Give Back on Your Next Hawaiian Vacation with Mālama Hawaiʻi

Working in conjunction with hotels across the state, Mālama Hawaiʻi gives visitors a chance to care for the Islands—and get sweet deals.
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The DIY beach cleanup provided by Sustainable Coastlines. Photo: Kevin Allen

In ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language), mālama means to “take care of, tend, attend, care for, preserve.” And here in Hawaiʻi, to mālama the ʻāina, or take care of the land, is one of the best things an individual can do—whether that’s in the form of a beach cleanup, an afternoon maintaining a fishpond or weeding at a botanical garden. So as my girlfriend and I start our trek down Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu, our gloved hands clutching onto our reusable trash bags, I’m filled with a sense of civic duty, one that I doubt I’d had have without Mālama Hawaiʻi.

Mālama Hawaiʻi, a new voluntourism program made up of a partnership with the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, conservations groups and hotels from across the state now offer visitors the chance to mālama the ʻāina and score deals at participating hotels. These “deals” range from a 3rd or 4th night free, waived resort charges and sustainability-inspired gift bags. Participating hotels include the Prince Waikīkī, the Outrigger Waikīkī Beach Resort, Kauaʻi’s Marriott Resort, the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaiʻi and more.

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The DIY beach cleanup kit has everything you need.
Photo: Kevin Allen

We left the Prince Waikīkī early—six-in-the-morning early—to beat the heat. On the way out of our oceanfront suite (it’s almost unnecessary to say “oceanfront” at the Prince Waikīkī, since all of its rooms have an ocean view) I make sure to grab our preprepared DIY beach cleanup bag, which was given to us upon check-in. In it are the essentials: two sets of thick gloves, two recycled trash bags—in a previous life they carried animal feed—and that’s it.

“A few hotels came to us to put together this DIY beach cleanup kit based on our knowledge,” says Sustainable Coastlines executive director Rafael Bergstrom. “What’s really cool is that because the kits are pretty simple, so somebody from Colorado can take it home and clean up a local trail or hike that they love.”

And sure, getting out of a plush king-sized bed before the sunrise was no easy task, but I knew it would be more than worth the effort.

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All of this was found in a 10-foot radius.
Photo: Kevin Allen

Before I’d left, I asked the helpful hotel concierge which beaches needed the most love. Fortunately, if you’re staying at the Prince Waikīkī, Ala Moana Beach Park is only about a 5-minute walk away and is almost always in need of some cleaning. Unfortunately, this morning was no different. We were both shocked at how trashed the beach was. Dirty diapers, children’s toys, plastics, trash bags, soda cans, beer bottles. It was all there, ready to be swept into the ocean.

“When you come to a place, and you give back and show up, it will give back to you,” says Bergstrom. “Even if you pick up five pieces of trash, what matters is that you’re not just trampling on the place you’re traveling to. And it only takes one straw, one plastic bag or one derelict fishing net to harm an endangered species. So your impact is big, and cumulatively, if everyone is conscious about their waste, that impact grows exponentially.”

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Our bags were half full in only half an hour.
Photo: Kevin Allen

Additionally, Bergstrom notes that the beach cleanup is not only a way to beautify Hawaiʻi’s beaches, but to open the eyes of visitors—and locals—when it comes to just how polluted our beaches are. “Our mission is to use cleanups as a tool and ultimately to tell people that cleanups aren’t the answer. If we really, really want to have clean beaches, it takes us changing what’s going on in our daily lives and living more sustainably. That’s where the real change starts to happen.”

It took us an hour to comb half of the beach, and our bags were packed. A handful of people thanked us for picking up the trash, and even if we weren’t commended, we still would have felt good about our work anyway. After showering off at the hotel, I couldn’t think of a better way to start my day. Not only as visitors but as locals too, it’s our duty to protect our beaches and coastlines. So the next time you plan your trip to Hawaiʻi, or if you’re considering a staycation, ask your accommodation whether they’ve got a Mālama Hawaiʻi activity for you.

Get involved with Sustainable Coastlines by visiting its website

Categories: Beaches, Environment, Health/Wellness, Hotels