Inside Our Alliance: Revitalizing the Land and Ocean with Kipuka Olowalu

Not far from the highway lies a hidden oasis—a valley tucked away between the mountains and ocean. You are surrounded by nature in its purest form and accompanied by generations of community members who’ve come to be immersed in the local culture and tradition. 

This special place is what the Kipuka Olowalu organization sees when they envision a future for the Olowalu Valley, an important ecological and cultural site found in West Maui, Hawai‘i. We are proud to partner with Kipuka Olowalu and support their vision to revitalize the valley, preserve its native culture, and save the nearby coral reefs. 

The Story Behind Kipuka Olowalu’s Conservation Work

The Olowalu Cultural Reserve was reorganized as Kipuka Olowalu in 2020 with a broad mission to cultivate environmental and cultural connectivity and perpetuate traditional Hawaiian values. The group focuses on preserving a 75 acre reserve by minimizing invasive species and restoring the land with native plants. 

Even though the work is done on land, it expands as far as the ocean. According to Karin Osuga, Kipuka Olowalu’s executive director, the stream that runs through the reserve flows from the base of the mountains to the mouth of the Pacific Ocean. Its water empties directly onto Olowalu’s coral reefs, which act as an important source of larvae for other reefs throughout Maui Nui. 

“In Hawai‘i, there is an understanding that whatever we do on land will impact what is going on in the ocean,” says Osuga. “We want to be responsible in both our land and ocean stewardship so everything is in balance.”

Our Partnership with Kipuka Olowalu

Our partnership with Kipuka Olowalu started about a year ago, and ever since we have been working together to expand the organization’s capacity and implement a mauka to makai (ridge-to-reef) approach to save coral reefs in Olowalu.

Kipuka Olowalu is bringing together community members and organizational representatives from the region to collaborate on their initiatives and develop a formalized action plan to restore the valley. As part of our partnership, CORAL team members will advise the group on actions that will preserve the area’s coral reefs. 

Making an Impact: Giving Back to Future Generations 

Since working with Kipuka Olowalu, Osuga has noticed new life come back to the valley. “Native plants popped up, the bees came back, and dragonflies showed up,” she says. “This quiet space that hadn’t been actively cared for in a while was suddenly buzzing with life.”

By preserving the environment in its original state, we can also preserve the knowledge and stories about land and ocean that Hawaiian ancestors have passed down for generations. “In the Hawaiian worldview, there are so many reasons why coral reefs matter. It’s food, it’s culture, it’s recreation, it’s medicine—all of these things are important,” says Osuga. “We should take care of coral reefs because it’s the right thing to do.”

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