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Hawaiian Islands 1A • June 9-June 22, 2021

Capping off a Fantastic Trip!

June 22, 2021

Saturday brought us together in the water again for more surfing. Everyone was catching waves and making it look easy! Madeline and Walt successfully completed a double ride! Dearing really thrived catching the waves and joined for both sessions. The waves were an ideal size for us as we were all learning. The students were catching their own waves and some of the group even started turning down the line (going left or right depending on how the wave is breaking). John D and Gannon practiced their mid-air acrobatics on the nearby rope swing.

After our surf session we loaded back up and slowly made our way down the highway to the magical town of Hanalei. This town is mentioned in the song “Puff the Magic Dragon”. The town is nestled between a bay and beautiful, lush jungles and waterfalls. We explored the small town and had to sample the local cuisine of shaved ice and açaí. After we nourished ourselves, we headed to a local beach where we were able to jump off rocks into the water. The squeals of joy were plentiful. Liz, Eliza, and Charlotte did their best mermaid impressions as they glided through the water back to the beach. John T took the time to explore the local flora and fauna hiding in the tide pools.

The evening brought us together to cook a meal of pasta with both tomato and pesto sauce. Emma and Luke lead the cook crew to make sure the meal was top notch and nutrient dense for our kayaking adventure the next day.

On Sunday morning, (Shoutout to the Dads on Fathers Day,) we loaded up before the sun and hit the road for our kayaking day. We listened to music that motivated and focused us on the way, bobbing our heads and already finding our rhythm. The sun painted the beach in a beautiful morning glow. Our kayaking guides arrived full of energy and Aloha spirit. We had a quick lesson on efficient paddling, bathed ourselves in sunscreen, and with the Pirates of the Caribbean theme playing in our heads we set off. The Na Pali coast is lined with jagged peaks that run like veins feeding the mountain from the ocean. Our eyes grew bigger and bigger the further we went.

At last, we found ourselves paddling to our final beach destination. Exhausted but rewarded, we jumped back into the waves to celebrate and yell with excitement.

We hit the road back to our campsite and had a hilarious Moonup led by Madeline and Walt, the questions included: What is something that has challenged you on this trip and what fictional character would you be? We all fell asleep soon thereafter.

On our final day, we rose with the sun and cleaned up our gear and campsite. We hit the road and had our banquet at a lovely open air Mexican restaurant where we dined on both breakfast and lunch foods.

At the airport, the entertainment didn’t end as Charlotte showed us a dance routine to the song “Rasputin”. Liz and Eliza got into an intense game of keep away from James. We circled up for our final Moonup led by Gannon and Alec, and the questions were: What is something you are most proud of and if you were deserted on an island, what three things would you bring?

The last two weeks have been an incredible experience for the three of us. This group is strong, kind, and will go on to make big impacts in the lives of those around them.

To the families of: Dearing, Emma, Liz, Eliza, Madeline, Charlotte, Alec, John D, Walt, John T, Luke, and Gannon, thank you for sharing these incredible young adults with the Moondance family. They have all grown up to be big coconuts now. We will miss them dearly!

With love and aloha,
Zoe, Emma, and James

Aloha from the Garden Isle!

June 19, 2021

Aloha from the Garden Isle!

We could not be more in love with the beauty of this island. The lush forests, beautiful birds, and sweet flowers make this Island a true paradise.

We flew in on Tuesday afternoon and headed directly to our new campsite on the beach. The combination of lapping waves and curious chickens makes for a unique symphony of sound. After setting up our tents we headed to a local laundromat to start this week of with fresh clothes. We then returned to a dinner of teriyaki chicken with seasoned potatoes.

The next morning, we slathered on our zinc and sunscreen then headed to a local beach for our first surf lesson. The morning could not have started off any better, half of the group went with our instructors, Evan and Mitchell, down a palm tree-lined path to our waiting surfboards. We then paddled the boards up the river to where it meets the ocean. It is nothing short of serene, paddling your board on a quiet river with trees and birds ushering you forward and the sun slowly breaking open through the clouds to warm you up. With your new friends paddling next to you, the water warm and inviting, we couldn’t have asked for a better day!

The entire crew took to surfing like a fish to water. Charlotte had some of the most epic wipeouts and always came back up with a smile. Alec and Luke paddled beyond the first set of breaking waves to challenge themselves and ride longer ones in. Charlotte and Alec, Eliza and Liz all attempted to double ride waves. It was quite entertaining to watch. Upon finishing, we walked slowly back up the soft, sandy path and had lunch. There was no shortage of laughter discussing waves lost and waves caught. Smiles were abundant.

For the afternoon, we headed to a nearby mountain for a hike with so many views. Gannon and Walt made the trek look easy helping lead the group up. We climbed rocks, admired flowers, and carefully navigated slippery mud all the way to the top. John D kept everyone cracking up at the top with his silly antics and behaviors. We took in the view and kept waiting for dinosaurs to pop out of the neighboring mountain valleys at any moment. Emma led the way down, carefully setting a safe path for others to follow.

