Join us on an epic journey through Hawaii, Fiji and New Zealand, recreating the path our Polynesian ancestors traveled in the South Pacific!

The who, what, and why of the Polynesian journey is not entirely understood by historians, although there are some agreed-upon facts that have established a rough picture of the narrative. Polynesians are primarily from Asian descent, and despite there being conflicting reports as to why they embarked on their original journeys, we now recognize that they were most certainly intentional and not accidental. Explorers took enough mating pairs, plants, and animals needed to establish sustainable colonies. Over the course of the next 800 years, they explored and settled every single habitable island in the South Pacific, including Hawaii and Fiji. Their final destination brought them to the shores of Polynesia’s largest land mass, New Zealand.

You will recreate this journey and learn all about the varied Polynesian culture, from the origins of Hawaii’s Aloha spirit to the modern-day villages of Fiji and Maori indigenous culture of New Zealand. You will absorb, explore, interact with, and understand the beautiful diversity and development of culture throughout the region. Your days will be as varied as the countries you visit, with a fusion of hands-on volunteer work, connecting with locals through interactions and workshops, unforgettable outdoor adventures, and seriously healthy doses of beaches.

For Your Peace of Mind

New Zealand has reopened its borders to vaccinated tourists. This means our Polynesian Journey Students can feel confident that this program is going ahead!


    Voted Best Gap Year Program


This Gap Year Program Is For You if You...

✓ Want to relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world

✓ Are interested in immersing yourself in Polynesian culture

✓ Love activities like rafting, mountain biking and snorkeling

✓ Are enthusiastic about conservation and ecosystem enhancement

✓ Want to enjoy the ultimate combination of beach time, culture and nature


Thoughts From a Former Pacific Discovery Student

  My Pacific Discovery trip was absolutely a life-changing experience. I not only had an excellent time and made 13 new best friends, but also gained perspective that changed the way I look at the world. Meeting people from local communities and learning about their way of life has inspired me to think differently about my own life and about those I meet. Coming home from this trip, I am more thoughtful, inquisitive, independent, and mature and will be much better prepared to handle what the future brings."  

- Emily Bosworth


Not sure where you want to go yet?

Our Program Quiz can help you find your perfect Program match! Or get the full Program run-down in our catalogue. This catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions and testimonials!

Request Online Catalogue

  • Service-learning and Volunteer Projects
    • • Roll up your sleeves at a permaculture farm practicing local farming techniques in Hawaii
    • • Participate in a project around food harvesting, dam reconstruction and border stone building
    • • Conservation project alongside park rangers at Tawharanui Regional Park
    • • Give a helping hand to a local Fijian community in Nasautoka Village
    • • Get your hands dirty during a sand dune conservation project in Fiji
  • Outdoor Adventures
    • • Explore Akaka Falls and Green Sand Beach in Hawaii
    • • Mountain bike in Rotorua, New Zealand’s mountain biking mecca
    • • Snorkel with majestic manta rays in the reefs of Kona
    • • Spot 40 rare species of New Zealand's native wildlife in an ecosanctuary
    • • Relax your muscles in natural hot springs and mud pools
  • Cultural Immersion
    • • Prepare a Hawaiian Imu feast where we take the food from ground to table
    • • Gain insight into Maori (indigenous) culture through an intimate Maori educational experience
    • • Get led by a Fijian local through Tapa making and a Kava ceremony
    • • Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture by learning about the heritage and history
    • • Attend a Maori cultural performance with a powerful display of haka song and dance
  • Personal Development
    • • Become a global citizen with a global perspective on environmental issues
    • • Work confidently and collaboratively with others
    • • Step up with confidence to new opportunities and challenges
    • • Transfer the applicable learning activities to benefit both school and personal life

**This is a guide to what you can expect to do on Program. The order in which the activities occur might vary**


Week 1. Orientation & Cultural Immersion

Aloha and welcome to Hawaii! On arrival in picturesque Hawaii, you’ll be met by your program leader. After a comprehensive program briefing, we’ll immerse ourselves in the epic nature surrounding our new home base. Our days will be spent hiking the local tracks for panoramic views, exploring the local town and its exotic fruits and veggies, and getting to know our fellow participants.

We’ll spend the next few days being introduced to the culture and history of the Hawaiian people. We’ll learn what life for this Polynesian tribe was like hundreds of years ago, and what it’s like today.

Week 2. Imu Feast, Waterfalls & Green Sand Beach

In our second week, we will embrace one of the oldest Hawaiian traditions, the Imu, a form of underground oven. We’ll spend a full day harvesting, collecting and preparing produce to create our own Imu and get to work creating a feast. We’ll ground taro leaves, set the stones and prepare the food whilst sharing stories with our local hosts and when it’s ready, we’ll get to work taking the food from the ground to the table, ready to feast!

