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By Jacqueline Boss

Kalani Retreat Center: Review by a Volunteer

On 26, May 2012 | 5 Comments | In Reviews, Travel Resources | By Jacqueline Boss

What is Kalani?

In a nutshell, the Kalani Retreat Center (from a volunteer’s eyes) is a pretty, but isolated, hippy volunteer village in Hawaii with good food, tons of free time and space, a clothing optional pool and hot tub, and very high employee satisfaction.

"The Point" at Kalani

What is the work like?

You will be offered a choice of jobs, and will most likely get your top choice. You can always transfer departments later.

Agriculture works outside constantly to maintain the property. Housekeeping cleans guest rooms and facilities. I worked as kitchen staff, and I prepared fruits and vegetables, cleaned, did dishes, served food, and eventually became front of house where I got to creatively make the drinks each day and help the guests have a good time.

Employee satisfaction is extremely high and there are daily and weekly meetings to discuss concerns.

How much do you work?

It is easy, with just 4 days of regular work hours per week and 3 days off. For every 3 months you work, you get a full week off to explore Hawaii.

How is the food?

Excellent. The kitchen staff prepares meals painstakingly and it shows. Meals are very healthy (except the decadent homemade desserts) and there are plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. Food is fresh and delicious, with much of the fruit coming from Kalani’s own property. 3 meals a day are served from a buffet line, free for volunteers, and you can always go back for more.

How are the facilities?

Awesome. The campus is large and fun to explore. There is a clothing optional pool/hot tub/ spa area and it is great to sit in the hot tub at night and stargaze. There are plenty of empty yoga rooms and places to meditate.

Clothing optional pool at Kalani

The campus is pretty, and volunteers can forgo the icky volunteer shower for the luxurious guest showers when they are not in use (which is often).

Guest shower at Kalani

Where do volunteers stay?

You’ll stay in your own tent, in small “A-frame” hut alone, in a small shared cabin room, or in one of the main buildings with a roommate or two, depending on what you want and luck of the draw. Most people like the privacy of A frames, but I liked the luxury of living in a building. All living spaces have at least one wall that is mostly just a screen, giving everything an inside-out feel.

My bed in my room in "Hale 2"

There is also a volunteer lounge and common area to watch movies, which there are tons of, and new ones coming in all the time.

The staff TV/lounge area of "Hale 2"

What is there to do?

There is always something to do, but most of it is geared toward slowing down and meditating- there is a ton of yoga and similar activities. I wasn’t really a big fan of the selection, but that is my own fault for going to a yoga retreat center when I don’t like yoga or that lifestyle. But I found plenty to do on my own. There are cool dance classes, like aerial dance, and a fun talent show each month. There is a weekly “ohana night” for volunteers to do a fun activity together, as well as a monthly staff trip (free to staff), many themed parties, and tons of special events and classes.

Off campus, there are a few farmers markets close by, and a black sand beach within walking distance. Go on a Sunday, when they have a great drum circle. It literally feels like you are in a movie. You can take a bus to town for shopping, but it is a long trip. There is a smaller town nearby with a few restaurants and shops.

And of course, the entirety of Hawaii is within reach.

How are the people?

They are hippies. I won’t beat around the bush, they are straight up vegan, hand-me-down clothes wearing, pot smoking, clothing optional swimming, chakra-opening, rain dancing, astrological, tree-hugging hippies. I did not fit into that mentality at all and it took a very long time for me to feel comfortable there, but eventually I did. It just depends on your personality. On the upside, everybody is very nice and open to meeting new people.

How much does it cost?

Yes, you have to pay to work. That is usually the case for short term volunteering. It is about $500 per month, less if you camp in a tent. Eventually you can get promoted and get a discount or even become a (very low) paid employee.

Overall: A-

It is a wonderful place to experience, and a great place to start planning your life anew. Kalani has a lot going for it. The downsides are the relative isolation of the campus, the rain, and if you are not a hippie, the hippie culture. But it is certainly worth trying if you are interested. The minimum stay is one month.


  1. This sounds like a good gig overall, and $500/mo is reasonable.

    I can’t imagine something other the Hippie culture prevailing there!

  2. I need to find out when the application deadline is for the volunteer program at your organization. What are the costs involved? Blessings, Jenny

  3. Jay

    I applied for a skilled trades Handyman, with more hands on experience than most, fit and driven and a college degree with 15 years of remote locations logistics experience, however I was pronounced not skilled enough by someone who obviously had no clue about real work experience. She quoted me $1800 for one month volunteer slot. There’s something fishy going on there for sure, with the $50 upfront fee, which they keep after dumping you. Wondering how many easy $50’s the admins pocket each year. Live and Learn

    • Myra

      Jay you got off lightly I left after two weeks with no refund of my $2,000! It was that bad it still made sense to go

  4. Myra

    Don’t Do IT !!!!!

    Jay you had a close shave !!!!

    The place is a shambles, I signed up and paid $2000 for 2 months volunteering, I left after 2 weeks …

    The work is menial and boring you don’t learn anything, you don’t get an experience, education or a course, it’s just washing up in a run down remote nude gay resort.

    You sleep in a shared room from the 70s with 2 others, the rooms are run down and noisy you clean them yourself – even the day you arrive ! Some people sleep in the illegal tent city smelling of damp the whole time, being disturbed by the wild pigs and watching their possessions die in mould.

    The classes are largely very gentle yoga, & once a week lei classes and hula – all taught by white women from the mainland, there’s a weekly ‘party’ night where all the losers get wrecked in order to get through another week ! Gets boring after week 2.

    There is no Hawaiian presence at all it’s just a selection of trumps children from mainland America (some are middle aged saddos that have never grown up and are running away from responsibilities, others young stoners that have worked out it’s easier to be here than working at Dennies).

    The leadership team is chaotic and there is no direction, there is a Monday morning meeting where the ‘MD’ up dates everyone on how great his house is and what his husbands up to and then a guy that thinks he’s deadpan and a dyke that thinks she’s Ellen attempt to be funny while passing on ‘notices’…. yawn welcome to another week in paradise … not – oh and a bit of casual cultural appropriation where all the whites sing Hawaiian songs…

    A quarter of our intake left before they were due to (you don’t get a refund so it’s a nice little earner for them – useful when you’re in the red) those that stayed were largely people who don’t have anywhere better to go / options in life.

    There are great workaway options in Hawaii and the big island, places that don’t charge to volunteer and don’t hold people to ransom as people actually enjoy being there, look into those places give this one a very wide berth….

    And if you’re looking for a spa and health retreat drive right on by……

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