We arrived back at our campsite and began whipping up dinner. The tacos were a hit! Gannon and Emma were there again ready to help in anyway they could. After dinner, we were treated to a cinematic opening to Moonup where John T and Charlotte re-enacted a Star Wars scene with a Moondance twist to open our “nug jug.”

We rose with the sun on Thursday and headed to our site for service at a botanical garden. The drive into the site felt like we were on an expedition to find new animals in a jungle. The flowers were unique and beautiful. We learned about invasive species of plants and the local flora they are threatening to. Madeline and Dearing helped the groups stay focused with their high spirits and bright attitudes.

After finishing our work for the day, we were given a tour of the property which led through even deeper jungle paths and over a meandering stream. We arrived a cascading waterfall and savored the breeze that it gave us as it hit its pool of water. On the path back, John D and Walt tried their best to speak Hawaiian Cow, and while ineffective it did give the group a lot of entertainment!

From service, we headed back to our campsite where we became very invested in a beach volleyball game. Emma and Eliza were the leaders of their teams, respectively. Emma serving up some heated and serves and Eliza some incredible spikes! Liz and John T. cheered everyone on while engaging each other in a stick war ending up in many giggle fits.

We finished the evening with a picturesque swim in the crashing waves of our campsite. With the sun setting and the water warm it was the perfect ending to a beautiful day. Luke and Walt enjoyed body surfing right up to the beach. Eliza and Liz then led us in a reflective Moonup where we discussed our takeaways from our time in Hawaii.

Today, we began our second day of service in the national botanical gardens. We finished clearing the trees in the valley and admired our handiwork. We were so proud of the hard work our students demonstrated these past few days! Emma and Gannon led the group with grit and determination to a successful service project. John T.  made sure we were all safe from centipedes, gaining the nickname centipede slayer. After finishing up our work we had the chance to tour the Allerton Gardens. This is the location of many of the scenes from Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. John T. entertained all of us with his reenactment of some of his favorite Jurassic Park moments, complete with prop dinosaur eggs. Eliza captured a beautiful photo of the unique flowers in the garden.

We then enjoyed a tasty and refreshing back of açaí bowls before heading back to the campsite to swim. We are loving our time here on the garden isle and have loved getting to watch this group grow closer through service and more engaging Moonups.


Until next time,
James, Zoe and Emma

Poke Bowls: Gotta Catch 'em All!

June 16, 2021

Aloha from Kauai!!

We have made it to the garden isle of Hawaii! After two easy flights, we arrived safely in Lihue and are very excited to begin surfing in the morning. 

After our last day of diving on Sunday, we snacked on some fresh açaí bowls which were much needed after the long and hot day in the sun! We took our time heading back to the campsite and stopped for some poke for the kids to try with dinner. We listened to Alec’s newly released music in the car which was a huge hit. John T always puts a smile on our face when he sings along to his favorite artists during our van jam sessions (Lady Gaga and Shakira are always fun!). Back at camp, Charlotte and John D. enjoyed an intense card game of Egyptian rat screw while the entire group cheered them on. Walt explored the rocky shoreline while Luke snorkeled and saw lots of tropical fish. After a delicious pasta and salad feast for dinner, Charlotte and Walt pranked the group as an opener to a wildly fun moonup. We got to bed early to be well-rested for a fun filled next day!

Monday morning we slept in and enjoyed a leisurely pancake breakfast with fresh pineapple from the farmers market. We then went to a sandy beach to relax in the sun and to swim. Emma D, Madeline and Dearing enjoyed swimming and bodysurfing to escape the hot sun. After the beach, we took a scenic drive over to the other side of the island for our hula and ukulele experience. We played birdie on a perch with members of the other Hawaiian islands group, where Gannon emerged victorious! We were so proud of him. The kids learned the hukilau hula dance and had a great time listening to Charlotte and Alec perform on the ukuleles. We had burgers for dinner before departing to get a good nights sleep. Liz and Luke led moonup where we discussed the influential people in our lives. It was an amazing conversation, and it was so great to hear about all of the special people that our students have back at home!

This morning, we packed up the campsite and cleaned the group gear before departing for the airport. Our leader of the day, Eliza, organized our uhaul van and delegated cleaning tasks for the group. The group enjoyed the relaxing travel day and bought some Hawaiian candies in the airport! 

We are loving beautiful Kauai and are so excited for our activities to begin tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for another update soon!!

Emma H, Zoe, and James. 


