Call us at  808.937.5806
Established 2004

August 20, 2017

Written by:

Adventure to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

A group of PQ students recently has an adventure at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! The group packed up the cars and headed up the Southeastern coast towards the park, listening to music and playing fun games along the way. The car ride followed a highway that took the group past stunning panoramic ocean views over Whittington beach park, where everyone could see the Pacific ocean spanning off into the horizon. The group also drove through the Ka’u desert, into the lowland Ohi’a Lehua forest on the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa, and finally into the national park and its vast, lush expanses of tropical forests.

The first stop on this outing was the Thurston Lava Tube.  Known as Nāhuku, the lava tube was discovered (or possibly re-discovered) in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local news publisher at the time. The group stopped for a brief lesson on how lava tubes are formed before setting off on a winding trail through a forest of tree ferns.  At the bottom of the trail the large, ominous mouth of the lava tube became visible and the group was soon inside it’s lighted passageways. The group entered the tube and took a moment of stillness to observe the cavernous silence of the tube, imagining a river of molten lava flowing through the spot where they were standing over one hundred years ago. After this moment, the group took a few group photos and then made their way through the remainder of the tunnel, pausing to touch the walls of the tube, feel the moisture and moss, and observe spiderwebs hang from lights lining the tube. At the end of the tunnel, everyone made their way up a series of winding staircases that joined a path to complete the trail loop.  After the lava tube, everyone was ready for lunch. The group enjoyed a picnic while a student read stories about Pele, the goddess of fire, and her journey through the Hawaiian islands before finally finding a home in a crater at the national park.

After lunch, the group was ready to head out on the next excursion, a trek that would take them around and across the floor of the nearby Kilauea Iki crater. Descending again through the lush rainforest, the students arrived on the crater floor. The crater’s most recent natural history is dominated by a 1959 vent eruption that spewed a curtain of lava 1900 feet into the air for five weeks. This eruption filled the valley floor to create a lake of lava weighing an estimated 86 million tons and rising to a depth of 400 feet. As the group walked and talked together, they couldn’t help but pause periodically to marvel at the natural beauty of the crater as everyone looked out in awe over the crater, under Mauna Loa, and across the steam vents.

As the group continued across the crater floor, everyone paused to learn about and observe some of the steam vents, and look for interesting geologic marvels such as ‘Pele’s Hair’ – thin strands of rock lifted from the lava lake of Kilauea’s caldera and blown by the wind to settle in cracks and crevices all over the surrounding area. Students marveled at the Ohi’a Lehua trees that took root in the otherwise desolate crater floor, ruminating on how life finds a way to endure, even in the harshest conditions.  Everyone hiked back up the switchbacks on the opposite side of the crater and made the short hike back through the rainforest to where the cars were parked. Just before leaving the crater, the group stopped at an overlook to take one last look at how vast the crater was and how far they had come. A tired, but very fulfilled ohana climbed back into the cars to relax and reflect on the ride back to Pacific Quest.

November 11, 2013

Written by:

Students Explore Green Sand Beach

A group of students recently had the opportunity to visit Papakolea Beach, also known as Mahana Beach or Green Sand Beach.  This infamous beach is located in the district of Ka’u on the Big Island, not too far from Pacific Quest.  Papakolea is one of only four green sand beaches in the world–the others being located in Guam, Norway and the Galapagos Islands.  Students were excited as they prepared for the two mile hike to this secluded beach.  Before starting on the trail head, they geared up with bandanas, extra water, sunhats and sunscreen. The trail runs parallel to the coastline and every once in while the group paused to look for humpback whales.  This trail is known for gusty winds, so students wore bandanas to cover their faces from potential dust while they hiked.

While hiking, students shared with each other how much they were all enjoying themselves and anticipating the beach and swimming in the ocean.  As the group approached the bluff, students were amazed at the bright blue water, and peridot sand down below.  Everyone hiked down to the ocean and in unison ran and jumped into the water.  It was an exceptionally calm day and the temperature of the water was perfect!

