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Hawaii: Tending to the Garden of Eden

National Geographic Adventure picks the 25 best new outfitted trips.
Text by Bonnie Tsui

Alaska  |  California  |  Canada  |  Hawaii

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Go Green
The promise of "undiscovered Hawaii" has, since the building boom of the 1960s and '70s, been as elusive as a fashionable Hawaiian shirt. But next year Sierra Club Outings will introduce a lucky few to the real thing: Kaho'olawe, an uninhabited volcanic islet seven miles (11 kilometers) southwest of Maui. A United States Navy bombing target dating back to World War II, Kaho'olawe was returned to the locals only in the 1990s and is still closed to the public. Its caretaker, the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), has been charged with restoring the island culturally (rebuilding a series of rain koa shrines) and environmentally (planting native species to establish a Hawaiian dryland forest). As a Sierra Club voluntourist, you'll spend your days alongside KIRC members, planting indigenous species to stem erosion, and your nights in a bayside Quonset hut with views of islands adrift in the cobalt seas. "You see vast fields of volcanic dirt," says trip leader Jill McIntire. "And that's why we're there: to restore vegetation and make a lasting impact on this big red island." The bonus to your effort: a weeklong window into a paradise that few will ever see. Kaho'olawe, a 12,800-acre (5,180-hectare) refuge, is the only major island in the Pacific that archaeologists have surveyed from coast to coast, with an inventory of nearly 3,000 historic sites. You'll be schooled in native customs and Hawaii's early history, including a lesson on navigating by a Polynesian star circle, a traditional astronomy chart laid out in rocks and conch shells. Back at base camp you can explore a private beach and the waters offshore. "Marine life uses the island as a breeding ground," says McIntire. "We've got a resident pod of spinner dolphins that we watch return home each night." For a taste of modern Hawaii after living with the ancients, you'll head back to Maui for three days of snorkeling and well-deserved R&R.


Outfitter: Sierra Club Outings (

Price: $995

Length: Nine days

Departs: March

Alaska  |  California  |  Canada  |  Hawaii

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