We’ve crafted the perfect balance of service and adventure travel on this enriching and inspiring three-week summer program on Hawaii’s Big Island. While diving into the ocean to snorkel and learn to surf, we’ll also dive into the importance of Hawaiian traditions and immerse in several environmental conservation movements. We will learn how work done by these ethical organizations impacts the local environment and contributes to sustainability on a global scale.
Our endless TO DO list on Hawai’i Island includes taking a charter boat out on the Pacific Ocean from Kona, walking on a moonscape of black lava in Volcanoes National Park, roaming a green sand beach, restoring a fish pond, and getting our hands in the earth on the Big Island Farm. The magic of this Pacific Discovery program is that we truly immerse in the culture and add value throughout our travels. Our days will vary, from making leis and learning Farm to Table living practices, to supporting Hawaiian youth.
✓ Want to surf on the Big Island of Hawaii
✓ Are enthusiastic about environmental conservation and want to get connected with the land and local people
✓ Want to hang out with new friends on iconic beaches
✓ Love activities in nature like hiking and snorkeling
✓ Are interested in immersing yourself in the rich Hawaiian culture
✓ Want to receive a Certificate of Completed Service Hours to add to your resume
I am so glad I did this. It truly changed my life, how I view things, and how I operate. I am extremely grateful to be able to do this program. I got so many unique and cool experiences and I now have some really crazy stories. I feel like a much more well-rounded person after this. This will be something that I hold on to for the rest of my life. If I could give myself a year ago any advice it would be to take the risk and go on this trip. I met so many new close friends, experienced life-changing things, and truly grew and transformed."
- Alex, 2021 Student
Get the full Summer Program run-down in our catalogue. This catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions, testimonials and a comparison chart!
** The hub will be confirmed on student home locations and flight paths at the time of booking.
Aloha! We touch down as a group in Hilo with new friends from across the country and two experienced program instructors. This Big Island is famous for its sacred and ancient volcanoes, dramatic scenery, and amazing sea life. After an exciting program briefing where we learn about each other and what’s next, we’ll jump into our first leg of the trip!
We’re taking a journey to the small town of Pahala in the district of Ka’u this week. We will hear stories from elders and get involved in traditional song and dance. Whilst in our cultural immersion in Pahala, we fully embrace one of the oldest Hawaiian traditions, the Imu. This is 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!
While here we will check out an otherworldly green sand beach and also take a day trip to explore the world-famous Volcano National Park! There are so many unique landscapes on this diverse island moonscape. You might remember back in 2018, Hawaii was in the news for a massive volcanic eruption. All of the action went down here in Volcano National Park, and it's still smoldering and bubbling away. The photos from this day trip are out of this world! We will learn about the impacts the lava flows have had on the local farming practices and explore the ground carpet of lava rock and stunning seaside cliffs on the coastline.
We will also get our hands dirty with some meaningful volunteer work in Pahala. We will be clearing and restoring traditional Hawai’i houses to transform them into educational spaces for Hawaiian youth. This involves clearing plants, laying ili’ili (small pebbles) for flooring, and eventually restacking the walls and building thatch roofs. It’s amazing how much we can get done working as a team! It’s hard to move on when we finish the week - we’ve taken a deep dive into the culture and are ready to travel onward with lots more understanding of the island.
We are heading across to stay at a farm near Honoka'a for the first few days of the week. This is a laid-back, friendly little town on the Hamakua coast. Big Island Farm is no ordinary ranch - we will do hands-on permaculture workshops and create a Farm to Table feast with incredibly fresh produce. Hawaiians have a deep connection to the land; after all, it is a tiny speck out in the sea and locals need to grow everything they need to survive! Spending a few days at Big Island Farm is good for the mind and soul. Our group will get out for spontaneous hikes and beach swims, always on the lookout for turtles. We are starting to feel right at home out here.
We head to Waimea where we will learn about the importance of the canoe in the local communities. Similar to the way that the hula is more than just a dance, canoes are more than wooden boats in traditional Hawaiian culture. Polynesian voyagers first discovered the Hawaiian islands and canoes played a key role in the flourishing of Hawaiian life. We learn how canoes were an important part of everyday life, especially for traveling and fishing, and how locals are still heavily involved in canoe voyaging practices.
After this, we roll up our sleeves for two days to 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. Groups love this experience; the service work is challenging and rewarding.
On to Kona we go! We’ll take a deep dive into native Hawaiian traditions, from making delicate frangipani leis to learning the importance of Hawaiian history and how that has shaped the place we are visiting today.
Surf’s up! For two days we will have surf lessons from a local legend, who is sure to get every one of us skillfully wobbling on the waves. By this stage, the group is like a family. We’ll spend a lot of time laughing at ourselves and we’ll also learn to trust ourselves as we slowly develop the skills and strengths needed to master this graceful art. There’s a lot of self-reflection in surfing, and sitting on a board in the ocean is the perfect meditation to wind down this program. It’s time to wrap up, and we use group reflection to think about how everything we have learned can be transferred back home and into the rest of our lives.
We get to head out on sparkling blue water on a boat charter, jumping, splashing, and snorkeling over the reefs that are famous for manta rays and spinner dolphins!
Program participants come out of the Mid Teen Summer Program feeling grounded with a higher degree of environmental awareness and a stack of unforgettable memories!
The leaders take the group to the airport and say farewell to the group.
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, do laundry, rest, and explore.
**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.
✓ All in-program travel and transport
✓ 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
✓ Core Activities that encourage shared group reflection
✓ Certificate of Community Development with 25 hours service
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 summer internship! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like preparing beds for planting 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 the fresh air, and stargazing the night away.
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.
Our accommodation will be a mix of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable, clean hostels and lodges.
Students will have private rooms shared only by members of the group. Students will be in shared rooms separated by gender. Students will have access to American-style flush toilets and also hot water showers. There will never be outsiders from the group present in the rooms. The instructors will be in a twin room near the students. Students will always be able to access the instructors for support at any time of the day.
Laundry and Wi-Fi facilities will be available most days, except during the weeks in the field on volunteer projects and 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 for around $15 per day.
Food preparation responsibilities are shared by all students. It’s fun, social, and often a highlight. An average day on the program would consist of the following:
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 Hawaii 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 Section. If you still have any other questions, feel free to schedule a call with our admissions team for more information.