Frequently Asked Questions - Volunteers

We have compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions by potential volunteers. If you have more questions, please feel free to email or raise them during your phone interview. You will receive more detailed information if you are accepted into the program.

What are the benefits of volunteering my time at Kalani?

volunteerAs a member of our staff, you will be part of our family or 'ohana, committed to offering service to our guests with an aloha spirit.  You will have the opportunity to live in a beautiful, relatively undeveloped part of Hawaii, and have a base from which to explore the Big Island, surrounding Hawaiian Islands, and the native culture. You will have the opportunity to meet people of varied cultures with unique talents and gifts to share, and have access to a simpler style of living, which includes natural wonders to explore, healthy foods, education, peace and quiet, personal growth, communication, adventure and fun! 

Volunteers have said that Kalani opened them up to a new way of living, allowing them to live more closely with nature, create a new family and ultimately change their perspective on the world. A past volunteer expressed: “I didn't know I could live this way.  My world got a lot bigger and my perspective and experiences have opened me to more life and adventure.  I can be more creative, create a new family, and live more closely with nature.”

Look for the Kalani group on Facebook (Kalani Honua) to connect with current and past volunteers regarding personal experiences. Here you will find pictures of Kalani. Please view our page on benefits and read the Kalani Blog where you can find more in-depth accounts of other people’s experiences.

volunteer trip








Why am I paying tuition to volunteer at Kalani?

While providing services with Aloha for our guests is our primary reason for being here, the Kalani experience is about much more than just the department you assist in. As a volunteer, you receive three delicious buffet-style meals each day, housing or camping, use of the swimming pool and spa facilities, and weight room. Volunteers are able to participate in all of our ongoing classes such as yoga, hula, weaving, martial arts, etc. - at no additional cost. There are reduced rates for the wellness bodywork center, adventures, and some of the workshops offered here. In addition, volunteers are offered monthly trips to explore different sites and locations around the island, and weekly trips into Hilo and/or Pahoa for shopping. Finally, after completion of your initial commitment with us, you will be eligible to return for reduced tuition rates.

What to expect - is Kalani the right fit for me?

Expect a transformative experience by simply being here. Kalani gives you an opportunity for a break from ‘normal life’ in an extraordinary place. Volunteering at Kalani is an efficient way to spend an extended period of time living in Hawaii. This diverse community accepts many different types of people. There are people from all over the world who choose to share their personal skills, talents and stories.

Kalani is a community that celebrates life in ways that embrace a natural lifestyle. We are near an active volcano. We live closely with the jungle environment, which means you will encounter harmless creatures such as spiders, geckos and mongoose. There are mosquitoes here, so we recommend that you bring a repellent spray. Volunteer accommodations are simple and comfortable, but fairly rustic, with no televisions or phones.

What is required of me during my residency at Kalani?

You are required to have health insurance coverage throughout your entire stay at Kalani.You are responsible for your own health care treatment and cost. It is expected that you will be able to maintain a level of physical, emotional and mental health that allows you to fulfill your volunteer responsibilities.  Airlines offer travel or emergencey health coverage for the duration of the trip, which is satisfactory.  Many of our volunteers have found that International Volunteer Card (IVC) offers effective, low-cost insurance that is suitable for their time at Kalani. IVC also donates a significant portion of their proceeds to humanitarian projects. Click here to view further details on IVC and their insurance plan.

You are responsible for your own health care treatment and cost. It is expected that you will be able to maintain a level of physical, emotional and mental health that allows you to fulfill your volunteer responsibilities. Occasional lifting of no more than 50 pounds may be asked of you. All departments have very physical work requirements.

You are required to provide specific services, in the spirit of "Aloha," to our guests. We require mature individuals in good health with positive attitudes to assist us in the services of others. We welcome all people regardless of race, social standing, age (21 or older), or sexual orientation. As a volunteer community member, it is expected that you will provide a high standard of guest services and you will be mindful of your role as a representative of Kalani at all times.

Is Kalani a spiritual community?

We are a non-profit intercultural conference and educational center, here to serve our guests as they seek rest, relaxation and an environment for learning.  There are people at Kalani who are on specific personal spiritual paths. However, we would not classify ourselves as a spiritual community, nor counseling, rehabilitation or healing center.

What can I expect the day I step off the plane in Hilo?

flying to HiloYou will be greeted by a fellow volunteer and driven to Kalani, which is about 50 minutes south of Hilo. After registering at the front office (paying the remainder of your tuition along with the security deposit), you will be shown to your accommodation, which you may be sharing with one or two people. The rooms are simply furnished with a bed and closet space.  We will provide you with linens, blankets, pillows and towels. You will have an orientation and tour within the first week of your arrival.

Why do I have to pay a security deposit?

The security deposit is held to ensure that the condition of your housing space is left the way you found it, along with all of its original items. Prior to your departure, the volunteer coordinators will inspect your room and if approved the deposit will be returned to you.

What is my volunteer schedule?

All positions at Kalani are of great importance to our guests' experience here. We will inform you of which department you will be serving in during a telephone interview, prior to your arrival. You will begin your volunteer service after a two-day rest period. Your Department Manager will give you your volunteer schedule. We ask you to serve 30 hours per week with shifts varying, depending on which department you are placed in. There are no automatic holidays within your volunteer commitment. 

a romp in the woods         yoga class









Can I take time off for trips?