Everyone swam for several hours, body surfed in waves and frolicked about, laughing and continuing to sprint back and forth into the water.  The group enjoyed a picnic lunch and then decided to hike back. This was the first outing for many of the students and was breathtaking and awe inspiring!

August 7, 2013

Written by:

Students Visit Kahuku Ranch

By Mike McGee, Program Supervisor

IMG_1378Students recently had the opportunity to visit Kuhuku Ranch, a special area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Kuhuku Ranch was one of the largest ranches in Hawaii and sprawled out over almost 200,000 acres on the western slopes of Mauna Loa.  The ranch was purchased by the National Park Service due to the unique ecosystems found within the ranch. The ranch includes several large pit craters, visible reminders of Mauna Loa’s violent past.  The largest of the pit craters is about 500 feet across and almost 300 feet deep. The crater contains species that are found nowhere else in the world and only a handful of humans have ever been to the bottom, preserving the ecosystem as it had originally developed.

The students were excited to explore the area!  The ranch has the appearance of a mystical movie set.  Ancient Ohia Le’hua and Koa trees dot the landscape of deep flowing grass.  Collapsed lava tubes give the landscape a rolling feel of mounds and valleys.  After unloading the vehicles, the group began the short 1.5 mile hike to the crater while discussing the geological history of the land.

When the group arrived at the crater the students were amazed!  The group spotted an I’o, or Hawaiian Hawk, swoop across the crater as well as an Apapane, one of the last remaining species of the endemic honey-creepers.  These rare birds are found nowhere else on the planet and are currently listed as endangered species.

During lunch break, the group did an activity where students were given vague instructions on how to draw an animal.  Everyone shared their drawings and spoke to how animals will adapt to fill niches in a ecosystem and how sometimes that can look a little weird (Hawaii originally had a duck fulfill the niche of grazing herbivore). That lead us to a conversation about our roles in social groups and how people adapt depending on the situations they find themselves in.  We may find ourselves the leader on a sports team, a class clown in school, and a peacemaker in the family all in one day!




February 15, 2013

Written by:

Adolescents Visit Manuka State Park

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramRecently, a group of the adolescent students had the opportunity to explore the rare and fascinating, two-mile loop trail at Manuka State Park. Manuka is a Natural Area Reserve, and one of the nineteen different reserves within the statewide Natural Area Reserves System. The Big Island of Hawaii island has eight reserves to call its own. Students hiked this secret jewel of Hawaiian mid to low-land native forest, that has had little human impact. The nature trail traverses over 25,550 acres of dense Ohi’a-Lehua forest. A “kipuka” is a tract of land surrounded by recent lava flow. Most forests like this have been converted into coffee farms or cattle grazing grounds, but in this kipuka is the remnants of the forests that once covered leeward Hawaii.


There were plenty of plants for students to identify in this kipuka, which revealed over fifty different species of native plants and many canoe plants. Hiking past the Kukui tree, an important plant brought over by Hawaiians, its branches tangled into almost artistic formations. The students split into two teams, and competed to see which team could identify the most plants on the trail. Afterwards, the group approached a pit crater, which is the aftermath of a lava flow. Some pit craters can be small, like tubes, and others can be hundreds of yards across. These craters have very delicate ecosystems, and can support life that is vastly different from creatures on the surface. Students learned about honey-creeper birds and troglodytes living down below, and the way that they adapt to a new environment.  Students played a game called “choosing your own adventure”, talking about other species on the island, such as the Nene, the Hawaiian state bird and how it adapted to island life having been blown off course thousands of years ago. Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

After the lesson, the group ate lunch and trekked back to the rest area, where everyone played an interactive game about bats and moths. Students learned that both the bat, and the moth adapt their behavior to feed, and not get eaten. The students really enjoyed this game, and it was great exercise! Lastly, the students came together to see if they could work as a team to lower a stick (with just two fingers placed on it) to the ground. A seemingly easy task, but hard without solid communication and teamwork.  They were successful!