We’ll spend the next few days observing the variety of flora and trying to spot the native fauna, and we’ll even venture out to Akaka Falls and visit Green Sand Beach. Beautiful Akaka Falls is perhaps the island of Hawaii's most famous waterfall and Green Sand Beach itself is carved in a 49.000 years old cinder cone belonging to the Mauna Loa volcano that contains the green crystals (olivines) that give the beach its name. Time to disconnect from the online world and reconnect with the outside world.

Afterwards, it’s time to get our hands dirty! While our first service learning project revolves around food harvesting, dam reconstruction, and border stone building, we’ll also be learning about the legends of the island, the local medicinal plants, and even take a workshop or two in lei- and dye-making!

Week 3. Sustainable Farming

We start the week working for a foundation that gives back to the community in Hawaii. This volunteer project is always changing depending on the needs of the island which makes it exciting and rewarding.

We will also roll up our sleeves for three days and get involved in the efforts of a non-profit while learning all about the legends and land from Aunty K! This hands-on non-profit was founded for research and educational purposes to discover and understand how Hawaiians sustained rain-fed intensive farming for centuries; and how it may inform our current efforts to live sustainably.

Our time in Hawaii is coming to an end. But not before a few days of adventure. We will be snorkeling in the crystal clear waters off the coast and also joining a manta ray boat charter. Snorkeling and seeing the manta rays swim gracefully underneath us is an experience that we will never forget!



Week 4. The Coral Coast & Dune Conservation

A flight to the Coral Coast on the island of Fiji means we are off to our next adventure and destination. The Coral Coast in Fiji begins 15kms south of Nadi Town with beautiful scenery of sugarcane fields, pine forests and amazing views of the South pacific Ocean. The coastline is a combination of bays, beaches, rocky outcrops and mangrove forests – from these, steep hills rise sharply into the nearby mountain ranges.

We start off in Fiji by getting our hands dirty with a few days of sand dune conservation work. Don’t worry though there will still be plenty of time to explore the white sandy beaches and mangrove forests!

Week 5. Cultural Activities & River Tubing

We will start this week with many cultural activities that show us how to live as a local, for instance by taking part in a Kava ceremony. Kava is made from the ground root of the yagona plant and gets mixed with water during a ceremony that involves traditional song and prayer. We will also learn about the process of Tapa cloth making and join a fishing trip, where we get to dabble in some world-class fishing, even if you're casting lines for the very first time. These activities will introduce us to life in Fiji. Activities that you wouldn’t experience if you were to just visit here as a tourist. There will also be time for some more adventurous activities like river tubing and some rest and relaxation on the beach. This is Fiji after all!

Week 6. Community Volunteering & Hot Springs

We head to the Nasautoka village to spend a week with a local Fijian community. Our days will be a mix of volunteer work and cultural experience. Aided by locals, our mornings will be spent helping out around the village with any construction or maintenance work and after lunch, our projects will be set aside. The afternoon is dedicated to local craft making, planting local crops, collecting firewood and playing local sports. Don’t forget the delicious local meals from breakfast till dinner. 

We will then head to Nadi, with a stop off on the way at some local hot springs and mud pools for a bit of relaxation after a tough week or volunteering.

Week 7. Relaxing on a Floating Island & Snorkeling

We end our stay in Fiji with a few days of rest and relaxation. We’ll take a private tour out to Cloud 9, Fiji’s floating paradise. This is a floating island with just a restaurant and jetty for sunbathing, snorkeling and kayaking on it. A total rarity! We’ll be surrounded by turquoise blue water,  a kaleidoscopic reef to explore, and picturesque views.

We say ‘vinaka’ and goodbye to Fiji and head to the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand.


Week 8. Bay of Islands, Conservation Work & Kiwi Spotting

We head up to  Whangarei before heading to Paihia in the jaw-droppingly beautiful Bay of Islands. We’ll discover this island paradise of golden, sandy beaches and charming small towns while we’re here, and even explore the Bay of Islands by boat. It’s also home to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the birthplace of New Zealand. Here, we'll learn how New Zealand's history was shaped, marvel at cultural Maori (indigenous) performances in the Maori Meeting House, discover the world’s largest waka (canoe) and walk through native gardens with spectacular views of Paihia and the many islands.

We'll make our way to the stunning Tawharanui Regional Park for our first conservation volunteer project in New Zealand. Tawharanui boasts some of New Zealand’s most beautiful white sandy beaches, rolling pastures, shingled bays, native coastal forest and regenerating wetlands. The sanctuary is a unique blend of conservation, recreation and sustainable farming within Tawharanui Regional Park. Our days here are spent participating in volunteer conservation initiatives working alongside park rangers and a local group of community volunteers, and our nights are spent under the starry night sky as we camp in this beautiful location.

While this week will be focused on a conservation project, the area we are working in is stunning and there will be time to swim, surf and snorkel. This is one of the best surf spots in the North Island of New Zealand and if you are lucky you might see the elusive Kiwi! 

