Hawaii Invites Visitors to Pay It Forward

Weaving an act of care into vacation time can turn a good trip into a great one.
Kiai Collier of Hawaii Land Trust walks with a hala (pandanus) sapling to a reforestation site
(Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman)

Connecting with a place is one of the great joys of travel. For many travelers, Hawaii is a place of connection, one that inspires both love and an urge to return again and again. In 2019, the islands welcomed a whopping 10.4 million visitors. 

But all that love leaves an impression, and not all of it is good. Tourism takes a toll—especially on small islands where the beauty seems infinite but the resources are limited. Which is why Hawaii’s new Malama (a Hawaiian word that means “give back”) program that helps visitors give back is perfectly timed for this moment. Through small acts that can be woven into vacation time, Malama allows visitors to put their love of the island to work and help protect both the land and the culture for future generations. 

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The Malama program is still in its infancy, but already has dozens of participating hotels, airlines, attractions, and nonprofits. If it goes well, Malama will grow to be a natural part of travelers’ vacations, a way to help travelers bring home something better than a souvenir: a deeper connection with Hawaii and its cultural values. 

Malama Activities in Hawai’i

This sort of Hawaiian giving back takes many forms, from planting trees for reforestation projects and beach clean ups to cultural preservation projects like ocean blessings and Hawaiian quilting. Many hotels are offering perks like free nights for travelers who book Malama packages. Examples of Malama projects currently being offered include: 

  • ‘Alohilani Resort on Oahu: The resort’s Unforgettable, Soulful Hawaii package includes a tree planting experience—part of its pledge to plant 100,000 trees—an ocean cultural blessing, and perks like a resort dining credit and ocean-view accommodations. 
  • Wailea Beach Resort on Maui: Participate in traditional Hawaiian quiltmaking. The finished blankets will be donated to island elders. 
  • Kualoa Ranch on Oahu: Kualoa Ranch’s Malama ʻAina (care for the land) experience blends education and action. Learn about the importance of upland streams and medicinal plants, then get hands-on with activities like thatching grass huts and clearing freshwater streams.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay on Kauai: Join a beach clean-up (guests choose the timing that works for them; all supplies are provided) and get a fourth-night free at the hotel. 

Find the full list of Malama Hawaii offerings on goHawaii.com.

Whether you’re planning your first Hawaii trip or are returning for the 10th time, staying at a boutique hotel or one of the Hawaii all-inclusive resorts, weaving an act of care into vacation time can turn a good trip into a great one. It’s also a great thing to do as a family, since most activities can be geared toward kids and adults of all ages. 

Editor’s Note: While the Hawaiian language recognizes the use of the okina or glottal stop, one of the eight consonants of the (modern) Hawaiian language and the kahako or macron, this story does not include the okina or kahako because not all computers are able to reproduce these markings.

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Christine Sarkis
A traveling parent and longtime travel writer and editor, Christine Sarkis is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of FamilyVacationist. She is the former Executive Editor for TripAdvisor travel magazine SmarterTravel.com, she has spent nearly two decades finding and sharing the best places to go with an audience of enthusiastic travelers. Her stories have appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her expert advice has been quoted in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, Here & Now, Life Kit, and California Now. Her stories have been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008, and she is working on a travel memoir. Christine and her husband first met in Paris, and travel remains a big part of their shared experience. With their two kids in tow, they have piloted a barge down canals in France, befriended llamas in Peru, tended olive trees in Italy, and gone snorkeling with sea turtles in Hawaii. The family lives in California and loves traveling around the state. Their California favorites include Yosemite National Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, and the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.