December 11, 2012

Written by:

Punalu’u Beach Service Project

By McLean Eames, Experiential Education Supervisor

Recently, a group of the young adult students traveled 60 miles South, over the Kilauea volcano, to the district of Ka’u to join the community and help with a big service project at Punalu’u Beach.

Punalu’u means “diving spring” in Hawaiian, and the place gets its name from the large amount of fresh water that comes out of the mountains and flows out of springs above and below sea level.  The beach is well known for its black sand (the result of lava flowing directly into the ocean), and the large number of Hawaiian Green Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramSea Turtles or “Honu” that gather there.  The local legends say that Punalu’u is a safe place for keiki (children) to swim because a magical little girl–Kauwila, who can take the shape of a honu–protects the keiki that swim there, and rescues them if they are in need.

On several occasions throughout the year, the community organization O Ka’u Kakou (OKK) “We are Ka’u”, organize a clearing of the trash and invasive water lilies that take over the pond ecosystem.  After the group registered they jumped right into the pond and started working!  The group had a fun surprise when they saw the adolescent students from Pacific Quest show up! There were lots of familiar faces and many staff volunteered their time, including the off shift Supervisors and Executive Director Mike McKinney and his family who were up to their waists in water lilies!

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramAfter clearing out almost all of the lilies from the pond (the OKK members said the group set an all-time record!), students stopped work for the day, and were invited to join in the community lunch.  The students had their choice of hot dogs, chili, rice, and fresh fruit.  The group rested on the beach before a couple of students decided to take a quick dip in the ocean to wash some of the pond muck off.  Folks were spotting more honu swimming nearby and the students noticed that the water was a bit colder here because of the fresh water coming out of the springs.

After swimming, the group decided to take a short hike south along the coast.  Along the way, students saw salt cracks where ocean spray had sat and evaporated many times, leaving a depression in the rock full of natural sea salt!  Everyone stopped under a tree to view an ancient petroglyph–a “konane” board carved directlyPacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program into the rock.  The group imagined what it would have been like hundreds of years ago to be sitting under that very tree playing a game of konane (an ancient Hawaiian game much like Chinese checkers).

The final destinations on the hike were two “Heiaus” (ancient sacred sites) situated on top of a hill overlooking the bay.  Once there, the group shared their thoughts on spirituality, and the importance of honoring your own beliefs as well as the beliefs of others.  The students also learned about how these sacred places are still honored by the fisherman and other members of the community to this day.

After a full day at Punalu’u, the group drove back to Reeds Bay–exhausted but fulfilled at having been able to help out so much.  Some of the students were overheard saying that this was their favorite outing yet, and it was because they had the chance to volunteer as part of their local community.

March 17, 2012

Written by:

The Ohana’s Choice

By Tom De Trolio, Outing Supervisor

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramRecently, the Ohana took an adventure to Honomalino Bay which lies 2,000ft down the scenic 5 mile road leading to Miloli’i, one of the last ancient fishing villages to rely on fishing as a way of life. From the town of Miloli’i, the group hiked about a half mile past the ancient ruins ranging from rock walls, fishing heiaus (sacred sites), and old grave sites of Hawaiians who once lived along this coast, possibly during the late 1700’s. Students were intrigued to learn about the Hawaiian Kapu system (law system), and still see people using signs referring to Kapu today.

Swimming, snorkeling, writing PQ in lava rocks on the sand, underwater photos, throwing the football, and knocking coconuts down were all experiences made possible by a choice the students made together before they left camp. With three newPacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program members of the group entering camp within the last two days, the elder students wanted to teach the expectations and guidelines by holding a meeting at the Fire Circle.

The Fire Circle is a place for therapeutic groups, curriculum lessons, dinner around a fire, ceremonies, and a safe place to express emotions with intention. Although they were ready to go on time, the Ohana made a choice to role model, mentor, and have fun while accepting that their outing time would be cut short due to their meeting. By choosing to let go of control over time, the Ohana took back control for what they stand for.

