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Why choose HPA's Summer Outdoor Program?

The Summer Outdoor Program is committed to HPA's mission statement, to provide exceptional learning opportunities and a diverse community honoring the traditions of Hawai'i. Our program is a unique blend of outdoor adventure, stewardship, and cultural exploration, with the ultimate goal of growth and learning for all participants.

Unlike other "teen adventure" programs on the island, HPA is based on the island and has unparalleled resources—HPA's Hawaiian culture and language teachers who work closely with the program, trip leaders who are familiar with the island and lead trips with HPA students throughout the academic school year, successful partnerships with diverse non-profit organizations, and backpacking equipment that participants can use free of charge.

HPA is a non-profit organization that strives to bring experiences to students from around the world. We can offer financial aid to some of the program participants because we limit our use of subcontractors, we have an on-site location, and our school resources are available to the program.

HPA's Summer Outdoor Program is committed to promoting diversity in our groups, and it is our goal that dedicated students can participate in our program without financial burdens. This is just one more reason why equipment is loaned out with a refundable deposit, rather than rented.

The trip leaders of HPA's Summer Outdoor Program are professionals who are passionate about working with youth in outdoor settings. Leaders are trained in "Leave no Trace," are committed to promoting conservation in each program activity, and dedicated to exposing participants to Hawaiian culture and traditions. Most importantly, they are devoted to creating fun environments in which participants have memorable experiences that last a lifetime. Trip leaders also are certified in First Aid, lifeguarding, and every trip ensures one leader is Wilderness First Responder certified. While leaders strive to challenge participants, safety is a priority.

How do I apply for Financial Aid?

For all US Residents-- Please have a parent or guardian send in his or her most recent tax returns. In addition, please include a cover letter that explains anything you might feel is important for us in understanding your financial needs, but is not represented in your taxes (for example: death or illness in the family, multiple siblings, recent job loss, etc.). Aside from any useful information, please include what you believe is the amount you are capable of paying. When we are reviewing applications, we will try our very best to balance your needs, while still maintaining the quality of the program.

For International Students-- We have a financial aid form that will need to be filled out. To obtain a form, please email Jaime Johnson at

All forms should be directed to Jaime Johnson:
Fax- (808) 881-4003
Mail- 65-1692 Kohala Mountain Road
Kamuela, Hawai‘i 96743

What backpacking equipment does HPA's Summer Outdoor Program provide and is there a usage fee?

HPA recognizes that backpacking can be an expensive hobby, particularly if you only have the chance to backpack once or twice a year. Thus, we provide some of the essential gear for backpacking free of charge, if you decide not to bring all your own gear. We will require a deposit for all gear on loan, but the deposit will be fully refunded after the trip if gear is returned in reasonable shape.

  • Backpacks that hold 45-54 liters—junior sizes available for smaller teens
  • Rain covers for backpacks
  • Lightweight summer (55 degree) sleeping bags
  • Headlamps
  • Trekking poles

What should I bring for the trip, and how can I prepare?

We will send a comprehensive packing list to each participant. The list includes required material, and also some suggestions that are not mandatory, but strongly recommended. Make sure if you purchase new hiking boots or active sandals (Chacos/Tevas) that you start wearing them at least four weeks before the trip. Try your best to wear them for an hour a day, even if you are simply walking around your house. Both boots and active sandals should be well worn and adjusted to your feet before your trip.

HPA's Summer Outdoor Program has created a small reference guide to Hawai'i that we will send to all students. This guide includes informational material provided by our partner organizations. Each organization expects participants to read the material before volunteering. Reading this material thoroughly will enhance your service opportunities with each of these groups and enrich your overall experience.

The program involves a degree of athleticism, and it is essential that participants are physically fit before starting the program. Some days we will be backpacking 10 miles with significant elevation change in Hawai"iʻs heat. While we are confident that our program is accessible and appropriate for active teenagers, participants will definitely have a better experience if they are reasonably fit.

Do we need to know how to surf, and how often will we surf?

You do not need to know how to surf! You will have ample opportunities to practice getting up on a board. Novice surfers will start using a foam board, while more experienced surfers can use short boards. You will have the chance to surf or boogie board when we are at most beaches, but of course the ocean doesn't always produce the best conditions for surfing, and it is important to note that we cannot control the waves! Sometimes the surf might be too rough for us to safely surf, and sometimes there might not be any surf. However, generally speaking, Hawai'i is one of the greatest places to learn to surf and we are confident that you will be able to jump on a board at least a few times over the course of the trip and stand up! Likewise, your leaders will be paying close attention to the surf reports, and if there is a great opportunity for an early morning surf sessions before the planned program, they will definitely offer you the chance to hit the waves while the sun is rising!

What kinds of weather will I experience?

The island of Hawai'i is the largest in the Hawaiian chain, and consequently has incredibly varied weather and temperatures. In the summer at sea level, you can expect temperatures to average 85 degrees, with pleasant evenings in the 70s. Trip leaders will ensure that you are well covered in sunscreen throughout the day.

However, our program also will explore high elevations, which can be much cooler, especially at night. In Kamuela (Waimea) the weather in the evening averages in the lower 50s, while on Mauna Kea at higher elevations, evenings can dip into the 30s. We will spend multiple evenings above 5,000 ft., which means cold temperatures at night! Your packing list has the required warm gear you will need for these adventures.

Hawai'i also is divided into what is called the "dry side" and the "wet side." The "dry side" is where you will find unique "dry forests" (habitats with trees that thrive in dry climates). The "wet side" is home to lush rainforests and fern forests. Both sides offer spectacular sights and we will be adventuring and volunteering equally into each.

Kamuela, our home base, straddles these sides, leaning more on the dry side, and is at an elevation of 2,500 feet. While the summer is not typically the wet season, a rain jacket is a must.

Why can't I bring my cell phone or other electronics? How will I contact my parents?

The HPA Summer Outdoor Program is a chance for you to fully engage yourself with a new environment and with new people. We consider this an experience that allows for complete immersion, void of outside distractions; it is important to us that you are fully present in each experience, and that you take the time to form meaningful relationships with your peers and environment. Freeing yourself of your electronics for 21 days, we believe, will actually be quite liberating and will open up your possibilities for adventure and exploration, not limit them.

Furthermore, the program explores some of the most remote areas of the island, and electronics are completely impractical. You will have no consistent electricity source for the duration of the program, and there is a good chance that the natural elements we are exploring might destroy or alter your expensive electronics. In case of an emergency, your guardians can contact the program coordinator, who is in regular contact with your trip leaders.

You may bring a phone for your travel to the island, but upon arrival the program coordinator will collect phones for safekeeping. You will receive your phone when you depart. You will not have access to your phone for the duration of the trip.

Can I bring a digital camera or a GoPro?

Yes! These are the only electronics you are permitted to bring.

Can I send or receive mail?

Yes, you will be entering into towns throughout your trip around the island, and you can mail letters in these locations. In addition, the program coordinator will be meeting up with your group throughout the trip, and she will collect mail from you, and also distribute any mail you might have received. All mail should be sent to the following address:

Participant Name
c/o Jaime Johnson, SOP Coordinator
65-1692 Kohala Mountain Road
Kamuela, HI 96743

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