In a nutshell, the Kalani Retreat Center (from a volunteers 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.
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 Kalanis 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.