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy ProgramOne student stated, “I’m glad we chose to have that meeting this morning. The outing was less stressful for me, we didn’t have to stop and go over anything. We knew why we were there, who we were as students with PQ, and how to act in certain situations.”

Choice gives us control over our lives by allowing us to actively participate in its making. Choice provides us the opportunity to make the most of whatever life throws our way. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program presents each student with the freedom to make choices for their needs and wants, as well as an opportunity to better understand who they are and what they stand for. Sustainable GrowthTM is a choice. A choice to better ourselves, the Ohana, and the gardens we choose to care for.

February 2, 2010

Written by:

Outing to Miloli’i Village and Honomolino Beach

Outing to Miloli'i Village and Honomolino Beach - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young AdultsMiloli’i means fine twist. The fine twist refers to the intricate, strong cordage that Miloli’i was known for throughout the islands. Miloli’i Village is known today as the “last fishing village” on the island. Inhabited mostly by families who have lived there for generations and whom still sustain themselves through fishing. To really get a sense of what this fine twist means, when we arrived at the the beach after hiking over the 1950 lava flow, past the fishing heiau and through the forest over grown with dragon fruit vine and overrun with feral goats, we tried our hand at the cordage that may have been of the most use in Miloli’i: coconut fiber fishing line. We found that the coconut we chose may have been a little bit too old, the fibers stiff and brittle, but despite this some of us were able to fashion thread up to a foot in length. After our cordage exploration, we took to the sea.
Outing to Miloli'i Village and Honomolino Beach - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults
Everyone swam in the warm waters today and some who donned their goggles were able to see angel fish and what may have been the state trigger fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. For me, as an educator, one of the best things about even the possibility of seeing this fish is the great language lesson it provides. Many practiced this name for much of the rest of our day. Our swim was followed by lunch and a conversation about the two foods that would best sustain us if stranded on an island, which led to two foods we would bring if we weren’t thinking about what would actually keep us going, and a brief discussion about the noticeable difference. After reading about the local lava encounter in the 50s that shaped the geology of the area we were exploring, I pulled out a map of the 8 major islands in the Hawaiian archipelago and asked the group to create a sculpture, using what was around them to work together to recreate the map. Staff were able to help only when given directions. the group made a beautiful map of the island chain, outlines in the wet sand were filled in with small pebbles and larger rocks to represent larger volcanoes, some coconut fiber showed the recent lava flow. This provided a great way to talk about some of the distinguishing characteristics of each island, and the moats we had to build to protect our work of art some great spontaneous team building. We finished off our day with a final plung into the clear, warm water, the hike back to the vehicles and tales of Ohia and Lehua on the ride back to Pacific Quest.Outing to Miloli'i Village and Honomolino Beach - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults


January 27, 2010

Written by:

Trip to Mauna Kea visitor area at 9,300 feet

Trip to Mauna Kea visitor area at 9,300 feet - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Mauna Kea, planet Earth’s tallest mountain (when measured from sea floor to summit) rises 13,796 feet above sea level. It is arguably the best place in the world to look at the stars. On Tuesday afternoon, Pacific Quest’s Malama students had the rare opportunity to don long-johns and winter hats, as they made the trip to Hawaii’s sacred mountain.

Upon arriving at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,300 feet in elevation, the students took a walk to see the unique flora of the ecosystem.  Students viewed the silversword, a threatened plant species endemic to Hawaii.   The life cycle of this particular plant is up to 40 years. Found only on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Haleakala (a volcano on Maui), the silversword is named for its long, narrow leaves with silvery hairs.

After examining the rare plant as well as a few others that exist on Mauna Kea, the students hit the trails for a short hike up an extinct cinder cone, or pu’u, to watch the sunset. From above the clouds the views were spectacular! Everyone seemed to enjoy absorbing the alien landscape, often likened to that of the moon. As the sun set, one student uttered a reverent, “Wow.” With that, the group shared one thing from their past that they would like to leave up on the mountain—one thing that, if absent from their life, would allow them to move forward in a more positive direction in their future.

