Hawaii Mini Semester

START Hilo, Hawai'i |
FINISH Honolulu, Oahu |
DURATION 6 weeks |
AGES 17 - 22 |

Surfing, Agriculture & Sustainable Living

Experience epic surf, golden beaches, the aloha spirit, and active volcanoes on this gap year program in Hawaii!

During this six-week program, a key focus will be to connect yourself to the land and the sea. You will learn about sustainable living from local non-profits, and roll up your sleeves at a permaculture farm practicing Hawaiian farming techniques. From the land, we'll move on to the sea. You will not only experience the turquoise water of the ocean during surf lessons and a snorkel excursion, but you will also have the opportunity to delve deep into marine conservation with a fishpond restoration project, learning how to protect and encourage the fragile sea life in these pockets of the ocean.



Experience sustainable living at a permaculture farm! You won't just be learning theory, you'll be rolling up your sleeves and getting hands-on experience with traditional Hawaiian farming techniques. You'll be growing your own food, connecting with the land, understanding local ecosystems, and becoming part of a practice that's been nourishing communities for generations. It's sure to be a highlight of your gap program, giving you a unique perspective on Hawaiian agriculture and a newfound appreciation for the island's bounty.

Trade in your backpack for fins and a snorkel in the crystal-clear waters off Kona, face-to-face with majestic manta rays. Witnessing these gentle giants gracefully weave through the vibrant coral reefs is an unforgettable experience.

Lace up your boots and prepare for an unforgettable adventure! Hike through the otherworldly landscapes of Volcanoes National Park. Traverse volcanic terrain, feeling the earth's raw power beneath your feet. As twilight descends, reach a designated crater rim viewpoint. Here, the day's highlight awaits. Witness the molten lava come alive, casting an eerie glow across the night sky. 


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

Click download to view the full 6 week sample itinerary.

Download Program Booklet

Orientation & Hawaiian Cultural Feast

Aloha! On arrival in Hilo, you will be met by your program instructors. We are taking a trip to the small town of Pahala in the district of Ka'u, where we will have a comprehensive program briefing and take a deep dive into native Hawaiian traditions, from making beautiful and delicate leis from the local trees to learning the importance of Hawaiian history and how that has shaped the place we are visiting today. We will even learn the basics of Hawaiian language to get a more connected experience.

Pahala 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. It's also time to fully embrace one of the oldest Hawaiian traditions, the Imu, a form of underground oven. 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!

There are so many unique landscapes on this environmentally rich island, and the next few days have you exploring one of the coolest! This is sure to be an adventure of otherworldly perceptions, with self exploration and hiking throughout Volcanoe National Park, one of the most unique landscapes in the world.

In 2018, it was also the primary location of a volcanic eruption, which has led to extremely rugged, largely underdeveloped infrastructure. We learn about the impacts the lava flows have had on the local farming practices, and explore the still-cooling lava rocks as well as the stunning seaside cliffs on the coastline. We will walk through barren lava fields and experience exceptional views of the active volcano Kilauea Caldera and a volcanic crater. The adventurous spirits even get the chance to end the day with an evening hike to watch an unforgettable sunset and see lava glow from a crater!

By the end of the week, we will have grasped the value that native Hawaiian's hold for their local land. It provides them with the food which they eat, the water which they drink, and the energy which they cultivate. We will explore one of only four green sand beaches in the world to take in all its beauty.

Marine Conservation & Yoga in Hilo

Ohh, Hilo on the eastern side of the island, with its rainforests and lush green landscape, it's a much different vibe and energy. We'll spend our days exploring the Japanese Gardens and Coconut Island, hiking to some spectacular waterfalls like Akaka Falls, getting fresh fruit at the local farmers market, and venturing down the mysterious Kaumana caves. We've scheduled our yoga sessions for the morning to allow for relaxation, and to start our days present and fulfilled.

We've also been given an incredible opportunity to get out into the water with a locally run community organization that focuses on fishpond restoration and ocean conservation. We will 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 will 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 mud and get a little wet over these days!

We will also 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 underwater and when measured it is right around 33,500 feet tall, topping it 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!

Agriculture Workshops on a Permaculture Farm

We travel to Hamakua, an area that used to be covered with sugar cane, and continue with our exploration of local agriculture this week. The region is also known for the most beautiful stretches of scenery on the island, and you will be amazed by the stunning vistas, tranquil green valleys and trickling waterfalls. 

This week will be a whirlwind of experiences. We'll spend some time at a permaculture farm and learn about the local area's farming techniques and the medicinal properties of plants, see the sacred Waipio Valley, and 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. We will also use some of the vegetables and nutrient-rich ingredients that we harvest on the farm to create a delicious vegetarian meal for the group, while also learning about the importance of minimizing our carbon footprint and building relationships with local farmers.

Seeing the ocean everyday might have made you wonder about the fascinating living ecosystems that make up the coral reefs under the water surface, so it's the perfect time to learn more about marine biology with a workshop. We even get the opportunity to make our very own reef-safe sunscreen!

Program Details

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


For full program details, please request the information booklet.

Request Information Booklet

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.

Medium Camping Level

Be prepared to spend some time out in nature. You'll love the experience of camping, staring at the campfire, breathing in fresh air and stargazing the night away.

High Service Learning Level

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

Have you got any questions before applying?

Hawaii Mini Semester