The Hawaiian word "Mālama" means to give back. These 12 hotels offer some serious Mālama for its guests.
Visiting Hawaii is a dream come true for a lot of people. What’s better than roadside waterfalls, swimming among turtles, mantas, and dolphins, and sipping a tropical cocktail while watching the sunset? These tantalizing experiences have encouraged people to visit Hawaii for decades, and now these experiences are encouraging visitors to give back to this special destination.
Through the Mālama Hawaii program, guests are encouraged to connect with the land and the people of Hawaii. Mālama means to “give back,” and through the program, visitors who volunteer can receive perks from participating hotels including free stays, resort credits, free car rentals, and more.
“The most powerful aspect of Hawaii is not our incredible natural beauty or rich culture; it’s the deep relationship between the two,” muses the team at Mālama Hawaii. “When you learn to love Hawaii the way we do, not only do you help us perpetuate all that we hold dear, but you get to experience what it’s like to have a connection with this remarkable place.”
Volunteering during a Hawaii vacation isn’t just about educating visitors during their visit, it’s about creating a lasting connection with the people and the ‘āina (land). Hawaii has, in many ways, already been ravaged by colonialism, and these programs allow visitors to both restore the old ways of Hawaii while also ensuring there is a Hawaii for future generaitons to enjoy. Putting hands in the ground and planting a tree may not seem like a lot, but it creates a lasting kuleana (responsibility) in those who put it there. It gives visitors, especially their keiki (children), an opportunity to watch something grow over time. Here are 12 Hawaii hotels that allow guests to give back through Hawaii voluntourism and the Mālama Hawaii program.
Top Picks for You
The Puakea Ranch
WHERE: The Big Island
At this historic ranch and boutique hotel, it’s easy to get close to the ‘aina with its large garden and friendly livestock. Their Mālama Hawaii program involves adding native trees at nonprofit Terraformation’s flagship site in Kohala. This global organization is working to restore the over-grazed and over-logged area of Northwest Hawaii Island by planting trees and providing education.
Guests can plant their own saplings and then track their progress through Terraformation’s connected technology. In addition, guests have the option of planting their own seedlings at the Puakea Ranch property, which consists of 33 acres. Guests receive their 7th night free when participating in the program.
Wailea Beach Resort
For those into more crafty options, this South Maui resort offers the 5th night for free for guests who participate in a Hawaiian quilting class. Quilting is a big part of Hawaiian culture, and this opportunity not only gives guests the chance to learn more about it and create their own design but also to create something that will be donated to kupuna (elders). It’s a good option for the whole family, especially since this resort, with its massive pool playground, dedicated game room, and outdoor relaxation areas (that are perfectly Instagrammable) make it a great choice for families.
Sheraton Kauai Resort
On Kauai, it’s all about taking care of the shore and the surf. Mālama opportunities on the Garden Isle all involve beach cleanups, each with varying degrees of participation from the resorts and other organizations. Other Kauai hotels offer opportunities for self-directed beach cleanups and cleanup options in conjunction with Surfrider Foundation Kauai.
At Sheraton Kauai, guests can help clean up Poipu Beach, a crescent-shaped golden sand beach that is a favorite among, well, everyone. Guests can receive their 5th night free when they participate in a cleanup of this hotspot–the activity is led by the resort’s Beach Activities Team, giving guests more opportunities to learn about the area and care for the ocean.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach
One of the more unusual projects on the list comes from a partnership with the Genki Ala Wai Project, a group that is working to restore the 1.5-mile-long, historic Ala Wai Canal. The group is embarking on a 7-year project to make the Waikiki canal fishable and swimmable again using Genki balls that contain effective microorganisms that biodegrade pollutants and oxygenate the water. Each night of a guest’s stay at these chic, luxury suites will contribute $20 to the project; in turn, guests will receive a nightly $20 resort credit that can be used for parking or dining.
This decadent resort may not leave guests with much time to do anything but enjoy what it has to offer, but once they do they’ll have the chance to make a difference with Hawaii Land Trust. The work depends on the needs at that particular time, but typical activities include removing invasive species, planting native trees, and shoreline cleanups. Guests receive their 6th night free when volunteering. Hawaii Land Trust also offers regular volunteer days on Fridays at the Waihe‘e Coastal Dunes and Wildlife Refuge for those looking for additional opportunities.
