Hawaiian Summer Camp,  Travel Tips

The Pros and Cons of WWOOFing on Maui

Do you want to live in Hawai’i for free?!

Um… maybe.

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as you might think. I lived and worked on Maui for 2 months by WWOOFing. To refresh your memories, WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and provides people with the chance to take part in work-trade programs all around the world. In exchange for room and board, volunteers work part-time as farmers. I’ve written about this program and other alternative ways to travel the world before.

This time around, though, I want to talk specifically about my experiences WWOOFing, and share with you the pros and cons of living in Hawai’i for free.

Farm Life (the chicken's name is Dinosaur!)

The Manual Labor

Pros: Learning how to make living things grow and thrive is a valuable skill, and a rewarding experience. Hauling rocks uphill to build walls for new garden beds is excellent exercise. You’ll be able to post cool facebook statuses such as “today I chopped down a banana tree with a machete,” and you’ll leave the farm feeling strong.

Cons: Hauling rocks uphill to build walls for new garden beds sucks. It is hard, dirty, and not the least bit glamorous. Working outside will inevitably give you cuts, bruises, sunburns, and stubbed toes.

Plants I made grow / Stubbed toe
Plants I made grow / Stubbed toe

Communing with Nature

Pros: The natural beauty of the Hawaiian islands is unlike anywhere else on earth. Your eyes will be treated to mountain and ocean views daily. Beaches and hiking trails are both within walking distance of your jungle home.

Cons: Bloodthirsty mosquitoes, poisonous centipedes, and a single bathroom, which you share with 15 other people and is uphill from your cabin, will make nature less appealing. Sometimes you just want to be indoors, but everything is open air or else shoddily screened-in.

You can picture the unparalleled beauty, so here's a photo of a spider as big as the palm of your hand. Nature!
You can picture the unparalleled beauty, so, here’s a photo of a spider as big as the palm of your hand.

That Tropical Climate

Pros: It’s warm all year long, and picturesque palm trees abound. You’ll put on a sweatshirt when it gets below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and spend every other day at the beach.

Cons: You know how you can’t go indoors? You also can’t get away from the humidity. And neither can your electronics. Prepare to be slightly damp for the duration of your stay.

Picturesque / Wet
Picturesque / Wet

Inconsistent Internet and No TV or Cell Phone Service

Pros: This is not a problem for most hippies, and it allows ample time for other pursuits such as gardening, hiking, and painting. Getting away from screens feels good, and being “off the grid” might appeal to you.

Cons: It makes blogging difficult. Your family and friends might start to wonder where you are.

Hiking in Haleakala National Park
You might start to wonder where you are

Reefer Madness

Pros: Drug culture is alive and well on farms around the world. If you’re into that, WWOOFing could offer a fun, safe environment for you.

Cons: If you’re not into that, you may start to wish you were. But seriously, while not all WWOOFers smoke/drink/dabble in psychedelics, if you’re not interested in being around that lifestyle, ask about a farm’s drug culture before moving there.

Yeah, I don't have a photo for this one.
Yeah… I don’t have a photo for this one.

Communal Living

Pros: You’ll meet cool, new, like-minded people. Learn skills, adjust to your new home, and explore Hawai’i with them. Cook together in the communal kitchen, party with them — it’s like college without the studying, summer camp without the counselors!

Cons: Just because people are interested in living in Hawai’i and gardening doesn’t mean they share all your ideas and values. Be prepared for the problems that arise when sharing space with a large group of people — some people won’t clean up after themselves, others will hog the shower, others will blast the hippie soundscapes they call music at 8:00 am when you just want to drink your coffee in peace before spending 3 hours weeding, mulching, and flipping compost.

Farm Antics
Being goofy with new friends

If I focused on the cons in this post, it’s only because they make for better punchlines.

I’m so grateful for the experiences I had on Maui and the farmily (!) I met there. I wholeheartedly recommend WWOOFing to anyone open to learning new skills, making new friends, and getting out of their comfort zone.

The experience won’t be without its “cons,” but only you can decide what those are. And, I’m sure the “pros” will make up for them.

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.


    • opportunemma

      I think “non-smoking” would be appropriate, if that’s the kind of WWOOFer you’re looking for. Applicants can always ask for clarification, but, if you’re willing to have someone who smokes casually, I would bring it up once you’re corresponding with a potential WWOOFer, rather than list it in the farm description, just so you don’t lose otherwise good candidates. I hope you enjoy hosting WWOOFers! Good luck!

  • Arianwen

    Blimey! Sounds like hard work! It’s great to get out and about and do some good physical manual labour though. I bet it’s really rewarding, and the chance to stay there for free isn’t half bad either! 🙂

    • opportunemma

      It’s incredibly rewarding to see the (literal) fruits of your labor, and, yes, although it’s hard work, I felt healthy and strong after being outside all day. I also felt exhausted, but it was the best kind of exhaustion!

    • opportunemma

      I worked at Hana Farms. You can read about their work-trade program and find out how to apply here: http://hanafarmsonline.com/index.php/about-hf/work-trade-at-hf

      They do get a lot of applicants though, and they prefer people who want to stay for at least 3 months, so you might not hear back from them. I’d recommend sending applications to as many of the Maui farms on the WWOOF USA website as possible because, unsurprisingly, it’s a very desirable location.

      Thanks for your question, and I hope this helped!

  • yashippy

    thank you so much! I applied and they said they didn’t have openings plus they wanted me to stay 3 months. I found a farm that accepted me called the dragon fruit farm. I’m exited but im nervous, idk if i will be able to sleep in a tent for 2 months. 🙁 thanks for the info! love your blog!

    • opportunemma

      You’re welcome! I’m sorry Hana Farms didn’t have any openings, but I’m glad you found another farm. I bet you can handle sleeping in a tent for two months — you’d be amazed what you’re capable of adjusting to! Good luck and thank you so much for saying you love my blog! 😀

  • Precious

    Hi emma new to wwoofing as if this year…I’m.still at the beginning stages of getting a letter intent prepared looking over wwoofers farms etc. My question is if you hypotheticaly where moving yo Hawaii with the intent to eventually set up permanent residence would you say wwoofing is a good route

    • opportunemma

      Hi, I don’t update this blog much anymore, so sorry for the very delayed reply. I think wwoofing can be a good way to acclimate yourself, get to know the community, and hear about jobs and housing options outside of the farm you start at. It’s what my partner’s sister did and she’s been living in Hawaii for about 4 years now.

  • Hana Kubesova

    Emma your writing is excellent! I am sorry you don’t update your blog any more. I just found your blog, when I was looking for volunteering on Maui. Would be great to read more from you!

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