunawila Heiau Complex, Hau‘ula, 808.744.2462, hilt.org
Plant a Native Tree
Planting native trees not only beautifies an area and reduces your carbon footprint, it also protects coral reefs and marine life through soil stabilization and can help provide shelter and food sources to endangered native birds. There’s a cost to these tree-planting programs, but the benefits to you include guided tours of protected or private lands, learning fascinating native lore and boasting rights of a memorable hands-on experience. On the North Shore, Gunstock Ranch offers off-road and horseback tours that include the planting of a monarch milo tree. On the Windward Side, Kualoa Ranch ends its 3-hour UTV tour with koa planting.
Join a Beach Cleanup
Combine the health benefits of a beach walk with feel-good eco-friendly vibes by participating in a beach cleanup. Not only will you help keep beaches on O‘ahu beautiful, you’ll also protect its spectacular marine life — including endangered green sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals and migratory seabirds — from ingesting plastic, cigarette butts and other debris. or getting entangled in old netting. Surfrider O‘ahu supplies gloves and grain bags to volunteers at its beach cleanups held around the island throughout the year, and tracks data on collected trash. 808Cleanups also schedules beach cleanups throughout the year as well as events to replace invasive plants with native ones in shoreline areas and cultural sites, while Sustainable Coastlines Hawai‘i organizes large-scale cleanups on an occasional basis. Check the websites to register and sign waivers in advance.
Restore a Fishpond
Hawaiian fishponds not only represent the pinnacle of Polynesian aquaculture, they also provide welcoming environments for native flora and fauna in typically gorgeous oceanfront settings. Helping restore them may involve passing lava rocks hand to hand while standing in shallow water or removing invasive plants to help keep the water clear. Sites on O‘ahu that welcome volunteers on regular work days, with advance registration, include Loko I‘a Pā‘aiau near Pearl Harbor, He‘eia Fishpond on the Windward Side and Loko ea on the North Shore.
Care for Native Plants
Sure, you can hike to the top of Diamond Head Crater (as long as you have a reservation if you’re a visitor), but for another fascinating perspective on this ancient cinder cone near Waikiki, sign up to help restore its native vegetation every fourth Sunday from 8 to 11am. Or join volunteers tending to indigenous plants at the Le‘ahi (Diamond Head) Millennium Peace Park at the base of the crater, along the historic Fort Ruger Pathway, every second Sunday from 8 to 11am. Wear closed-toe shoes, a hat and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, and bring water and a snack.
More info: Diamond Head State Monument, Diamond Head Road at 18th Avenue, Honolulu, kanuhawaii.org