- Mary Rogelstad
- June 23, 2022
- Tagged In:
- United States
Waterfalls, beaches, volcanoes – Rustic Pathways students are seeing a little bit of everything during the Hawaii Service program. The trip takes students across Hawaii island, also called the Big Island. It’s by far the largest of the 137 islands in the archipelago, being similar in size to the state of Connecticut.
The island is unusual because it has 10 climate zones, including humid tropical, arid, and even some snow on the Mauna Kea Volcano. Students get a taste of it all since they spend time on both sides of the island – Kona and Hilo. The side where Kona is located has plenty of beaches and mostly dry weather. Hilo is on the rainy side of the island.
Like summers in the past, this year dozens of Rustic students are cruising around the island for both for the scenery and the service from June through early August. They are seeing what the average tourist sees and also what they don’t – remote destinations where students get immersed in the Aloha lifestyle.
An Action-Packed First Session
Students in the first session for the summer of 2022 got right to business after arriving in the state. They visited beaches and local waterfalls and swam in both fresh and saltwater in the same day. Then it was time for community service.
The students in Hawaii do projects related to environmental restoration. This summer the teens are working with a non-profit called Hawaii Environmental Restoration. Through this organization, they learn about the rainforest and how to determine which plants are native to Hawaii and which are invasive species. Then they get to work removing invasive plant life.
Nick Makris, who traveled to Hawaii with Rustic Pathways in 2021 says he loved this service part of the trip.
“Whenever we did service work, I honestly found it to be a lot of fun,” Makris said. “Doing service gave us time to make a difference, and when we got into the groove of it, it didn’t really even feel like we were working.”
After completing this first service project, the students also work at a second site with the Friends of Lili’uokalani Gardens. There they learn about a traditional Hawaiian fishing pond and work on a pond restoration project. Fish ponds are important to local Hawaiians since they trap smaller fish that are brought in by the ocean, allowing them to grow until they’re ready for consumption.
When they aren’t busy with service projects, the students are trekking to many different locations. They check out a local farmers market and visit a botanical garden. They spend an evening on a coastal cliff walk where they watch the sunset and listen to the waves crashing on the rocks. And after community service, the teens also make their way up to Mauna Kea Volcano for sunset and some star gazing.
The trip wouldn’t be complete, though, without a visit to one of the most popular locations on Big Island. The students spend a day hiking in Volcanoes National Park, walking a four mile loop trail over Kilauea Iki’s crater.
Then they have a chance to ride seven different ziplines through the rainforest and over waterfalls on the Hilo side of the island. Markis says these are among the top highlights in an action-packed program.
“One of my favorite moments of the trip was when we visited Volcanoes National Park. As the group hiked down into Helemauau crater – believed to be home to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and the creator of the islands – it felt as if we were in another world,” Makris said. “The crater was surrounded by greenery but was practically barren in the center. All there really was were a few plants that could thrive within volcanic rock and soil.”
After seeing these sights, the students go to the unique and secluded Papakōlea Beach that’s known for its unique green sand.
“My favorite activities on the trip were going ziplining 250 ft above a valley and walking to Papakōlea Beach, which has incredibly big waves and crystal clear blue water,” 2021 Program Leader Alex Juster said.
Afterwards, the students keep heading westward to enjoy more activities on the Kona side of the island. Adventures there include snorkeling, surfing, a coffee tour and a hike in Puʻuwaʻawaʻa State Forest Reserve. While in the region, the students stay in Rustic’s amazing Huehue Ranch. Students have more time there to enjoy the scenery and the food.
Fish are among the commonly consumed foods in Hawaii. But students also should take the time to try other local cuisine. This includes Hawaiian Lau Lau Pork and Hawaiian Haupia, which is a dessert made with coconut milk.
The tropical adventure, service and food end up being just what many students need during their summer break. For Makris, it gave him a respite from his preparations for college
“I was under a lot of stress. That being said, although it sounds incredibly cliché, that changed when I arrived in Hawaii,” Makris said.
Two upcoming sessions of Hawaii Service are sold out, but spots remain in our last session that begins at the end of the July. See more details here.