Hawaii & Alaska Service Trip Overview
This summer experience fire and ice as we journey to Hawaii and Alaska, two starkly different states with dramatic natural beauty. Our adventure will include a variety of service projects focused on wildlife conservation. In Hawaii we will participate in several projects to protect the endangered hawksbill sea turtles, while in Alaska we will switch from tropical turtles to wildlife that prefers colder temperatures, including the endangered wood bison, moose, and black bears!
In addition to our service work, we will experience the best each state has to offer, from the waterfalls, volcanoes, and beaches of Hawaii, to the glaciers, mountains, and ice fields of Alaska. So grab your bathing suit and your winter cap and join us on the adventure of a lifetime!
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 40 hours of service credit volunteering with multiple wildlife conservation projects
- Learn about sea turtle conservation and protect the endangered hawksbill sea turtles
- Spend the day with a local Hawaiian family in a beautiful valley at their sustainable farm
- Learn to surf on the famous shores of Waikiki Beach
- Kayak through the pristine waters of the Pacific Ocean
- Learn to hula and enjoy a traditional Hawaiian feast at an authentic Hawaiian luau
- Take a step back in time and visit Pearl Harbor Memorial
- Hike through lava tunnels to the top of Diamond Head Crater for stunning coastal views
- Spend time playing with the local children of Oahu
- Zoom over the lush jungle canopies on an adrenaline-pumping ziplining tour
- Try a morning of scuba diving and explore the world under the ocean’s surface*
- Catch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano and bike down through the clouds*
- Play beach volleyball, swim in crystal clear water, and enjoy life under the Hawaiian sun
- Whitewater raft up to Class IV rapids in two stunning canyons
- Strap on crampons and literally “walk on water” as you hike across a glacier, or for those brave enough, learn how to ice climb!*
- Spend time in Kenai Fjord National Park and hike to the top of the Harding Ice Field
- Stargaze and, if we’re lucky, even see the Northern Lights!
- Channel your inner musher as we visit an Iditarod training camp and take the sled dogs out on a run!
- Hike to a glacially fed alpine lake filled with icebergs
- Explore the charming town of Girdwood, hike, play disc golf, and adventure to your heart’s content
- Visit the Anchorage Museum and gain insight into the Inuit way of life
- Enjoy delicious seafood fresh from the Pacific
- Kayak in a glacial bay and keep an eye out for seals and other wildlife
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: DEPART FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
DAYS 2-4: HONOLULU > PEARL HARBOR > WAIKIKI
Oahu is the perfect island for a little bit of adventure! We will take a surf lesson on the famous shores of Waikiki with professional instructors who will have you riding waves in no time. Our hotel is just steps away from the beach, so we will have plenty of time to relax, swim, and enjoy some quality time in the summer sun! For a truly unique experience, we’ll hike through a lava tunnel to the top of famous Diamond Head Crater for breathtaking views of the island.
No visit to Oahu would be complete without a journey to the past to pay respects at the USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor Memorials. Accessible only by boat, this memorial is one of several sites in Hawaii commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor and honoring those who lost their lives as well as the few remaining survivors.
Our time in Oahu will be made even more special with a visit to the Boys and Girls Club in Honolulu. While here we will run a program for the children involving sports, arts and crafts, or anything else we can dream up! This provides the opportunity to bond with the children and gain more insight into BGCH’s mission of inspiring the local Hawaiian youth.
DAYS 5-10: MAUI
Maui is truly a Hawaiian paradise with pristine white sand beaches, colorful coral reefs, lush vegetation, and turquoise ocean. Lucky for us, our hotel is right across the street from some of the best beaches on the island! We can hop over any time we like for beach volleyball, relaxation, and a refreshing swim. Also enjoy a beautiful sunset dinner cruise.
Maui is also home to our sea turtle service project. We partner with a local organization dedicated to protecting and researching this endangered species. We’ll learn all about the hawksbill sea turtles and participate in a variety of projects dedicated to sea turtle conservation. Some of these projects include snorkeling and reef surveying to collect ocean data and look for turtles, beach cleanups to protect their natural habitats, watching over basking turtles on the beach, and educating tourists. Spot Manta Rays, swim through arches and share your turtle knowledge with our local guide on an outrigger canoe experience.
Summer is also the time of year these turtles typically come on the beach to nest. This means that it is very likely that we will have the opportunity to participate in a night watch for nesting turtles or watch over a nest hatching and help the babies make their way safely to the ocean!
For a truly authentic experience while on Maui, we will visit a small village tucked away in a private valley. Here you can fully immerse yourself in the traditional Hawaiian lifestyle. The valley is stunning and surrounded by rolling hills, lush vegetation, streams and hiking trails. It’s a place tourists would never be able to visit. Only those with a special invitation can visit this magical place and we will have the unique opportunity to spend the day there!
Connect with a local Hawaiian family and help out with their sustainability projects including taro farming and fish pond restoration. Embrace Hawaiian traditions and try your hand at a variety of activities such as hula, drumming, and even cooking a Hawaiian feast! This is a true cultural immersion experience and a wonderful way to experience the true meaning of Ohana in Hawaii!
Our service work will be complemented with plenty of fun activities, including sea kayaking, ziplining, walking through bamboo forests to waterfalls, scuba diving (optional), and learning to hula from a professional hula dancer.
