Cultural experiences in Hawaii revolve around values of aloha spirit, or connecting with and manifesting the highest aspects of mind, body and spirit. One of the most easily implemented aloha values for groups is expressed through CSR and environmental and cultural stewardship, referred to as malama. Numerous experiences exist that allow groups to connect with this energy—from leading educational tours at Kauai’s National Tropical Botanical Garden to adding native plants to some of (1) Honokowai Valley’s archaeological sites in Maui. Though strikingly beautiful, meaningful CSR activities ensure groups leave the islands keenly aware that Hawaii is far more than just a pretty face.
Reforestation efforts by the (2) US Fish and Wildlife Services on the Big Island help the akepa, amakihi and rare and endangered ‘akiapola’au survive by providing habitats to the insects they feed on. In (3) Oahu, restoration of an ancient, 7,000-foot fishpond using volcanic rock, coral and other traditional uhau humu pohaku, or Hawaiian dry-stack wall building techniques, preserves the aquaculture, history and traditions of the area. Groups begin by working together to remove invasive mangrove that destroy the structural integrity of the wall.
In addition to educational tours, groups can plant and mount Polynesian, Micronesian and Melanesian tropical plant specimens as herbarium volunteers at the (4) National Tropical Botanical Garden, create botanical-themed arts and crafts from plant materials, or provide horticultural assistance at the (5) Limahuli Garden and Preserve. Or, book an educational tour at the (6) Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden and Sculpture Park, with 120 life-size bronze statues spread over 320 acres. May through December, the endangered hawksbill turtle is known to nest on nine beaches on the Big Island and one in Maui. Groups can work with (7) Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to protect these nests and maximize the survival of the hatchlings. The non-profit, (8) Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park explore Hawaii’s indigenous cultures and traditions through immersive walks over new lava fields, hikes thorough ancient rain forests and other outdoorsy group activities.
The Hawaiian ranches and local cowboys, called paniolo, offer another opportunity for hyperlocal cultural experiences. One of the oldest and most famous is (9) Parker Ranch, located on the Big Island. With over 160 years of history, the ranch continues to be a steward for cultural and environmental leadership. Groups can partake in self-guided tours of the grounds, where Parker Ranch’s two historic homes, Puuopelu and Mana Hale, still rest among green hills and windswept pastures, or explore the local scenery by horseback or ATV. Two venues are available on-site—the Pukalani Stables, with a large open-air courtyard and covered seating for 200, and Parker Ranch Rodeo Arena, with seating for up to 1,200. Add even more flair to these venues by arranging for pau, or female, riders to swing by in their colorful garb and horses draped in leis.
Local hotels offer their own cultural and environmental experiences. At the (10) Westin Maui Resort & Spa, helicopter tours over rainforest, ancient ruins, waterfalls and the Haleakala Crater amaze groups by day, while the Wailele Polynesian Luau and an inspiring array of waterfront venues are available any time of day.