There are many ways to organize your leisure time at Kalani to pursue your personal interest and explore the island. You are allotted three days off per week scheduled at the discretion of your department manager in order to meet the needs of the department you have been assigned to. You can ask your manager about having up to 6 days off in a row across a 2 week work period for trips you wish to take. You may also inquire about banking shifts in order have several consecutive days off for future plans. Schedule requests are granted based on availability.

Extended volunteers may begin accruing vacation time after completing 3 months in the volunteer program. Long-term/Extended and Returning Volunteers receive 4 days off for every 3 months of service.

Is there security for my personal papers and valuable items?

You may deposit such items in lockers found in the staff lounge areas. We encourage you to travel simply and leave valuables at home.  If you choose to bring a laptop, we suggest a laptop cable lock.

How much spending money should I bring?

The answer to this is different for everyone. Here is a list of some things people spend money on; general shopping needs, day trips, excursions to the other side of the island, massages, renting cars. Snacks, ice cream and personal items in our gift shop are sold at a discount to volunteers.

Will my cell phone work?

Kalani is out of range for most cell phone networks; however there is some limited reception on the property for AT&T.

Can I check my email?

If you have a laptop or mobile device, free WiFi service is available in several places on campus. Wireless access is limited in the jungle environment and can be quiet slow. Streaming and large downloads are strongly discouraged. There are two computers available for volunteer internet use in common areas.

What are the transportation possibilities for getting off site? Should I rent a car?

watching new earth being formedKalani is located in a remote area, on the eastern coast of the Big Island. The nearest town, Pahoa, is 15 miles away from Kalani. Opportunities for going to the nearby towns are limited. There is a county bus that you can catch just outside Kalani's front gate, which stops in both Pahoa and Hilo. Rental cars are available at the Hilo airport, approximately 50 minutes away. Staff members often choose to carpool when renting a vehicle. There are weekly trips to Pahoa/Hilo. Some people hitchhike to get around the island, but we do not recommend it.

Kalani runs a number of great trips each month to places of interest (and fun!) around the island.

What about recreational use of drugs and alcohol?

Beer and wine are permitted, but you are expected to drink responsibly. Any excessive or disruptive behavior may be grounds for dismissal from the program. Any indication of drug or alcohol use during volunteer shifts is grounds for dismissal from Kalani.

What about smoking?

Smoking is not allowed on property except in designated smoking areas.

What other personal items might I need?

Since Kalani is a rustic environment we recommend you bringing things which will support you while you are here. Things like a mobile device with headphones, reading material (although we have a library), flashlight/lantern, a battery-operated alarm clock, and a bicycle (there is a place in Hilo to purchase a bike). There are two shared staff computers with email access. There is a shared staff computer with email access. You may wish to bring your own laptop, as we do have WiFi around campus. Click here for a packing list.

May I bring my cat or dog?

We cannot allow volunteers to bring their pets during their stay with us.

What is the maximum/minimum I can stay?

We require that all volunteers initially commit to the one, two, or three month programs. The length of stay may be extended through our extension application process which we can discuss after you have been here one month. Many volunteers extend their stay past the original three months.

May I have visitors?

sailing double-hull canoeOf course. After being in residence two weeks, family and friends may visit and stay with you in your accommodation (if you are in a single room) or camp. All guests must register at Guest Services and pay $35 per person, per night. This price includes meals and use of the facilities. It does not include the price of classes, adventures, or bodywork. Each guest may stay a maximum of seven nights. Your guests are alowed to stay longer, and can pay the original guest rates.

How is the food?

Three delicious buffet-style meals are provided each day. Many guests comment that the food was one of the major highlights of their stay!  Vegetarian/vegan options are always available, and we serve fish or other meat options most evenings. Most of the produce and grains are organic. For sample menus, see our cuisine page!  However, we are unable to cater to restrictive diets such as raw, food alergies, gluten free, etc.

What is the dress code?

The quick answer is - there is no dress code! Bring clothing for many different occasions. Have fun and be comfortable in what you wear. We ask that your clothing be clean and presentable. T-shirts and shorts are acceptable. Close-toed shoes, sleeved shirts, and head covering (such as a bandanna) are required for the kitchen staff. Shoes and shirts are also required at meals. It is a good idea to bring long sleeves and pants for cool evenings. Rain gear is recommended.

What is the age range of volunteers?

We welcomes volunteers of any age who are in good strong physical health. Volunteers range in age from 21 to 70+. Generally, more than half of the volunteers at any given time are in their twenties and thirties, some are in their forties, and some are between fifty and seventy. We appreciate the diversity!

If I leave early, will I get my tuition refunded?

By choosing to volunteer at Kalani you are making a personal commitment to yourself as well as to volunteering. If you are accepted into the volunteer community, a $300 deposit  is required to reserve your place in the program.The remaining balance will be due upon arrival to Kalani. Both of these payments are non-refundable. We do not accept partial payments, or payment plans.

**We rely on your agreement with us and plan our staffing around your commitment to be here for the full duration of the program. If you decide to leave the program early for any reason, your tuition will not be refunded.

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