Emma D: Hi Mon, Dad, Benton, and Copper! We have seen some really cool things! I miss y’all! <3 Emma

Madeline: Hey Mom, Dad, and Virginia! I am having the BEST time!! We just left Kona and I am so excited to be in Kauai! So excited to tell you all about the trip! We have the greatest group. Love and miss you, Madeline

Eliza: Hey Mom, Dad, and family! I love and miss you all! <3 Eliza

Liz: Mom, Dad, and LG, I love y’all so much! Miss you! <3 Liz

Dearing: Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having a ton of fun experiencing all of these amazing adventures in Hawaii. I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get home! Dearing 

Charlotte: Hey parents, Vivi, and Ginia! I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to share all of my fun memories! Love, Char

Luke: Hey Mom, Dad and Baz, I loved Kona and I am really excited to get to Kauai and see friends on Oahu! Happy Birthday Baz! Hope you had a great one and sorry I missed it! Love you guys, Luke

Walt: Hey Mom, Dad, Mily, and that other one. I miss you guys a bunch. Hawaii has been awesome! Love, Walt 

Gannon: Hi Mom and Dad, I’m having an awesome time! We are about to land in Honolulu to go to Kauai. Love, Gannon

John D: Hey Mom, Dad, not Allison, and Gracie. Hawaii is dope! Love, John

Alec: Hey everyone, Hawaii is pretty chill, I found out what a big Kahuna is! Love, Alec

John T: Hey family, Hawaii is cool but I gotta keep it short! Love you and see you in just a bit! – John

Aloha From The Islands!

June 14, 2021

Aloha from the islands! We have been on the move ever since our flights landed! 

Our first morning started with the group splitting up between certified divers and student divers. The certified divers met our guides at the harbor and began their ventures under the surface. The student divers met our guides at the pool and began earning their underwater passports. 

John D and Emma were our first Leaders of the Day and excelled at making sure each group was hydrated and well-fed. Our guide for the boat divers is a gentleman named Mongo and the dive group named themselves the Mongols. On one of the boat dives, John T spotted a spotted moray Eel! We hope it is one of many that we get to see. We also saw a white tipped reef shark and had spinner dolphins jump in front of the boat! Alec continually showed off his expert diving skills while navigating the reef with the Mongols group. On shore, the student divers broke up into two teams. Team Hahalua (Hawaiian for Manta Ray): Madeline, Charlotte, John D, Walt, and Team Carlos Crew: Eliza, Elizabeth, Gannon, Luke. It was very evident that everyone had done their homework, and the groups were cruising through the skills and lessons in the pool. They made our guides Susan and Carlos quite proud!

Friday morning, the student divers headed to a local pier to continue their in-water education. Luke exhibited his free diving skills, diving to the bottom and exploring what was in and around the rocks. Before entering the water, Charlotte always makes sure we are stretched out and in the right mindset for our dives.

On Friday afternoon after finishing our dives and snorkeling, we dined on street tacos and fresh açaí bowls. The açaí bowls were most certainly a hit and there will hopefully be more to come in our future! We then set off to Southpoint, the southernmost point of the United States! We all enjoyed the Hawaiian breeze and basked in the evening glow of the sun as it slowly made its descent on the horizon. We had a magical Moonup led by Gannon and Dearing, where one of the questions was “what are you looking to get out of this trip?” Everyone gave a well thought out and sincere answer. As leaders, we are so grateful for this group, as their positive attitudes and engaging personalities have made this trip a blast so far.

Saturday brought the most exciting day so far! Our students divers headed out to the shore for their first open water dive. We walked out from the shore to reach our depth goal of 40 feet. Everyone loved being in the ocean and catching our first glimpses of the beautiful Hawaiian underwater creatures. The highlight was a rare snakehead eel that our guides were ecstatic to share with us.

The day continued with a tasty pizza dinner and driving to the pier for our nighttime manta ray snorkel. We boarded the boat and headed out to the ‘campfire’ where an ocean bottom light illuminated the manta rays. We were lucky enough to go belly to belly with 7 different manta rays! John T. hardly drew a breath throughout the whole swim from joyful screams of awe. Eliza and Liz got the giggles and laughed until they cried from our interactions with the mantas and our other friends. Everyone agreed this was the coolest activity yet! We finished out the night with a reflective moonup lead by our fantastic LODs John T. and Madeline. They surprised our next LOD’s with personalized Hawaiian keychains to encourage them as leaders.

Sunday morning, we headed out for our first group boat dive. We visited Turtle Pinnacle and Eel Cave, reaching depths of 60 feet. Gannon was a natural with the Go Pro catching some amazing footage of zebra eels and yellow tangs. Walt really got the hang of neutral buoyancy and was cruising on our final dive, getting up close to some beautiful coral. Everyone finished up the dives and accomplished their certification. We are so proud of the bravery and encouraging nature of our divers!

We are looking forward to our next few days of exploring, hiking, and traveling to Kauai! We will check back in soon!

-James, Emma & Zoe

Safe Arrival in Kona!

June 10, 2021

Hello Hawaiian Islands 1A Families!

The whole group arrived safely in Kona last night, and they are off on their adventure! We have heard from our leaders that the trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.

Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!

– Moondance HQ


  • Alec
  • Charlotte
  • Dearing
  • Eliza
  • Elizabeth
  • Emma
  • Gannon
  • John
  • John
  • Luke
  • Madeline
  • Walt