How To Do Good and Feel Good on Your Honeymoon

How to give back on your first trip as a married couple.

Soneva Fushi Maldives

Courtesy of Soneva Fushi

Picture this: You’re on your dream honeymoon in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, bathing in surreal turquoise water, sipping cocktails of pineapple and passion fruit, and indulging in couples’ lomi lomi massages. But, after a few days of this ultimate relaxation and pampering, you take an hour or two to slip on gloves and pick up some of trash on the beach. Or, you journey off for a thrilling ATV or scenic helicopter tour that ends with planting a native seedling in a reforestation effort. Or perhaps, you and your new spouse mingle with some locals while removing invasive algae from a coastline, help clean up a royal fishpond, or tie on some coral fragments to a nursery to help propagate a new reef. 

These are just a few of the super simple and endlessly enjoyable ways to give back—to the earth and to the community—while on the most romantic trip of your life. Doing a little good does nothing to dim the glamour or excitement. In fact being exposed to new activities, learning a little and meeting new people can actually lead to not only more fun but an even more enriching and memorable experience in paradise. Plus, engaging on equal ground with people who live in a place, beyond hotel staff who are there to serve you, can help you gain perspective and appreciation. Then there are the tips you might glean on local gem restaurants and secret spots to visit. Here, a few handfuls of ways to work in a little volunteer action around your tropical honeymoon


The Hawaiian islands are a mecca for paradisiacal honeymoons laced with elements of doing good. In many cases, couples participating in a community project or with a volunteer organization will get special perks, discounts, or even free nights from their hotel or resort. That’s because of a compelling and inspiring initiative called Mālama Hawai'i, which means “to care for Hawaii” in Hawaiian. The term is typically used alongside the word aina, meaning “land,” or kupuna, meaning “elders.” It’s a concept baked into the responsibility, or kuleana, of being Hawaiian or living in the islands. 

For visitors, participating in these efforts goes a long way toward showing respect—and you’ll probably also get it back. There are dozens of ways to mālama across the islands, and many can be found online. (Note that in some cases COVID has temporarily changed volunteer schedules.) But the stunning Island of Hawai’i—full of diverse landscapes and seriously few cars—is a dreamy place to start if you’re seeking outsized adventure, jaw-dropping beauty, and meaningful connection. There, plant lovers should head to Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative (the twice-monthly Saturday volunteer days end with a potluck feast!), an organization that’s made an impressive impact restoring endangered lowland dry forest and native flora like the wiliwili. Do meaningful work sorting seeds, removing endemic species, or planting shrubs while learning traditional Hawaiian stories and mythology of these plants. (Fairmont Orchid offers the fourth night free for those who participate.) 

Taking a dreamily beautiful Hualālai crater tour above the clouds with Uluha’o o Hualālai is a special opportunity that isn’t actually volunteering, yet comes with the opportunity to say thank you for a deep immersion into a very sacred place by planting a baby koa tree on the mountain. Some resorts have packages or opportunities for those couples wishing to get involved, such as Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which offers a fifth night free for those who do a self-directed beach cleanup using a provided DIY kit. (Prince Waikiki on Oahu offers the fourth night free for this effort, a partnership with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.) Go early to beat the heat and you might get to join the sunrise E Ala E chant. Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection’s own Mālama Honu is a program raising awareness of endangered sea turtles and caring for hatchlings who, around three years old, are released on Turtle Independence Day (aka July 4) in an evocative ceremony that’s well worth making the pilgrimage for. 

On Oahu, Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative is one of the efforts you’ll hear most about, since the organization is rounding up locals and travelers alike to help reforest 500 acres of the land at Gunstock Ranch with native species like milo and kou trees. A ceremonial planting concludes certain ATV or horseback tours of the sprawling and spectacular ranch, and the energy is so special there have been proposals en route. ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, for one, offers the fifth night free, plus a $200 F&B credit (use some of it on their sustainable Earth to Cup happy hour menu) and one-day rental car for those who make the scenic trek up to the North Shore for a planting, which also means you can track your love tree long after leaving the island. 

