A Day in the Life: WWOOFing in Hawaii

Nalolicious Farms

We spent the month of June working in Hawaii on Nalolicious Farm, a small start-up aquaponics farm in Waimanalo on Oahu’s windward side.

Last winter, we signed up for an account at WWOOF Hawaii, which allowed us to link up with farms looking for extra help. We’ll have a more in-depth post all about WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), but here are the basics: You sign up and find a host farm that sounds up your alley (they’re all over the world) and make arrangements to come stay and work on the farm. In exchange for your part-time labor, the farm typically provides you with food and lodging.

Our arrangement with Nalolicious turned out to be great. We worked 25 hours a week tending to the farm — taking care of rabbits, chickens, and fish; planting and harvesting vegetables; weeding gardens; turning compost, etc. — and they provided most meals, a tent to sleep in, and bathroom/shower facilities. It’s a great tradeoff: They received cheap labor, we got free accommodations while also learning a number of valuable farm skills.

Here’s a typical day in the life of a Hawaii WWOOFer:

Nalolicious Bathroom

6:30 a.m. – Wake up and stand in line for the bathroom.

Everyone on the farm had their own unique way of describing the early morning sounds of the thousands of wild chickens that called a neighboring lot home: screams from a roller coaster as the cart was just beginning it’s speedy decline, a wild street brawl with a lot of cheering onlookers. Nevertheless,  although our wake-up call was scheduled for 6:30, we were usually awakened much earlier by the fecund fowl.

It’s also interesting to note just how quickly we humans tend to adjust to our conditions. On our first night on the farm, we were both a little frightened by the prospect of using a bathroom with no lock, or a shower room with a blanket for a door. But, a few days into our stay, the lack of locks didn’t phase us.

7:00 a.m. – Make breakfast for yourself.

For most meals, we took turns cooking and cleaning up. Lunch and dinner were eaten communally, as were most other activities. Breakfast was the exception, where you fended for yourself. The food and kitchen were provided, you just had to make your own meal.

7:30 a.m. – Farm chores and work begins.

Aquaponics Farm

Farm Bunnies

Harvesting Eggs

The work itself was not very difficult. We would take turns feeding the rabbits, fish, and chickens. Others would water the various soil plants and vegetables around the farm. Another would pick up after the dogs.

The least appealing job was managing the black soldier fly containers. You would take the food scraps from both houses on the property and dump them into these bio pods that produced BSF maggots. The maggots would crawl through a tube into a smaller container, which you removed from the pod to sort the maggots. Using a spoon or tongs, you would grab all the dark maggots and move them into a drying container. The white maggots were put back in the pod. Needless to say, the smell and the nature of the work weren’t very pleasant, especially because the BSF station was right next to the chickens. As you were separating maggots, the chickens would be squawking at you.

After the daily chores were done, we would move on to the various projects that needed to get done that day. These, too, were typically pretty painless: harvesting sunflower sprouts, planting and weeding garden beds, catching fish for market — nothing too strenuous.

The regular work week ran from Tuesdays to Fridays. Saturday and Sunday, being harvest days, were special — we would wake up at 4:45, before sunrise, to harvest the produce for that morning’s farmers market. After harvest, one or two lucky WOOFers get to work the farmer’s market with either one of the farm owners, John or Elko.

Ala Moana Farmers' Market

10:30 a.m. – Lunch is ready when you hear the conch shell horn blow.

Conch Shell

Farm family lunch

11:15 a.m. – Free time. Go to the beach, rides bikes to get ice cream, nap, whatever.

Waimanalo Beach

The work days were structured beautifully. After just three short hours of work, lunch — cooked by another WWOOFer — would be served and eaten as a group. After that, you had hours of free time to do as you pleased. The afternoon sun would be too hot and punishing for any farm work.

Instead, the afternoons were filled with beach time and relaxation.

Waimanalo Beach

Hawaii Bike Riding

3:00 p.m. – Get back to work!

By the mid-afternoon, the sun would be at an angle that would allow us to work more comfortably. The projects of the day would be finished, and a similar evening round of feeding the animals would commence.

The afternoon session of work would be even shorter than the morning, lasting until just 5:30 p.m.

Working on a Hawaii Farm

Aquaponics Beds

Organic Red Leaf Lettuce

6-6:30 p.m. – Have dinner with the group.

Typically, one or two members of the “farmily” cook for the rest of the group, but some days are declared “fend for yourself” days. In those cases, we went to Serg’s, a little Mexican place a short bikeride away. Best chicken nachos ever, pretty tasty fish tacos, and the most refreshing pineapple agua fresca!

Serg's Waimanalo

Serg's Mexican Kitchen

7:00 p.m. – Enjoy your evening.

The rest of the day is yours to wrestle with one of the farm dogs, catch a bus into Honolulu, go for a hike, read in the hammock, write postcards, or do whatever else you want to do.

