Is Kalani right for me?

“Kalani Honua” means harmony of heaven on earth, which is what we aspire to embody. We welcome all in the spirit of aloha, and are guided by the Hawaiian tradition of `ohana (extended family) – both respecting our diversity and sharing in our collective wisdom in unity.

You can expect a transformative experience simply by being here. Kalani’s volunteer program gives you an extended break from “normal life‟ in an extraordinary place. You’ll be surrounded by people from around the world who share their personal skills, talents and stories. Volunteers are expected to maintain a level of physical, emotional and mental health to fulfill your volunteer responsibilities.

We expect you to practice sharing in the spirit of aloha (love and mutual respect) with all Kalani residents when you are on or off your service shift. Living in community means being of service to one another in a kind and caring manner.

Given our spectacular location – near one of the world’s most active volcanoes – Kalani’s community celebrates life in ways that embrace a natural lifestyle. We aim to live in harmony with our jungle environment – which means you may encounter harmless creatures such as cats, spiders, geckos and mongoose – as well as feral pigs. After all, this is their home, too! There are also mosquitoes, so bring bug repellent if that is a concern for you. Volunteer accommodations are simple and comfortable, but fairly rustic, with no televisions or phones.

Is Kalani a spiritual community?

Kalani is a non-profit educational retreat center whose mission is to transform lives through nature, culture and wellness. While some community members are on personal spiritual paths, Kalani does not classify itself as a spiritual community.

What is required of me at Kalani?

You are required to have health insurance coverage throughout your entire stay at Kalani and are responsible for any treatments and costs.

Volunteers are expected to maintain a level of physical, emotional and mental health necessary to fulfill volunteer responsibilities. Because all departments have very physical work requirements, you are expected to be in excellent physical health with full mobility, capable of lifting up to 50 pounds, and able to stand for long periods of time in varying climate conditions.

You are required to provide specific services to our guests and to each other in accordance with your volunteer department. We require mature individuals with positive attitudes to assist us in the services of others. We welcome all, regardless of race, social standing, age (21 or older), or sexual orientation. As a volunteer community member, you’re expected to provide a high standard of guest services and be mindful of your role as a representative of Kalani at all times.

Why am I paying tuition to volunteer?

While our primary reason for being here is to operate a retreat center and provide services with aloha to our community, the Kalani experience is about much more than the department you serve in.

As a volunteer, you receive three delicious meals each day, housing or camping, as well as use of the swimming pool, spa facilities, and weight room. Volunteers are able to participate in all of our ongoing classes, including yoga, dance, meditation, hula, weaving and martial arts – at no additional cost. Volunteers also enjoy reduced rates for wellness treatments and bodywork, outings, and discounts on some of the retreats offered here. In addition, volunteers are treated to sponsored monthly trips to explore different sites around the island, and weekly trips into Hilo for shopping or errands.

After completion of your initial commitment, you will be eligible to return for reduced tuition rates.

What is the age range of volunteers?

We welcome volunteers who are in good strong physical health. Volunteers range in age from 21 to 60+. Generally, more than half of the volunteers at any given time are in their twenties, thirties, and forties some are in their fifties and sixties. We appreciate the diversity!

What are the benefits of volunteering my time at Kalani?

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

Volunteers say that Kalani opened them up to a new way of living, allowing them to live more closely with nature, create a new sense of family, and, ultimately, change their perspective on the world.

Additional benefits include:

Join the Kalani Volunteers Facebook Group to connect with our global network of Kalani Volunteers past, present, and future regarding their personal experiences. Check out the blog or Instagram to read individual testimonials.

Will my mobile phone work?

Our jungle location is out of range for many mobile provider networks; however, you may find limited reception at identified areas on campus. AT&T customers typically receive the best reception in these areas.

Does Kalani have WiFi?

WiFi coverage is available in several locations on campus, including Hale Aloha, the Dining Lanai, Guest Services, and near some (but not all) accommodations. While WiFi usage is free, it’s worth noting that bandwidth is limited in our jungle environment. As such, large downloads are strongly discouraged and individuals are encouraged to shut “off” the WiFi signal on their mobile device when it’s not in use. Don’t have your own device? Contact us at Guest Services for last-minute needs like printing a boarding pass.