Of course, you don’t have to let a hotel perk direct your energy or pursuits. Those passionate about the ocean—and anyone who doesn’t want to skip a beach day—can join a community huki, or volunteer event, with Mālama Maunalua, for example, and learn about and remove alien algae that clogs up picturesque Maunalua Bay. Also consider who your dollars are supporting: the colorful Kaimana Beach Hotel, for example, fresh off a highly Instagrammable renovation, is one of few locally owned hotels in the area.  

On other islands such as Kauai, Timbers Kauai at Hokuala partners with Sustainable Coastlines for periodic beach cleanups that five-star residences guests can partake in. Couples might also assist with harvesting or packaging seasonal produce from the 450-acre property with Farmer Cody to donate to the Kauai food bank. Kauai’s Ko’a Kea Resort at Po’ipū Beach has a mālama package comprising a volunteer beach clean-up activity and your fourth night free. On Maui, the Hana-Maui Resort, which also includes daily breakfast for two, offers a free night for volunteering with the Pacific Whale Foundation picking up litter on any Maui beach. Some opportunities are a bit more offbeat, like Wailea Beach Resort’s fifth-night-free promise for guests who make an appliqué and sew it on a quilt to donate to kupuna (elders). 

Remember, none of this means you can’t still spoil yourselves. Feast on the freshest and most mouthwatering seafood at Mauna Lani’s CanoeHouse, and talk story with resident cultural gatekeeper Uncle Danny. Rent a longboard and hit the consistent waves at Waikiki. Get a heavenly Huki Huki mud wrap, scalp rub, and lomi lomi massage at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach’s spa. Walk over undulating lava at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Hop in a helicopter to admire the surreal Nā Pali Coast. Duck out after dark to sip a craft cocktail in White Sands Hotel’s hidden speakeasy. Laze on the beach. Balance is a beautiful thing, and a little mālama along the way can bring it all into focus. 


While staying on the idyllic hillside of Lake Atitlán, the deepest lake in Central America, at the dreamy Relais & Chateaux property Casa Palopó, lovers can (with a donation) arrange to spend a couple hours or a day painting vibrant house and building facades throughout the charming, technicolor town of Santa Catarina Palopó. The opportunity is with a revitalizing community initiative called Pintando Santa Catarina Palopó. Additionally, guests get 10 percent of their nightly rate back in vouchers they can use to shop from local artists and boutiques there—the locals then redeem the voucher payments for cash at the hotel, benefiting the town's micro economy greatly.


If you have a special affinity for sea turtles, you and your love may want to spend part of your honeymoon helping them from Juno Beach’s plush Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa. With a minimum two-night stay, the Sea Turtle Voluntourism Package includes an evening tour of Loggerhead Marinelife Center to feed hatchlings, care for current patients, learn about conservation, and release turtles to sea. Adoption of one turtle patient is included, too, so you can get updates on your little guy or girl as they heal. 


The earth-friendly yet deluxe JOALI has implemented a Coral Table Nursery to accommodate guests’ different skills in assisting with coral restoration and expanding their sustainable genetic bank of corals. And, at super luxurious island resort Soneva Fushi, couples can engage in sustainability initiatives that include beach cleanups and installing coral fragments in the ocean to proliferate new reefs.

Costa Rica 

On Costa Rica’s Blue Zone Nicoya Peninsula, the all-inclusive eco-luxe Hotel Punta Islita offers all the thrilling and pampering activities honeymooners could want (zip-lining, horseback riding, spa treatments) alongside deep community engagement in the form of cleaning the town’s school, church, or beaches, gardening in the Sports Plaza, harvesting fruit to donate to the community, and teaching local kids at Islita’s Center for Education and Nutrition.

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