The group headed back to the VIS to have a picnic dinner and watch a film about the cultural and scientific history of Mauna Kea. Once it had become sufficiently dark, it was time for the star tour began.  Everyone shuffled outside to view the night sky. With the aid of the VIS telescopes, the Malama students got to look at the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter with four of its moons.  VIS staff pointed out different constellations and before leaving everyone got a lesson on how to used the public telescopes to find different stars and planets in the sky.

Mauna Kea is truly a magnificent place and everyone was sincerely grateful to have had such a unique opportunity.

Trip to Mauna Kea visitor area at 9,300 feet - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults


January 17, 2010

Written by:

1/12 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

“Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park displays the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution — processes that thrust a bare land from the sea and clothed it with unique ecosystems, and a distinct human culture. The park highlights two of the world’s most active volcanoes, and offers insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and views of dramatic volcanic landscapes.”  (HVNP website)

Usually when driving towards the national park the group has the  opportunity to see Mauna Loa mauka (to the mountain side) of the road and cinder cones on Mauna Kea makai (to the sea side).  On this particular day it was rainy and misty though so no views were possible.  The group discussed the Ohia Lehua trees visible from the vehicle.   After, the group reviewed the life cycle stage of each of the island’s volcanoes. When the group arrived at the park they first headed to the Kilauea Iki trailhead. From there views into the crater are magnificent.  Active steam rising from the vents below gives one a sense of the liveliness of the park. The group descended the trail into the crater and learned about Hapu’u fern, Ohia Lehua, ferns and ginger. At the bottom of the trail they reviewed the how the “bathtub ring” was created, where the enormous pile of cinder came from and why the steam vents exist. The group hiked across the crater and got close up views of the steam vents.

After ascending the trail on the other side of the crater the group hiked to the Thurston Lava Tube and through the surrounding forest. The group learned of the creation of lava tubes and then got to see one first hand, both the lighted section and then the part of the tube still in its ‘natural state.’  Luckily the group had their headlamps and were able to explore. The adventure culminated when the group completed the last half mile of the loop they had begun at the Kilauea Iki parking lot a few hours before.


August 28, 2009

Written by:

Green Sands Beach Trip 8-26

In addition to spectacular white sand and black sand beaches, the Big Island of Hawaii boasts a unique green sand beach.  Green sand is formed from the gemstone olivine, or peridot.  Through volcanic action the olivine is brought to the earth surface.   As the olivine weathers, it is broken into small fragments, which eventually becomes sand.  The green sand is heavier than the white or black sand and remains on the beach when the ocean currents sweep away the lighter weight sands.  It is a unique phenomenon that occurs at the south point of the island.

The green sands beach contains the oldest know evidence of human habitation in the Hawaii island chain.  It is rich with ruins, petroglyphs, and ancient fishing spots.  Hawaiian mythology believed the green sand to be the tears of the Goddess Pele.  It was used in many healing ceremonies.

The students were guided by Kawika, an expert on the local environment and culture.  Kawika is native to Hawaii and enthusiastically entertains the students with legends and pertinent scientific information (including geological, anthropological, cultural, ecological etc.).  Kawika is a valuable resource and many of the students look forward to adventures with him.

The weather on Friday was fabulous.  The group traveled down the scenic highway and turned south on the coastal road toward the beach.  Although the bay is well protected, the ocean was too rough for swimming that day.  The students ate lunch on the beach and enjoyed the scenery.  Besides being unique for its green sand, the beach is also the furthest southern point in the USA.

On the drive back to Pacific Quest the group toured on scenic Ka’u roads.  They made a couple of stops to pick lilikoi, guava and macadamia nuts.The students also went to Punalu’u black sand beach.  They saw three giant sea turtles resting in the sun.  Check them out in the pictures!