How is the food?

Three fresh, delicious meals are provided by our dedicated Kitchen staff on the Dining Lanai, each day. Many guests and volunteers comment that our food was one of the major highlights of their stay! Vegetarian/vegan options are typically available, and we serve fresh fish or other locally-sourced meat options as much as possible. Most of the produce and grains are organic. That being said, we are unable to cater to restrictive diets such as raw, food allergies, etc. Visit our Dining page to learn more about the dining experience at Kalani.

Is smoking permitted?

Smoking is permitted in two designated smoking areas. Smoking is not permitted outside of these locations.

Is alcohol permitted?

Alcohol is permitted, but you are expected to drink responsibly. Any excessive or disruptive behavior may be grounds for dismissal from the Volunteer Program. Any indication of substance or alcohol use during volunteer shifts is grounds for dismissal from Kalani.

What is the dress code?

Although there is no “dress code,” per se, here are a few details you’ll want to note while packing:

  • Shoes and shirts are required at meals. Bring long sleeves and pants for cool evenings. Rain gear is recommended.
  • In terms of your day-to-day leisure, Kalani is very casual, as is most of Hawaii. Most people wear shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops, locally referred to as “slippahs.”
  • If you’re planning to explore the natural sites, bring durable footwear, as lava rock shreds everyday shoes very quickly. Water, hiking, and outdoor sandals and/or shoes can be practical to wear on adventures.
  • If you are assigned to Maintenance, Landscaping, Permaculture or Kitchen Departments, you’ll need to wear closed-toed shoes during your shifts, as well as a head covering and shirt (with sleeves) in the Kitchen.
  • Service in all departments can be dirty, at times. Source clothing for work and play in our “Free Boutique,” a donation space for sharing items and reducing waste.
  • There may be opportunities to dress up in costume – so bring (or create) your wildest outfits and accessories!

Is Kalani clothing-optional?

No, Kalani’s pool area is clothing-optional; however clothing is required in all other public locations on-campus. Swimwear is required if you are receiving treatment in our therapeutic bodywork pool.

May I bring my cat or dog?

We cannot allow volunteers to bring their pets during their stay with us. We have many friendly cats already here.

May I have visitors?

After being in residence for two weeks, family and friends may visit and stay with you in your accommodation (if you are in a single room) or camp. Volunteers must register their guests with the Volunteer Office and pay $50 per person, per night. This price includes meals and use of amenities. It does not include the price of classes, outings, or bodywork. Each guest may stay seven nights within a 30-day period. If your guest desires to stay longer than seven nights, they may contact Guest Services to reserve a guest accommodation. Volunteers are limited to hosting two guests within a 30 day period.

What is the maximum/minimum I can stay?

Your initial time commitment is a minimum of 1-month (Sabbatical) or 2-3 months (Volunteer). Your length of stay may be extended through our extension application process, for which you can apply after you have been here one month. Many volunteers extend their stay past their first three months. Please notify the Volunteer Office of your interest in extending.

What other personal items might I need?

Since Kalani is a rustic environment, we recommend you bring things which will support you while you are here. This may include items such as a mobile device with headphones, reading material (note: we have an on-campus library), flashlight/lantern, an alarm clock, and first-aid supplies. There is a shared staff computer with internet access. You may wish to bring your own mobile device, laptop and/or tablet, as we do have WiFi at select locations on campus. Please be aware that older laptops may not have the insulation needed to survive in a humid jungle environment. WiFi service can sometimes be difficult for streaming content and internet access may be spotty at times.

How much spending money should I bring?

Given our remote location, you may want to bring some cash with you upon arrival, with the nearest ATM approximately 5 miles from Kalani. That being said, how much spending money to bring differs for each individual, and living at Kalani is a wonderful opportunity to practice minimalism. 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 campus store are sold at a discount to volunteers. It is a good idea to ensure you have enough money for unexpected expenses.

Is there security for my personal papers and valuable items?

