5 Authentic Hawaiian Experiences on Oʻahu – 5min Read

"Right from birth, as a Native Hawaiian, my mother wanted to instill in me as much cultural and education as humanly possible. I attend the University of Hawaii at the ripe old age of 2, on her hip, sitting quietly in lectures", says NOHO HOME Founder Jalene Kanani. "a certified 5th year teacher, my mom would invite my friends over and then take us holo holo all day to botanical gardens, museums and festivals, always with an overdose of informative lectures for a group of 8 year olds who just wanted to go to the movies." Her mother, Willene Wailani Bell,  worked on the grounds of the Bishop Museum as the Education Coordinator for the Polynesian Voyaging Society. "Everyday I would walk from the Kamehameha School's terminal to her office and then head over to cool off in the air-conditioned Planetarium listening to Will Kyselka navigate the stars and nod off for a nap. These are now fond memories that shaped my world and when I became a parent I did the same with my children", says Jalene

A cultural wonderland rich with history and moʻolelo, the island of Oahu, Hawaiʻi has an endless supply of natural beauty and educational opportunities for the ʻohana. If you are looking for authentic experiences with opportunities to give back to the ‘āina, or to the land, then check out these five gems:


Via Papahana Kuaola Website

Papahana Kuaola 

Papahana Kuaola is a non-profit organization in Kāneʻohe, on the east side of the island. It boasts 63 acres of land with restoration and educational programs. 

Their mission statement: “Our mission is to create quality educational programs focused on environmental restoration and economic sustainability fully integrated with Hawaiian knowledge in order to exemplify a lifestyle respectful of kānaka, ʻāina, and ākua.”


They encourage volunteers of all ages with the policy, "come when you can, leave when you have to!"

What to Bring:

  • Clothes that can get dirty
  • Shoes that can get wet
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Towel

Third Saturday of the Month – Haʻiku Stream Restoration
9:00am – 12:00pm
This program restores the upper part of the stream with native plants.

Fourth Saturday of the Month – Lā ʻOhana Waipao 
These workdays focus on loʻi kalo management and repairing loʻi banks and walls.

Events and Education:

Papahana Kuaola can host a variety of events including –

  • Retreats
  • Staff Development
  • Training Sessions
  • Team Building Activities
  • Reunions
  • Ceremonies
  • Field Trips
  • Educational Programs


Business Hours: 
Monday - Friday: 8:00AM - 4:00PM

Visitors by Appointment
46-403 Haiku Rd 
Kaneohe, HI 96744

(808) 447-7694



Via Lyon Arboretum Instagram


The Harold L. Lyon Arboretum is a cultural and scientific resource located in Mānoa Valley island on the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus.

Their mission statement: “To inspire and cultivate the conservation of tropical plant biodiversity and connect it to Hawaii’s culture through education and research.”

Self-Guided Tour:

Sign in at the Visitor’s Center to grab a trail, bird, and garden guide to help you choose your route to explore the grounds at your own pace!

For an added experience, download the free Lyon App for an audio tour.

Guided Tour:

Guided tours are offered to individuals, small families, or parties of 30 people or less.

  • 10am-11am (except Sundays)
  • Reservations must be made at least 24 hours prior
  • $10.00 per person
  • Walk-ins accommodated if a tour is scheduled and space is available

School Tours:

The Arboretum offers educational field trip programs for grade-school students as well as university students. Visit their website to schedule!


Hours of Operation:
Mon - Fri: 8AM – 4PM
Sat: 9AM – 3PM 
Sun: Closed

3860 Mānoa Road 
Honolulu, HI 96822 

(808) 988-0456 

Admission for the general public is free, however, there is a suggested donation of $5/per person


Via Mānoa Heritage Center Website

Mānoa Heritage Center 

Programs here are centered around Kūkaʻōʻō Heiau, the only reconstructed ancient Hawaiian temple in Waikīkī.

Their mission statement: “Mānoa Heritage Center is a 3.5-acre living classroom dedicated to promoting an understanding of the cultural and natural heritage of Hawaiʻi.”

Outdoor Tours:

Take a 60-90 minute walk through gardens of Native Hawaiian and Polynesian plants, the view of Mānoa Valley, and the reconstructed temple.

Tours are by reservation only.

  • Adult $20
  • Hawai‘i Resident (with ID) $10
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation Members (with ID) $10
  • Arrive by bicycle for 50% off admission rate
  • Hawai‘i Educators (with ID) and Students under 18 FREE


The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Visitor Education Hale offers workshops in skills such as:

  • lauhala making
  • papermaking
  • palm bark baskets
  • Ūkēkē Making
  • body butter and salt scrubs


2856 Oahu Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822

(808) 988-1287


Via Paepae o He’eia  Website

Paepae o Heʻeia 

Paepae o Heʻeia is a non-profit organization that cares for Heʻeia Fishpond in

Their vision: “Our vision is to perpetuate a foundation of cultural sustainability for communities (‘ohana) of Hawaiʻi through education. Our mission is to implement values and concepts from the model of a traditional fishpond to provide intellectual, physical, and spiritual sustenance for our community.”


What to Bring:

  • Clothes that can get dirty
  • Shoes that can get wet
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Towel

Second and Fourth Saturday Community Workdays – 

The tasks to maintain the fishpond include moving rock and coral, filling buckets, hauling floating barges through the water, cutting/pulling out invasive mangrove, invasive limu removal, trash pickup, and reconstruction of the kuapā.

  • RSVP required
  • 8:30am-12:00pm
  • Lunch provided
  • Ages 12 & up

Weekday Mornings –

Tasks include hauling rock and coral, building wall, mangrove removal, site maintenance, and anything else that needs to get done. 

  • RSVP required
  • 8:00am-12:00pm
  • Lunch NOT provided

Guided Walking Tours:  

Bring your covered shoes, hat, and sunscreen for an hour-long tour!  

Field Trips:

Field trips welcome Monday-Thursday, and Hawaiʻi residents get $100 off!

Corporate Events: 

The faculty can happily accommodate:

  • Corporate Retreats
  • Hawaiian Culture/ValuesTraining
  • Employee Incentive Programs
  • Professional Staff Development
  • Team Building Activities


Via Bishop Science Website

Planetarium @ Bishop Museum

The Planetarium has a Chronos II star machine with 8,500 pinpoint stars and realistic planets, with the entire dome in immersive video.

Tickets range from $2.95 to $10.


  • Navigating the stars
  • Wayfinding
  • The sky tonight
  • Moons
  • In my backyard


Whether you are visiting the islands or just looking for something to do on your day off, consider one of these cultural experiences to further your knowledge of Hawai'i.

Don't see one of your favorite cultural spots on this list? Tell us which one you love and why in the comments below!