There's not much qualification needed for the claim that Kaua'i is one of the most naturally beautiful islands in the world. However, her small 562 square mile domain is not unlike the other islands in the chain - a fragile ecosystem that needs protection, and a tight knit community with a tenuous grip on a single economic revenue stream. The Hawaiian Islands are the world's most isolated inhabited archipelago; lying over 2300 miles from the nearest major land mass. Paradise though it may be, this tiny microcosm faces many of the same hurdles in Poipu Beach that travelers from Paducah or Pittsburgh may be familiar with at home.
For Kaua'i visitors interested in more than the typical vacation experience, the Grand Hyatt Kaua'i has instituted the Enrich Program, allowing guests to form a deeper connection with the island and her people, plants, and animals during their stay. Now nearly a year old, the program pairs up guests with five local organizations that give them the chance to volunteer their time and give back to their island host.
“Naturally everyone who comes to Kauai is amazed by the lush beauty of it all and while a mix of adventure and relaxation are primary motivators, people often want to do something meaningful as well,” stated the program’s developer, Diann Hartman, public relations manager. “Each activity is great for families and groups, everyone can learn, by doing, that they can make a difference, not just for themselves but others as well.” Hartman continues, “These specific organizations do a great job with their established volunteer programs by welcoming all ages and abilities, providing an educational work environment, clear direction, and the proper tools and equipment needed, essentially creating a fun and gratifying way to spend a day.”
One of the most popular programs is in coordination with the Kaua'i Humane Society. Because Kaua'i is a small community the pool of potential pet-adopters is much smaller than larger Mainland communities with more demand for adoptable pets. Guests who love animals and might be missing their pets while on vacation can sign up to cuddle the shelter's cats and take the dogs on field trips, which benefits the animals by socializing them with humans and increasing their prospects for adoption. For the dogs who can leave the shelter, guests are provided with a list of dog-friendly beaches and hiking trails, a water bowl, leash, and waste bags, along with "Adopt Me" vests so everyone that sees them knows they're looking for a "forever home".
Hartman shared that many of the dogs are adopted directly by guests participating in the program, while others are adopted by local residents who meet the dog on a field trip, and others still are adopted after the guests return home and find willing pet parents in their local community. In fact, at least one of the dogs in our slideshow has since been adopted, joining other happy dogs from the Kaua'i Humane Society that have been placed in homes in 25 Mainland states and Canada. With more dogs than can be adopted locally at the shelter, guests returning to the Mainland on Alaska Airlines flights to select destinations can also transport a dog with their checked luggage at no cost to them. Upon arrival, a local humane society worker collects the dog at baggage claim.
Widely known as the "Garden Isle", it's no surprise that another popular program for Grand Hyatt guests is the National Tropical Botanical Garden, which has several locations on Kaua'i. As with homesick pet-lovers, green thumbs missing their gardens have the opportunity to get their hands into the rich volcanic soil repotting endangered plants, many endemic to Hawai'i, while learning about the ecosystems and culture of the island by "talking story" and working alongside local volunteers.
Fans of forestry and hiking can also volunteer to help eradicate invasive species and encourage native plant growth at Koke'e State Park through the Hui O Laka program. Ocean enthusiasts can malama O ke kai (care for the ocean) by volunteering for beach cleanup activities via the Surfrider Foundation, and guests of all skill levels can help on island housing projects through the local Habitat for Humanity a short drive west in Hanapepe.
While the Hyatt's Enrich Program offers an easy, accessible contact point for Hyatt guests, many of the programs are available to all Kaua'i visitors and can be contacted directly for more information.