Hawaii Hammock

Rusty the Farm Dog

9-10 p.m. – Bed time.

It gets dark early in Hawaii. By 7:30, it’s pitch black outside. The evening comes quickly, and 9 p.m. feels more like midnight. Plus, you have to wake up at the crack of dawn tomorrow, so get to bed!

WWOOFer City, Nalolicious Farm

With the exception of Sundays and Mondays that’s pretty much how every day went. On Sundays, there’s a short morning harvest followed by morning chores. But lunch time is quitting time for the day. Mondays are even better — completely yours to do as you please and explore the beautiful island of Oahu.

Would you ever consider working on a farm for free accommodations? Let us know in the comments!

26 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this, Mark! Love the beautiful photos and descriptions!!! Makes me want to quit my day job and give it a try!

    Reply
    • I’m a big proponent of quitting your day job. 🙂

      If that’s a little drastic, why not ask for a little educational leave of absence?

      – Mark

      Reply
  2. Thanks so much for this! I’ll be WWOOFing on this farm for a month and a half starting next Tuesday and now I kind of know a little bit more of what to expect! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hope you’re enjoying your time at Nalolicious, David!

      Reply
  3. Great posting about your life WWOOFing in Hawaii. Your pics were great!!
    I am glad to see that you enjoyed your stay at Nalolicious.
    I think this would be a great page for our fans to read on Facebook.
    Would you mine if I posted a link to it for everyone to read?

    Blessings

    Jonathan

    Reply
    • Not at all, Jonathan! Thanks for the opportunity to do participate in such an incredible program.

      – Mark & Katie

      Reply
  4. I was just wondering if you get to pick where you go? I’ve been thinking about signing up on wwoof. I’m 20 but college isn’t for me so when I found out about wwoof it sounded perfect – traveling and new experiences. Plus, the farm work really doesn’t sound bad at all! I was also wondering if there are ground rules set by the hosts like having to be in by a certain time after the work is done? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Maureen,

      You do get to choose which farm you work on, and the details of the farm, work, owners, etc. are all listed on the WWOOF Hawaii website, so you can find the farm that feels just right for you.

      We definitely like to think of travel as a form of education, and we’re glad to find like minded people like you along the way!

      All farms have their own set of rules, so it’s difficult for us to answer your last question. The farm where we stayed was relatively relaxed and didn’t dictate how we spent our free time. As long as we were able to accomplish our work during the day, our time was our own.

      I hope that helps!

      Mark & Katie

      Reply
  5. i start to plan my wwoofing trip and need some help with the visa. I’m from europe. Do i go by a visitor visa without any complications? On what visa have u been there?

    Reply
    • Hi Rosie,

      We’re from the U.S. so we weren’t required to obtain a visa to WWOOF in Hawaii. I would think a regular travel visa would be required, since you won’t actually be employed, but I would check with your travel bureau.

      Reply
  6. Hey, are you two still traveling ? I just read about your Hawaii adventure with WWOOF and wondered if you could tell me exactly where you were. I’m looking for the same kind of place and would love any info about where you were. Thanks and happy trails !!!

    Reply
    • Hi Patty,

      We are currently stuck in Berkeley, California for the next year while Mark finishes his master’s degree, so there’s not much traveling going on these days. We’re cooking up plans for our escape every day, though!

      We WWOOfed on Nalolicious Farm in Waimanalo on Oahu. It was the best experience ever, and we totally recommend the farm to anyone. Honestly, don’t even hesitate, just sign up!

      Cheers!

      Mark & Katie

      Reply
  7. I am seriously considering participating in the WWOOF Hawaii program. It seems like the perfect starting point for the lifestyle I want to live. But I’m worried about choosing the right place because I’m a very shy and tend to not fit in in many situations and choosing to do something like this is a huge step. How did you guys ultimately decide on which farm was best for you?

    Reply
  8. Also, I read in your “About” section that you avid travelers. Is WWOOF the only organization like this that you are a part of and do you know of any organizations that are similar to WWOOF that are worth researching?

    Reply
    • Hi Daysia,

      I (Katie) think an experience like this is a great way to test yourself. I’m a pretty introverted person myself, and to be quite honest, found a lot about the whole “communal living” lifestyle a bit of an adjustment. I think the most important thing you’d need to look for in a farm situation is one that offers at least some personal space. Our farm was great because everyone had their own tent, so if you needed a break you had a bit of privacy from the rest of the group.

      The best advice I can offer is to really pay attention to the reviews on the WWOOF website left for the farm you’re looking at. You can tell a lot about the situation based on what past WWOOFers are saying. Also, we found it helpful to reach out to the farm owners and introduce ourselves or ask necessary questions.

      Best of luck with your adventures! I really hope you decided to WWOOF – it was one of our most favorite experiences.