Week 9. Hot Pools, Geothermal Parks & Mountain Biking

After finishing off our conservation work we head south, we travel to the geothermal and cultural heartland of the country - Rotorua! You’ll smell it before you see it… the distinctive egg smell is there because of the amazing volcanic vents, boiling hot mud pools and natural geysers all over this area! Besides taking advantage of our glorious hot pools, we will visit the spectacular geothermal parks – each one so different from the others – in and around the city. These incredible, surreal places will leave you in awe and provide the most amazing backdrop for your photography.

We will also get the opportunity to mountain bike in Rotorua. The world-renowned network of nearly 200 kilometers of mountain bike trails in Whakarewarewa Forest consists of expertly built trails crafted to suit everyone, from absolute beginners through to extreme downhill competitors.

It’s time to bring this Polynesian journey full circle with an in-depth learning experience about the Maoris and their discovery of the last – and largest – land mass within Polynesia. We will learn about their days spent on the water before landing on its shores, as well as how they developed and settled amongst its majestic and challenging mountainous landscapes.

The students get to choose their own activities during the last few days of the week, which is often reported by students as one of the program highlights. Ahh the chaos and creativity of the group designing and developing their own itinerary! 

Week 10. Wellington & Wildlife Sanctuary

The group gets a few more day to choose what they what to do and how they want to do it - all within the confines of the budget they are given. We then head to Wellington, New Zealand’s compact capital, which is a vibrant city with great shopping, museums and restaurants… and well worth the drive! We’ll gain insight into Maori culture through an intimate Maori educational experience at the National Museum and then head to wildlife sanctuary Zealandia, which is a protected natural area in Wellington. It's the first urban completely fenced ecosanctuary, where the biodiversity of 225 ha of forest is being restored.

Sadly, the time has also come to begin processing the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that the last 70 days have taken us on. We are sure that you will reflect on how amazing it was to have a chance to take a break from everything, learn about ourselves, but also prioritize time to experience and have gratitude for our own beautiful and historic culture and environment. We say ‘Haere rā’ goodbye to New Zealand and a farewell to our program friends


 *Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.

For full program details, please request the information booklet

What's included?

✓ All in-program travel and transport, excluding flights

✓ All accommodation

✓ All meals

✓ All expeditions, activities, excursions, volunteer projects and entry fees as described in the itinerary

✓ Experienced Program Instructors and local guides

✓ Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism

✓ Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves

✓ Certificate of Program Completion

Activity Level


Medium Activity Level: Anyone with an average fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this gap semester! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants.

Camping Level


Medium Camping Level: You will be doing some camping on this program, but you will spend most of your time in comfortable hostels and lodges.

Volunteering Level


Medium Service Learning Level: You will be able to make a difference to the local community during your stay. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and do some hands-on learning about local issues.


Frequently Asked Questions

Our accommodation will be a mix of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable, clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and Wi-Fi facilities will be available some days, except during the weeks in the field on the volunteer projects and on expeditions. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.

Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $10 per day for.

Food preparation responsibilities are shared by all students. It’s fun, social and often a highlight. An average day on program would consist of the following:

  • Breakfast: cereals, porridge (oatmeal), toast, spreads, eggs, yoghurt, fruit, tea and coffee
  • Lunch: wraps, sandwiches, salads, dinner leftovers, fruit, mac and cheese, rice poke bowls
  • Dinner: BBQ meat, vegetables and salads, potato salad, pasta, chili, wraps, fish and chips, burgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, corn bread, roasted potatoes, corn and bean salad, rice, curry, poke bowls

Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand

To make things easy for you, we partner with a full service travel agency that can arrange flights, appropriate travel insurance and post program arrangements for our students.

They have access to a "Cancel For Any Reason" or CFAR travel insurance for US citizens in participating states. This optional travel insurance product allows travelers to cancel for any reason whatsoever up to two days prior to departure and still receive a significant refund. This allows you to keep planning for the future while avoiding the stress and the financial worry of canceling a program if you need to.

Our program locations and itineraries have been carefully selected and modified to minimize risk of exposure to anyone outside the group with most being located in rural areas. This allows for a more focused learning environment, as well as a safe haven from the stress of our modern world.

We've been working hard and watching closely to any CDC recommendations about group sizes and testing requirements to come up with options that will allow you to have a safe, healthy, and stress-free Gap Year experience. We do the hard work so you can come and enjoy the fresh air, adventures, and new friends!

We have been running successful international gap year programs in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. The students shared their experiences in testimonials and wrote their stories down in blog posts - feel free to have a look. 

Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.

We have answered the most frequently asked questions in the FAQ SectionIf you still have any other questions, feel free to schedule a call with our admissions team for more information.

Spring Dates 16 Feb - 26 Apr, 2023
1 Feb - 10 Apr, 2024
15 Feb - 24 Apr, 2024
Fall Dates 7 Sep - 15 Nov, 2023
Duration 70 days
Program Tuition $14,995 USD Estimated Flight Cost $3,000 USD
Availability Open
Group Size 12 Students & 2 Instructors Ages 17 - 22 Ideal Covid-19 Vaccination Requirement Vaccination Required
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Start in Hilo, Hawaii
Finish in Wellington, New Zealand