The Mālama program at this 9-bedroom luxury hotel is as unique as the accommodations. Guests can receive the 8th night free when helping Haiku House and Common Ground Collective harvest produce from the estate’s grounds. The 3-hour activity is at the guest’s pace and includes a tour of the estate grounds. Guests will be harvesting oranges, lemons, avocado, and other in-season produce, with a portion of all yields donated to local food banks.
At the only real hotel in Moloka‘i, guests can enjoy true peace and quiet with views that stretch across the beautiful expanse of the Pacific at this charming property. This great offer gives guests 50% off up to two additional nights when booking the first night at the published rack rate (using booking code MHP). The hotel leaves it up to its visitors to choose one of the organizations on GoHawaii’s Voluntourism page. On Moloka‘i, that includes connecting with Moloka‘i Land Trust on one of their stewardship projects. This gives visitors the opportunity to experience some of the remote places that the organization stewards.
Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach
For some of the best perks in the Mālama Hawaii program, look no further than this cool, trendy resort that’s host to some of the best restaurants in Waikiki. By participating in the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative’s efforts to restore native forests guests can plant and dedicate a native tree at Gunstock Ranch on Oahu’s North Shore. For their efforts, guests receive an ocean view accommodation, a $200 dining credit, and a minimum of 500 Hawaiian Airlines miles.
Ko‘a Kea Hotel & Resort
Also nestled on Poipu Beach, recognized as one of the best beaches in America by the Travel Channel, is this intimate resort full of romance and luxury that is the closest hotel to the waterfront in Kauai. Guests can grab their DIY beach cleanup kit and take a long walk on the beach while helping to clean up litter and debris. What’s more romantic than preserving the Pacific Ocean together? Guests receive their 4th night free to check out the resort’s newly remodeled rooms.
Four Seasons Resort Maui
Another great perk that doesn’t involve a lengthy stay to redeem (though you’ll probably never want to leave) is the $250 resort credit at this classic luxury estate in South Maui. Four Seasons Wailea appeals to both families and adults–with the Kids for All Seasons program for keiki and an adults-only pool with stunning views. The resort credit can be used towards an oceanside massage in one of their spa hales, dinner at Spago or Ferraro’s, or any one of the incredible experiences that the resort offers. To participate, guests can choose Pacific Whale Foundation and Lahaina Restoration Foundation to give back to.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
Sustainability is at the heart of this luxury resort–it’s even created the Kahala Initiative for Sustainability, Culture & the Arts (KISCA) to highlight these elements throughout the hotel with activities, education, and other ways to give back.
The program includes a monthly Sunset Seminar where local researchers and professionals tell stories about current conservation efforts. To participate in the Mālama Hawai‘i program and receive 15% off a stay, guests can choose a volunteer experience through Travel2Change. Opportunities include self-directed beach cleanups and helping restore a native Hawaiian fishpond.
Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, Waikiki Beachcomber, Waikiki Malia
The four Outrigger properties (Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger and Waikiki Malia by Outrigger) in Waikiki offer the 3rd night free for guests who participate in the Mālama ka Aina Tour at Kualoa Ranch on O‘ahu’s windward shore. This immersive 2-hour eco-adventure offers cultural learning experiences and a variety of service projects from land to sea. Though the Outrigger properties have a lot in common, each has its own unique traits. At Waikiki Beach Resort adventurous vacationers are beachfront with the option of a club lounge floor and Duke’s Waikiki restaurant in the hotel. Waikiki Malia is a great value for families, a few blocks from the beach it offers connecting rooms and studio options to give everyone plenty of space. An activities lounge, dive-in movies in the pool, yoga classes, and other amenities make Waikiki Beachcomber a great choice for young adult travelers looking for something a little different.
Editor’s Note: Per the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Fodor’s recognizes “the proper use of the Hawaiian language, ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i,’ which includes the ‘okina [‘], a consonant, and the kahakō [ō] or macron.” The Hawai‘i Board on Geographic Names was created to “assure uniformity and standardize spelling of geographic names to communicate unambiguously about places, reducing the potential for confusion.” In order to ensure our readers the best experience reading our Hawaii travel guides, we follow the standardized spelling, but hope to expose readers to the importance and cultural significance of the written Ōlelo Hawai‘i language.