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Hawaiian Environment from a Hawaiian Perspective

A drive across the mountains to a windward ahupuaa, a traditional land division stretching from mountain to sea.  This tour will focus on Hawaiian geological, archaeological, historic and ecological resources of Hawaii's largest wetland area.  Dedicated volunteers have worked tirelessly to remove invasive plants, open up channels in the marsh's islets to restore native plants and wetland birds.  Learn about many facets of the region, from bugs to birds, and history to legend.


Continue to our second site, a sacred temple build by the first people as an agricultural heiau in approximately 900 A.D.  Thousands of tons of rocks form this heiau with walls up to 30 feet in height in some areas, which is said to be the biggest and one of the oldest on the island of Oahu.  Surrounding the heiau were acres of taro patches. Efforts at this site focus on restoration of the plants that early Hawaiians brought with them when they sailed across the Pacific.  


The volunteer caretaker and educator, will provide an inspiring look at how Hawaiian culture evolved in the embrace of native ecosystems, (both land and sea) and provide an insight of their efforts to restore the cultural and ecological balance of  these special places.


North Shore:  Not Just for Surfers

We will head to the north shore to one of Oahu’s last partially intact ahupuaa, or a system of land use developed by ancient Hawaiians that extended from the mountains to the ocean.  This unique valley offers an authentic window into the culture, lifestyle and customs of the Hawaiian people.   The valley is home to a 150 acre arboretum boasting 5,000 documented species of tropical trees, plants and flowers with 34 different gardens.


We will begin our day with a traditional Hawaiian greeting, followed by a guided hike through the valley past archeological sites and a range of habitats stretching from the dry, salty sea shore to the cool, misty uplands to where we will begin our service project of clearing trails and replanting native species.  The valley is home to a vast array of ferns, flowering plants, invertebrates, birds, stream life, and Hawaii’s only land mammal, the hoary bat. 


Enjoy legends and stories of the valley and of the pohaku or stones with spiritual significance and leave with a greater understanding, appreciation and respect for Hawaii’s history, culture and traditions. Plan for a full day of service which will include a picnic lunch and time to learn about life in an ahupuaa, and independent time to explore the valley on your own.  Late afternoon return.
Hawaiian Culture, History, Food and Native Plants

Step into the past…Close to Waikiki but worlds apart lies Manoa Valley, a beautiful residential area of Oahu and home to a non-profit organization promoting stewardship of the natural and cultural heritage of Hawaii. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this historic site consists of a heiau (ancient Hawaiian place of worship), a native Hawaiian garden and a stately historic home.  With an expert guide, learn about the history and significance of this ancient Hawaiian site.  Restored in 1993, the heiau survives as the last intact Hawaiian temple in the greater ahupuaa of Waikiki and remains an extraordinary link to the past.  


While Hawaii’s indigenous flora is considered a crown jewel in America’s natural heritage, Hawaii also has one of the highest percentages of endangered plant species in the world.  See firsthand, plants that are on the endangered species list and other threatened or at-risk species as you explore the beautiful gardens featuring endemic and indigenous plants.


You can add a Hawaiian lunch to this half-day excursion, and/or additional demonstrations.

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Hands on the Land
View our sample itinerary

Explore Hawaii as you have never seen before, through the eyes of locals whose lives are dedicated to preserving the natural environment and Hawaiian culture.  Make a difference and give back by helping out a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring one of Oahu’s ahupua`a (land division).


You will escape and be part of a rewarding experience as you learn, explore and work as a volunteer in restoring the `aina (land).  Learn about Hawaiian values of malama (caring), kuleana (responsibility) and laulima (cooperation) as you give back to the `aina and community.  Depending on the need, help to rebuild a lo`i (taro field), clear non-native invasive plants, participate in reforestation efforts of native plants.  Enjoy an overview tour, engage in service work projects and assist in the rebuilding efforts.


The event will focus on a variety of topics to include the  mauka (mountain) origins of streams, the makai (ocean) stream connections, water quality, historical and cultural significance of watersheds and current projects and groups active within the area.   


Fishponds were originally created by the Alii (chiefs) as stocking ponds to raise fish and provide for easy access to fish during the winter months when deep sea fishing was dangerous.  The fishpond that we will visit is a unique natural resource that was constructed over 600 years ago.   It is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring and restocking this 88-acre ancient Hawaiian fishpond to its original state.  You will examine the relationship of the pond, its brackish water conditions, and its connection to the surrounding bay. 


Participants will then have the opportunity to drive upcountry to the mountain source of the water a native plant nursery specializing in rare and endangered species.  The tour will continue mauka (to the mountains) for a tour of the large-scale,  three year, riparian restoration project and will view natural fresh water springs and the ancient taro patches which are functioning and being restored.