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Holidays Without Harm

For some, a vacation is simply a chance to get away and relax, but many travelers look to create meaningful experiences by volunteering to help local causes while they see the world. To celebrate World Environment Day on June 5, 2023, communities throughout California are rolling out the red carpet with voluntourism opportunities throughout the year for travelers looking to give back while in the Golden State. Also check out California’s Kind Traveler hotels for more inspiration on how to travel kindly throughout the state.


Pepperwood Preserve
At the 3,200-acre Pepperwood Preserve in Sonoma County, leaders are advancing the health of California’s water, land and wildlife ecosystem. Travelers can join world-class researchers in helping the Earth by planting native plant plugs, removing invasive plant species or working on erosion control. The preserve also offers classes and workshops that tourists can participate in.

Yosemite Volunteer 
Nothing beats a volunteer experience in one of America’s most iconic national parks. Yosemite National Park has a robust volunteer program, with over 13,000 volunteers annually. Through the program, individuals will learn new skills while helping preserve Yosemite for future generations. For example, volunteers might study rare birds of prey, assist in the information center, build trails or help keep the park pristine. 

Beautify Fresno
Travelers to Fresno can help keep the San Joaquin Valley community beautiful by working with the Beautify Fresno team. Throughout the year, the initiative offers volunteers the chance to participate in cleanup events throughout the city.

Clean the Coast
For years the Morro Bay community has encouraged everyone to help preserve the coast with its unique Morro Bay Trash Tracker program. Travelers can participate by taking a hike, collecting any trash seen along the way, and then recording what was found on the program’s website. The data helps the city develop specialized clean-up plans. Alternatively, visitors can download the Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell app to track the trash they find along the coast. 

Forest Fighter
Help fight for the future of the San Bernardino National Forest as a volunteer. Monthly weekend opportunities are available from March to October. Volunteers might help plant, perform nursery work, or help restore and maintain sites across the park. All monthly events are designed to improve the forest habitat for plants, animals and insects. 

Irvine Ranch
With over 40,000 acres of open space, Irvine Ranch is Orange County’s only National Natural Landmark, and less than 600 sites nationwide have this designation. Irvine Ranch is known for its rare geological and biological features throughout the property. Travelers can help maintain this special place through various single-day volunteer opportunities focused on habitat restoration and trail maintenance. 


Fish Count
This August, visitors can participate in the annual Fish Count on the South Fork Smith River in Del Norte County. Volunteers will take to the river to track the population of the Coastal Cutthroat trout and other local fish species. This unique opportunity to snorkel within the canyon walls allows swimmers to experience native wild fish in their habitat. 

Beach Beautification
Join the Ventura Surfrider Foundation Chapter on a monthly cleanup of Ventura County’s popular beaches. From Oxnard State Beach to Surfers Point Beach, travelers can help ensure these beautiful oceanside spots stay that way. 

City of Angels
Plan a unique eco-visit to Los Angeles by staying at one of its Green Seal hotels, dining at its environmentally conscious restaurants and helping improve the city’s coastline. Heal the Bay gives travelers the chance to spend a day cleaning up the city’s beaches, and Friends of the LA River lets individuals help protect the river’s fragile ecosystem. 

Whale of a Time
Dana Point was the first Whale Watching Heritage Site designated in the Americas. Visitors can help keep this area ideal and safe for these magnificent mammals by picking up trash. balloons and other plastics while out on the water with the Dana Point Whale Watching Corp. 

A River Runs Through It
In between visits to its beaches and famed zoo, visitors can help protect the San Diego River on their next vacation to this Southern California gem. Visitors can help with river cleanups, water quality enhancements, plantings and trail enhancements through the San Diego River Park Foundation.


Sustainable Siskiyou
Siskiyou is all about beautiful landscapes and outdoor recreation, so preserving this ecosystem is critical to maintaining what makes the area so special. For travelers, Siskiyou offers its Leave No Trace Program, which offers seven simple guidelines on what visitors can do to lessen their environmental impact and keep the area pristine for years to come. 

Tahoe Treasures
From its majestic mountain peaks to its iconic alpine lake, North Lake Tahoe’s natural wonders are a sight to drink in. The area invites all visitors to take its Traveler Responsibility Pledge and become a steward of the land by using its TART Connect, a complimentary on-demand shuttle service, participating in a Scuba dive cleanup, or joining the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center circumnavigating Tahoe by kayak to collect information on water quality and microplastics. 

Helping Hotel
On your next visit to experience the midcentury modern desert oasis of Palm Springs, make The Good House Hotel & Spa your eco-base. The property was awarded the 2022 Oasis for Sustainability award for the property’s environmental practices. The wellness hotel is focused on natural healing in part due to its enviable location in Miracle Hill, which offers the hottest well water in the area. In addition, the hotel has two natural hot springs pools designed to soothe and heal.