This 6-week semester program offers you an enriching and inspiring experience in Hawaii. It combines service-learning and conservation projects with amazing educational adventure travel and heaps of fun in the sun and sea. Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture and authentic outrigger canoe paddling. Discover Hawaii’s fascinating ocean and mountain landscape and explore incredible jungle, volcanoes, and beaches. Gain skills with lessons in sustainability, conservation, and the environment.
Facilitated by our supportive and experienced Program Instructors, this is an excellent opportunity for students wanting to develop personal and leadership skills, have new experiences and challenge themselves, be immersed in unique environments and learn about sustainability - not to mention, have an insane amount of fun!
The program is open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.
Or maybe you want to go further afield? Have a look at our Costa Rica MiniMester
Check out the highlights from last semester
Aloha! On arrival to Kona, you will be met by your program instructors. 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 town and its exotic fruits and veggies, and getting to know our fellow participants. We’ve got a week of sun, sea and sand to get us started!
It’s time to get our first round of surf camp underway! We’ll spend a day learning the basics so that we can feel comfortable in the water. Can you consider yourself to truly understand the culture of Hawaii if you don’t get on a board and walk the walk? Or more aptly, surf the surf? We’ll learn to laugh at ourselves as we no-doubt tumble into the turquoise waters and we’ll learn to trust ourselves as we slowly develop the skills and strengths needed to master this graceful art. Our afternoons here will see us snorkelling with fishes, walking local tracks to secluded beach spots, and making the most of the chilled out sunshine vibe that this Western town has to offer.
Ulu Mau Puanui is a hands-on non-profit that 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. During these two days, we will roll up our sleeves and get involved in the efforts while learning all about the legends and land from Aunty K!
Starseed Ranch Farm is a postcard image of a raw and wild permaculture farm in the northern tropical region of the island. The diversity of fruits and vegetables that are systematically and strategically planted encourage edible growth that enables farm-to- table meals. We will have the chance to participate in seeding, planting, and maintaining this beautiful space while learning about the various initiatives the farm is undertaking to promote sustainability.
This next week will be a whirlwind of experiences, all explored from our home base at the permaculture farm. We will hike to the sacred Waipio Valley; camp out in the serene Pololu Valley; meet the local coconut master who will teach us how to smash open coconuts and use up every single element from the skin to the shell; experience the tasty truth of farm-to-table meals; and even participate in a beekeeping workshop!
We are back to Kona for short week to reconnect to the beach and the turtles! These days are incredibly special as we will be participating in conservation work in the only Cloud Forest in the entire country. The tropical ecosystems that exist here are so rare that, well, they really don’t exist anywhere else! Since the island is made of lava, every
single plant, species, tree, etc. grows ABOVE ground! Literally - the tree roots, the shrubs, everything. It. Is. Wild. And you get to learn all about it and contribute to its continued wellbeing. On our last afternoon, we’ll get to take a local charter boat out to snorkel in special places, maybe catch a manta ray eating dinner, and definitely catch the sunset!
Ahh, the eastern side of the island, with its rainforests and lush green landscape, it’s a much different vibe and energy than the sunny side of Kona. We’ll get dropped off in Hilo for the next week and have some down time to explore Coconut Island and the local various beach parks. We’ll take a day to check out the incredible energy and life of Akaka Falls, a 442 feet tall waterfall just North of Hilo and Rainbow Falls, called “rainbow [seen in] water”, or Waiānuenue.
We’ve been given an incredible opportunity to get out into the water with a locally run community organization that focus’ on fishpond restoration and ocean conservation. We’ll be working alongside experts learning about the marine ecosystem and how to protect and encourage sea life in these beautiful pockets of the ocean that surround Hilo. We’ll get to learn about sustainable fishing techniques as well as testing our own skills and trying our hand at throwing fishing nets. Prepare to get stuck in and a little wet over these days!
On our last day in Hilo we will get to feel like we’re on top of the world...or, at least, on top of the island. Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, sits at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. The majority of the volcano is under water and when measured it is right around 33,500 feet tall, topping in as the tallest mountain in the world! It is known
as one of the best stargazing skies in the world, and we will have the opportunity to lay on its summit and view it for ourselves!
We’re taking a trip back down south and east a little way to the small town of Pahala. This area is known for its black sand beaches and abundant wilderness, fuelled by the warm sunny days and nightly rainfall that is common on this side of the island. On one of our first days spent here we’ll be learning all about Hawaiian culture and
traditions as well as getting active and taking in the landscape. From making beautiful and delicate leis from the local trees to exploring the vast Volcano National Park, it’ll be an eye opening and inspiring few days in this South East town. We’ll take a hike to Hawai’i Island’s famous Green Sand Beach and spend days looking for turtles during the day and stargazing at night
It’s time to fully 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 that will sit overnight until ready the following morning. We’ll ground taro leaves, set the stones and prepare the food whilst sharing stories with our local hosts and in the morning, we’ll get to work taking the food from the ground to the table, ready to feast!
Famous for its home grown, handpicked Mamaki tea, this place is expansive and impressive. While we’re here we’ll be getting our hands a little dirty picking and harvesting the farms vegetables and tea leaves, and learning all about the process that creates the popular herbal beverage sold around the world and on the local shelves. The owner is an ex professional chef too, so we’ll be well fed! And camping under the endless starry skies of Hawaii never gets old. In our down time there’s plenty of local parks and black sand beaches we can visit and remember to keep your eyes peeled for those turtles!
A quick trip back to Hilo has us roaming the trails and basking in reflection and meditation as we wind down towards the end of a Pretty jam packed 6 weeks We’ll check into our lodge, and spend the next few days learning all about yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. We’ve scheduled our yoga sessions for the evening to allow for relaxation, and to end our days present and fulfilled.
We’re back at our Kona base for our last few days on Hawai’i Island. Time to test our newfound skills on a surfboard maybe or just catch up on rest and reflection after what has been an incredible 6-week adventure in Hawaii. On our final few days in Kona, we will enjoy our-Program wrap while soaking in the sun on the local beaches. Sadly, the time has come to begin processing the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that the last 42 days have taken us on. Our lives are all somewhat chaotic right now, so 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.
Open to students, graduates and non-students, ideally 18-24 years. This program is suitable for anyone of average fitness with an enthusiasm for the outdoors, conservation and new experiences. You need to be committed to, and prepared for, some physical work whilst on the volunteer components of the program i.e. trail building or the removal of invasive plants and while on the outdoor activities, be prepared to give-it-a-go. As a guideline, you should aim to be comfortable hiking 4-6 hours with a backpack. You don’t need to have had previous experience with any of the activities offered.
The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.
Our accommodation will be a mixture of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable and clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and WiFi facilities will be available most 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. All meals are included in the program cost. Food preparation, shared by all students, is fun, social and often a highlight.
The Pacific Discovery Hawaii semester combines conservation volunteering, adventure travel and experiential learning in Hawaii!