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Enjoy a fulfilling vacation in Hawaii with the Malama program that lets you give back
 | Local News

Enjoy a fulfilling vacation in Hawaii with the Malama program that lets you give back
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It’s not long after dawn on a late July morning in Honolulu, and my friend Julie and I are starting our workouts early. We’re not at the gym, but at the beach, repetitively bending over to pick up other people’s trash.

Our gloved hands dig into the silken sand to find tiny bits of single-use plastic, sushi wrappers, countless straws and, unsurprisingly, an array of face masks. The enthusiastic return of tourists to the Hawaiian Islands has been mixed – refueling the local economy and breathing life into the tourism industry, but also impacting the environment. More people equals more waste.

Enjoy a fulfilling vacation in Hawaii with the Malama program that lets you give back
 | Local NewsBeach cleanup in Honolulu — Photo credited Wendy O’Dea

Julie and I signed up for the DIY beach cleanup through a sustainable hotel package at Prince Waikiki. The property is one of several hotels and attractions that have partnered with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as part of the Mālama Hawaii initiative, which encourages visitors to help protect and preserve the earth. Those who volunteer for mālama or “give back” can receive discounts, gifts and even free hotel nights, not to mention shed some light on the dark days of the past couple of years.

When Julie and I checked into Prince Waikiki, we received a do-it-yourself beach clean-up kit in a canvas tote containing a sturdy garbage collection bag, heavy-duty gloves and a gift of utensils wooden containers to take home. The Prince also offers a fourth night free for mālama volunteers, as do a number of other properties in the Hawaiian Islands, including many five-star luxury hotels. We were asked to spend a few hours, a day and a time that suited us, safely cleaning one of the beaches on the island.

Enjoy a fulfilling vacation in Hawaii with the Malama program that lets you give back
 | Local News

DIY Beach Cleanup in O’ahu — Photo credited Wendy O’Dea

If we had stayed longer, we would have looked for other mālama opportunities. Volunteer experiences include habitat stewardship, sustainable agriculture, planting trees to help reforestation efforts, and maintaining historic sites – like cleaning, sanding, sweeping, and painting the Battleship Missouri Memorial. Most of these activities are outdoors and COVID safe.

“Our demand is that travelers to O’ahu engage, connect and understand the aloha spirit by respecting our communities and values, and caring for the very destination they are visiting,” said Noelani Schilling- Wheeler, executive director of the O’ahu Visitors Bureau. “Mālama Hawai’i allows our customers to have a more meaningful experience and bring the importance of mālama back to their own communities. »

Lisa Schumacher and her teenage son, visitors from Los Angeles, chose to participate in the Mālama Experience at O’ahu’s Kualoa Ranch, a popular tourist attraction on the northeast coast of the island. The two-hour sustainable eco-adventure in Kualoa includes teaching participants about the importance of taro from a cultural and sustainable perspective. As part of the experiment, which they paid for, Schumacher and his son waded through the black, muddy taro patches to weed the berms where the taro grows.

Enjoy a fulfilling vacation in Hawaii with the Malama program that lets you give back
 | Local News

Maintenance of taro plates at Kualoa Ranch — Photo courtesy of Lisa Schumacher

“I liked the idea of ​​exploring something that is relevant to the people of Hawaii,” Schumacher said. “Not only was I interested in learning more about the environmental issues related to Hawaiian agriculture, but with everything that’s happened in the last year, I’m trying to be more attentive to other people’s experiences. And I want to expose my son to being of service to others, even when we’re on vacation, and why that’s important.

Traveler volunteerism – often referred to as regenerative tourism or sustainable tourism – has increased over the past decade, but the pandemic appears to have reignited interest in experiences that strengthen the interconnectedness of us all.

Enjoy a fulfilling vacation in Hawaii with the Malama program that lets you give back
 | Local News

Author cleans up Waikiki beaches — Photo courtesy of Wendy O’Dea

In fact, respondents to a recent survey conducted by Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel advisors, determined that 78% (eight out of 10) of their customers think it’s important to choose hotels, cruise lines and travel agencies that have a strong sustainability policy. And 82% of respondents say they want to travel more responsibly due to the pandemic. Mālama Hawaii offers the opportunity to do just that.

As Julie and I finished our beach cleanup, a wave of satisfaction washed over us and a light cleansing rain began to fall, washing away the sweat from the heat, humidity and physical activity. “It was awesome,” Julie said, “I know it wasn’t a big effort, but I feel like it made a difference. It’s malama.

Enjoy a fulfilling vacation in Hawaii with the Malama program that lets you give back
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