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How to visit the off-limits Hawaiian island of Kahoolawe

how_to_visit_KahoolaweHAWAII Magazine readers Don and Rosie Eller wrote us with a question about how to visit one of Hawaii's least visitable islands:

You mentioned in the story, “Not Quite Niihau,” from the November/December 2009 issue of HAWAII Magazine that you have visited the island of Kahoolawe. We wanted to know if it's possible for us to visit the island.

You ask. We answer.

Yes, you can visit Kahoolawe. But you’re going to have to work for it.

The smallest of the eight main Hawaiian Islands, Kahoolawe and its surrounding waters are by law off-limits to the public. Your only way ashore is through volunteer work opportunities offered throughout the year.

Considered uninhabitable due to its diminutive size—a mere 44.6 square miles—and lack of fresh water, Kahoolawe became a training ground and bombing range for the U.S. military after World War II. In 1990, following decades of protest, these live-fire exercises ended. The military formally transferred control of Kahoolawe to the State of Hawaii in 1994.

how_to_visit_KahoolaweIn 1993, the Hawaii State Legislature established the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), ensuring the island and its surrounding waters would be preserved for future generations. The KIRC relies heavily on the efforts of volunteers to help with the restoration of the island. The group offers weekly work trips to Kahoolawe.

Volunteers meet on Maui on Monday morning, before being ferried over to Kahoolawe where they work from Monday through Thursday. There is a $100 fee that covers transportation from Maui to Kahoolawe, food and boarding costs.

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