Why Volunteering at Papahana Kuaola Should Be on Your Bucket List

Why Volunteering at Papahana Kuaola Should Be on Your Bucket List

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View of the Papahana Kuaola sign at the main building near the meeting site.

Papahana Kuaola Information

Papahana Kuaola is an environmental education organization located in Hawaii, particularly in the Ahupua’a of He’eia in the Ko’olaupoko district on the island of O’ahu. They typically work towards cultural and ecological restoration, revitalization, and education in Hawaii.

Papahana Kuaola’s mission is to connect the area’s culture, community, and economy with the land, water, and people. This could involve organizing workshops on sustainable farming practices, managing community-based restoration projects (such as the one I did), or hosting cultural education programs for schools.

Established as a non-profit in 2006, Papahana Kuaola is pretty new to the game; however, they have exploded in popularity due to their large scale and passion for protecting the land and what it provides.

How To Reserve A Volunteer Slot

Papahana Kuaola makes signing up to volunteer easy and simple. Navigate to their website and click on the volunteer tab near the top. After that, you can read about the tools or equipment you may need and proceed to RSVP for an event of your choice; Papahana Kuaola asks that all those who want to volunteer must RSVP on their site due to safety and limited spaces.

2 days before the event, I was sent this email with a reminder of the data and time of my reservation and I was also given my tickets for the event. If you’ve never used digital tickets before, simply click Add To Wallet and you can easily access them through the Wallet app on your iPhone.

Why Volunteering at Papahana Kuaola Should Be on Your Bucket List

How To Get To The Volunteer Site

Located at 46-403 Haiku Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744, Papahana Kuaola is tucked in the valley between neighborhoods. I recommend simply using the GPS instead of trying to figure out where to go.

Why Volunteering at Papahana Kuaola Should Be on Your Bucket List

While it’s hidden away from the general public, Papahana Kuaola is a lush and green oasis of native plants and well-maintained lands that include streams and Lo’i. Volunteers can choose to help in the assortment of Lo’i or do a stream restoration and cleaning.

As you travel to the volunteer location, you will come across a gate near the school with a yellow waste bin placed nearby; go through the gate if it’s open, and continue until you reach the well-labeled site.

Why Volunteering at Papahana Kuaola Should Be on Your Bucket List

What Can You Expect?

Volunteers who choose to work on stream restoration will be there from 9 am to approximately 12 pm. Only around 15 minutes or so were spent walking to the location and doing introductions; once we got situated, everyone took the initiative and proceeded with their work.

On the day that I went, we spent our time near the lower end of the stream and helped to get rid of various invasive plants that were creeping into the river. We were educated on both the invasive and native plants that were found here, along with facts and interesting stories about them

Why Volunteering at Papahana Kuaola Should Be on Your Bucket List

In terms of needed equipment, simply bring clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or muddy and shoes that can drain well. Other than those few items, we were provided with an assortment of tools and plenty of gloves for hands of all sizes.

While you’re standing in the cool water the whole time and a lot of the location is shady, you need to bring one or two water bottles because work like this is very strenuous and will drain your energy pretty fast.

Why Volunteering at Papahana Kuaola Should Be on Your Bucket List

If you are thinking of volunteering here, it’s important to note that this isn’t easy work; you will be in the stream the whole time and there is a lot of work to be done in removing invasive plants. If you’re coming with younger children, consider one of Papahana Kuaola’s other experiences aimed toward the younger generation.

Unique Aspects Of This Volunteer Program

Something that sets Papahana Kuaola apart from the rest is their special location; being nestled between the ridges of the Ko’olau mountain range means that they get plenty of rain. The entire property is lusciously green and life can be found in every nook and cranny of the ponds, grassy fields, and lo’i.

Why Volunteering at Papahana Kuaola Should Be on Your Bucket List

Something else that sets Papahana Kuaola apart is its extensive knowledge and appreciation of Hawaiian culture and practices. This is clear to see by the way all of the employees act and talk about Hawaii. There were people in our group who were visiting from California and our guide was patient and helped answer any questions they had about Hawaiian culture and ideology.

Having knowledge about what you’re teaching is necessary to gaining trust and in turn, educating those who don’t know. If you’re looking to level up your own knowledge about Hawaiian culture, consider volunteering here or reading some of our best picks for books that cover Hawaiian culture.

Final Thoughts

In summary, Papahana Kuaola is one of the best places to volunteer on the Windward side of Oahu. The location is unbeatable and the community that they have built is strong. Not only was my experience a good form of exercise, but I felt like I had made a difference to the stream no matter how small it may be.


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