      Mark & Katie

      Reply
  9. Beautiful blog, and beautifully written! This is exactly what I want to do! I am in the process of convincing my other half at the moment. The only clincher is my dog, Trooper, he is like my child and I’m not sure what we would do with him or if I could leave him. A month would not be so bad. Are pets allowed on the farms?

    Also, I’m under the impression that you are responsible for airfare getting to and from the farm? Did y’all (yes, I’m from Texas, Austin, Texas that is) take extra spending money to go and explore Hawaii on your off time? If so, could you tell me how much?

    Please tell me more about this exciting adventure! 🙂

    P.S– You have to make it to Hamilton Pool, it is out of this world. I would also add Barton Springs to your list if you do make it to Austin.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for the kind words about our blog, Sam!

      To answer your questions: Pets are allowed on the farm where we stayed, and I’m certain you can find other farms elsewhere that allow pets. So no excuses! You should just do it! And yes, airfare to and from the farm is your responsibility. We did need to bring spending money to explore and do any sightseeing away from the farm, but I unfortunately don’t recall how much we brought. It wasn’t a fortune, I can tell you that much. We created a very nice work-away/vacation combo by staying a night in a Waikiki hotel and a few nights in the North Shore as guests on a permaculture farm. It really is the most inexpensive way to visit an area, and you learn so much its incredible!

      Hamilton Pool is on our list! And we’ll throw Barton Springs on there too! We were actually deciding between Austin & San Francisco before we moved out here. We thought Austin would be a bit too hot for us, and now we’re freezing through this 65 degree summer!

      Best of luck to you! Keep in touch & let us know if you find a farm!

      Cheers!

      Mark & Katie

      Reply
  10. How are the condition for woofing in the winter in Hawaii. is it still possible or is there less work due to the climat

    Reply
    • Hi Maud,

      I can’t say from personal experience what the weather is like in the winter, since we WWWOOFed on Oahu in June. I’ve heard and read that the daytime temperature ranges from high 70s to low 80s, with more rain than the summer months. Better conditions for surfing in the winter, though! That’s a bonus!

      Reply
  11. Hey I loved reading the blog post. Hawaii has been calling my name for quite some time now. I feel my heart belongs there and I can’t really explain this feeling. I was planning on just flying there and figuring things out once I got there. I stumbled into wwoofing and now feel that this dream is possible. I have been trying to convince a friend or family member to come with me but all of them think I am crazy. I am trying to build up the courage to just go alone. Do you have any words of encouragement or advice to push me over the edge. I am very scared but for some reason I feel this is what I need to do. I have never farmed this is totally opposite of the lifestyle I live now. Is there anyway you could make a list of things to bring I have no idea on clothing or tools that I might bring a long. I feel if I can start prepping and get an idea of what I need it will make it a lot easier to do this

    Reply
    • Hey Jordan, not sure if you have already seen it or now but there is a tab on the right of this website that says “How to WWOOF in Hawaii”. It lists some essentials to bring. I haven’t done anything like this before but plan on looking into doing the farm they did this summer. As for encouragement, based on their great review this place sounds amazing. There is no reason to not go for something that you really want. I think I’ll always regret not doing something amazing like this while I’m still young. I grew up in a city so I’m in the same boat as you with lack of experience, and also have the same feeling of needing a change in lifestyle.
      Anyways thanks Swoon Divers for the great pictures and description of the daily schedule at the farm. This whole blog is beautifully done and you are an inspiration.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for the encouragement, Daniel! And tell Elko and the gang we said hi! You are going to have a blast on Nalolicious!

        Reply
    • I hope our recent ‘How to WWOOF in Hawaii’ post is helpful. We completely agree with Daniel, it was an amazing experience and we would have seriously regretting not doing it while we had the chance. The first step would be to join WWOOF, and then just start reaching out to farms that sound good to you. Once you establish the relationship I’m sure you’ll begin to feel more at ease. And don’t be afraid to go it alone. There were many WWOOFers on our farm who were solo. They made friends quickly!

      Reply
  12. Hey, I would love to do WWOOFing in Hawai! I already did it in New Zealand and think that’s a great experience! How many WWOOFers “worked” on the farm?

    Reply
  13. Hi there!
    My names Carly and I am thinking about going to Hawaii to do a WWOOF in Hawaii next year. I will be 18 and I am planning on taking a year off to travel before I go to college. I was wondering if you thought your experience would be safe for an 18 year old girl traveling alone and if you would recommend doing this experience with someone else to hangout with during the down time. Also if you just had any other pointers!
    Thank you for sharing your experience!
    Carly

    Reply
    • Hi Carly,

      I cannot vouch for any of the other farms in Hawaii, but I have no doubt the experience on the farm we WWOOFed on would be perfectly safe for a young female traveling alone. There were several women on Nalolicious Farm (now Honest Greens Farm) who were traveling alone, and who, in fact, stayed at the farm for several months, if not years.

      Cheers!

      Katie

      Reply

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