There will also be an optional excursion to catch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano and bike down through the clouds. For those who don’t feel comfortable biking, don’t worry, there is the option to ride down in a vehicle too!
On our last night in Hawaii, we will experience a traditional Hawaiian luau with incredible performances and plenty of food! On our final morning in Hawaii, enjoy a boat tour to go on a dolphin watch.
DAYS 11-14: ANCHORAGE
After we say aloha to Hawaii, we will travel to the other non-contiguous state: Alaska! We’ll fly to Anchorage, the state capital, a city holding 40% of the state’s population yet only the 4th biggest city (in square miles). Here we will explore the city, see what survived the famous quake of 1964 and get an insight into Alaskan history and culture while visiting the Anchorage Museum.
We’ll spend time volunteering at Alaska’s Wildlife Conservation Center. We’ll have a walking tour of the property with a naturalist guide and immerse ourselves in the natural history of the 13 species of Alaskan wildlife housed here. Working alongside staff and naturalist interns we’ll work on projects to better the lives of the animals through husbandry, maintenance, and enrichment projects. We will even get to feed moose and make “toys” for wolves and bear cubs! Not only is this a fantastic opportunity to give the animals unique experiences, it is a once in a lifetime chance to see Alaskan wildlife exhibiting natural behaviors up close and personal!
While in Anchorage we will take a day trip out for a surreal experience literally “walking on water” as we trek across the Matanuska Glacier. Those who are looking for an adrenaline-pumping experience will have the option to ice climb instead! Our expert guides will help us navigate the glacier to discover stunning formations and bright blue ice.
DAYS 15-17: HOMER
Continuing with our theme of service we will be spending time at a living laboratory on the south shore of Kachemak Bay. This is only accessible by boat from Homer and we will stay overnight in traditional Yurts. Our group will learn about natural history and assist with maintenance and light construction projects. Also take a morning oceanography cruise.
Once the project is completed we will have a chance to explore Homer, the halibut capital of the world. Our group will go on a stunning hike in Kachemak Bay State Park to an iceberg lake and explore the town of Homer, including the unique Homer Spit, a 4.5 mile piece of thin land jutting into the bay where the harbor, restaurants, hotels, and some of the more historic areas of Homer are located.
DAYS 18-20: SEWARD
Seward is considered one of the best adventure capitals in the state. During our time here we will get our adrenaline pumping while whitewater rafting down Six Mile Creek between two stunning canyons. We will sea kayak in Resurrection Bay and learn about the history of the area, discover wildlife, and check out the coastal rainforest. We’ll also visit the Alaska Sealife Center to provide a close up look at many of the species that make up the waters.
To top off our time in Seward we will experience what many people call the most beautiful hike they have ever done, heading up to the Harding Ice Field at Exit Glacier.
DAY 21: GIRDWOOD
What better way to end a dream trip than channeling our inner Iditarod dog sledding champion? We will visit a camp for the dogs, get to know the team, ride on a circuit, listen to some incredible Iditarod stories, and to top it off, get to cuddle some pups who will someday be racers themselves! Spend the rest of the day hiking, playing disc golf and soaking in the beautiful sights of Girdwood before taking a tram 2,000 feet up and enjoying a fancy final dinner overlooking the spectacular valley and the Turnagain Arm.
DAY 22: RETURN FLIGHT TO SEATTLE (SEA)
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in grades 9th through 12th and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are chosen specifically in safe areas and are well suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. We do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities; we prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
In Maui we stay at a beautiful hotel right across from the beach in sunny Kihei. We will also spend two nights at rustic cabins in a beautiful private valley. In Oahu we stay at a great hotel right in the center of vibrant Waikiki that is walking distance to all of the shops, restaurants, and best of all, just a few blocks from Waikiki Beach! There are swimming pools at both hotels perfect for cooling off after a fun day spent under the sun.
In Alaska we will stay at the University of Anchorage, a waterfront hotel, and even have the unique Alaskan experience of staying in yurts!
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for the program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students like most about this program?
Students love that this trip is the perfect combination of two very different, yet beautiful states. The experience is effortlessly tied together with the common theme of wildlife conservation.
What is unique about this program?
We have an exclusive invite to a private valley where we have the unique opportunity to spend the day with a Hawaiian family learning their traditional way of life. Those lucky enough to visit describe the valley as magical, and it would be impossible to have this experience as just a tourist! In Alaska, working with the Wildlife Conservation Center provides special access to a wide variety of Alaska’s unique wildlife.
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; lunches; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Our Hawaii & Alaska Service program is an exciting combination of our 11-day Hawaii Sea Turtle Service & Adventure program and our 11-day Alaska Service & Adventure program. The flight between programs is not covered in the cost of tuition and is considered part of your airfare. TFT will have a set group flight path from Hawaii to Alaska. You can choose to book this on your own, but we recommend booking through our office as we usually are able to get better flight deals.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
The food in Hawaii involves plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and of course, seafood! Some typical foods we will have the chance to try are Poke bowls, Acai bowls, poi, and breadfruit. In Alaska, gorge yourself on salmon and sample the delicious king crab!
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
US citizens do not need passport or visa for this program, but a form of government-issued identification is needed for airport security.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.