Hawaii is one of the biggest melting pots in the not just the United States, but the world at large. Many visit for the state’s beaches and lush landscape, but fall in love with the culture and diversity of the Aloha state. Whether you end up on Niihau, the Big Island, or any island in between, you're guaranteed to have an exciting experience as an intern in Hawaii.
You can find internships on most of the islands, but you’ll find most are located on Oahu, also known as “The Gathering Place”. The island is very modern, but it is still full of the Aloha spirit. Curious to know what your options are and how you can make interning in Hawaii a reality? Read through this guide and explore the opportunities below!
As you might imagine, the biggest industry in Hawaii is travel and tourism -- though equally important are initiatives with environmental conservation and marine biology. If you're looking to intern in Hawaii, this is where you'll find the bulk of your opportunities.
Travel and Tourism
Hawaii typically sees between 7 and 8 million tourists each year and its economy thrives on these visitors. Meaning, it's the perfect place to intern if you want to make a career in travel and tourism.
You'll find internship options in just about every sub-sector of the travel and tourism industry -- from getting hands on experience in hotels to internships in marketing with Hawaii based Hawaiian airlines, the internship opportunities are as diverse as the travelers who visit.
Hawaii welcomes visitors from all over the world, so expect to work with people of all different cultures. These sort of internships are a great opportunity for you to get ahead in the hospitality industry and want experience working with an international focus.
If you want to study the creatures of the sea, Hawaii is the perfect place to do it! There are many internships spread across the islands for aspiring marine biologists.
As an intern, you'll have the chance to develop your field ecology skills, shadow trainers, or learn about marine and coastal biodiversity. There are many different options, so choose the one that fits your specific interests and needs.
Hawaii’s native ecosystems have been threatened by the introduction of species brought over from the mainland, so there is a great need for conservation efforts.
If you want to make a lasting, positive impact on the islands, this internship is perfect for you. Keep Hawaii beautiful for generations to come by helping to preserve the ecosystems that sustain the island.
Planning Your Trip
You’ll need to do some planning before you get your first lei. You should consider things such as the cost of living in Hawaii, how you need to be dressing, and how to find the internship you are looking for. Don’t worry too much- your reward for all your hard work will be gorgeous beaches and a rich, fascinating cultural experience.
When and Where to Look for Internships
Many internships in Hawaii will run in the summer -- between May and August -- so try searching a few months beforehand so that you’ll have enough time to secure housing, flights, and other logistics. You may find that there are more opportunities on Oahu, but you'll also able to find internships on the other islands.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Hawaii quite high, unfortunately. Nearly all of the island’s goods need to be imported. Here are some examples of costs in Honolulu:
- 1 gallon of milk: $6.54
- 1 meal at an inexpensive restaurant: $12.00
- 1 bedroom apartment in city center: $1,480.00/month
On the Big Island, rent is more affordable (an average of $950 / month) -- so take this all into consideration when choosing where in Hawaii you want to intern. You're not going to get away with commuting each day from the Big Island to Maui!
There’s no way around it -- living in Hawaii is expensive. Furthermore, paid internships are not in abundance here. You will need to do some major budgeting to make ends meet, arrive with savings, or get thrifty. Get a shared space outside of the city center, ask your internship provider if they'll help with transportation or a small stipend. Learn to love mangoes (which are cheap!)
What to Wear
Most people dress very casually on the island. Flip flops are the essential footwear. For interviews, you should dress professionally and conservatively, but once you’ve secured your internship, pay attention to how your new coworkers dress. You’ll find most workspaces lean towards business casual, but ask your employer how to dress if you aren’t sure.
Especially in the hospitality industry, there may be a standard protocol of what to wear to work, and this can be a little less casual than other offices. If you're unsure, ask your manager if they have a dress code.
One thing to keep in mind -- If you're visiting the home of a local, you need to take your shoes off before entering. People in Hawaii don't wear shoes in their homes, so be respectful and follow your hosts' cues.
Have you ever eaten Spam? Get ready to! Spam the staple food of the Hawaiian diet, so don’t knock it ‘til you try it. You may have heard of some of Hawaii’s more exotic dishes like poi or haupia, but you probably won’t encounter them unless you attend a luau. If you really want to live like a local, grab lunch at Zippy’s.
Honolulu often ranks high up in “Top Ten Cities with Terrible Traffic” lists. With the steady influx of people to Oahu, it’s no wonder that the roads are almost always full. There’s only so much space that can be used to create new roads, and it’s becoming impossible to accommodate so many drivers.
Luckily the bus system on Oahu is terrific. The transit system, “TheBus”, can get you practically anywhere on the island for $2.50, plus a free transfer. You may not be able to escape traffic completely, however.
This cannot be stressed enough -- leave early! Catch the earliest bus you can, or if your carpooling, leave an hour or two early, depending on how far you are from work. Get some audio books and prepare yourself for some long commutes.
When you live on an island, you’re bound to run into someone you know. Much of the workplace etiquette revolves around this idea. Everyone tries to be diplomatic with each other because it’s very likely that they will have to work together again down the road. Be friendly with those you do business with: go out to lunch, get to know them any way you can. You should expect the same kindness in return.