You may deposit your personal and/or valuable items in lockers provided on campus. It is recommended that you bring your own lock. We also encourage you to travel simply and leave valuables at home. We suggest labeling your devices and chargers with your name.

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

Kalani is located in a relatively remote location, an approximate 20-minute drive from Pahoa (the nearest village) and 50 minutes from Hilo (the nearest town). By opting to be here you are choosing to leave behind ‘city’ conveniences in favor of living simply in nature.

Pahoa is a small, local village with a health food store, post office, supermarket and several restaurants and shops. Hilo has both a shopping center and a mall with mainstream retailers, including: Target, Macy’s, Office Max, Ross, a natural foods store, and more. Downtown Hilo and Pahoa both have wonderful farmers markets. We offer the following opportunities for transportation:

  • Van ride into Hilo every other Saturday and Wednesday
  • Van ride into Pahoa every other week
  • Van ride to Maku‘u Farmers Market Sunday mornings
  • Van ride to Kalapana night market Wednesday evenings
  • Occasional volunteer and staff excursions

Some volunteers choose to rent a vehicle or share a vehicle rental for a portion of their time here to go on short trips around the island. Several rental car companies offer vehicles at the Hilo Airport. There is a county bus that runs to Hilo and Pahoa; you can catch the bus just outside Kalani’s front entrance a couple of times each day.

When do I make tuition payments?

When you are accepted into the volunteer community, a $300 deposit is required to reserve your place. The remaining balance will be due upon your arrival. Both of these payments are non-refundable. We do not accept partial payments, or payment plans.

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

Why do I have to pay a cleaning/security deposit?

You are responsible for leaving your living space clean and tidy. Rubbish and recycling must be disposed of correctly and linens returned to Housekeeping (except Sabbatical volunteers). A-frames, cabanas, and shared lodge rooms should have all surfaces wiped down and floors swept or vacuumed, screens and fans cleaned. Campsites should be completely clear, tents removed, platforms reverted to original dimensions, and swept. Campers must return plastic drawers borrowed from Housekeeping to receive a cleaning deposit refund.

If your space is left unclean with regard to the above criteria, you will forfeit your cleaning deposit. Deposits are returned within 30 days to your credit card. If you paid cash and want a cash refund, you must schedule a room or campsite inspection; please make arrangements with the Volunteer Department prior to your departure.

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

Most volunteers opt to schedule a van pickup, in which case you will be greeted by a member of Kalani’s staff and transported to Kalani, which is about 50 minutes south of Hilo. Within a day or so of arrival, you will meet your volunteer “buddy,” who will assist you in getting oriented to campus and help you to settle in.

After registering at Guest Services and paying the remainder of your tuition along with the cleaning deposit, you will be shown to your accommodation, which you may share with one or two people. Rooms are simply furnished with a bed and drawers. Housekeeping can provide you with linens (for a twin sized bed), blankets (twin sized), pillows and towels – however, you can feel free to bring your own bedding if you prefer. Campers spend their first two nights in lodging, so they have ample time to set up their tent in daylight. The “Free Boutique,” located in Hale 1, is a great source for anything you may have forgotten to pack!

You will be given an orientation and tour within the first two days of your arrival.

What is the climate like at Kalani?

Kalani is in a tropical jungle! It rains more than 100 inches/year on our side of the island, more so in the winter months, so it helps to have a lightweight raincoat/umbrella and rain boots. Some find the first few weeks to be challenging while getting used to the combined humidity and heat. The weather here is relatively warm and tropical all year round. Bring sunscreen, as the sun can be very intense during the day. Day time highs range from upper-70s to mid-90s, and evenings are mild, upper-60s to low-70s. The winter nights can get into the 60s. Once you are acclimated to the weather, evenings may feel somewhat cool and you will likely want clothes to keep you warm at night, such as long pants and a sweatshirt, especially in the winter months.

What is my volunteer schedule?

Volunteer schedules vary by department. Check the Volunteer page for department details and descriptions.

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 four shifts a week with times and days varying, depending on your department placement. Because your schedule has generous time built in for rest and exploration, there are no automatic holidays within your volunteer commitment.