Restoration practitioners in Hawaii are working to restore forests at high elevation sites to increase malaria-free habitat for endangered birds. These projects come with both universal and unique challenges and opportunities. Challenges include pushing past stable, degraded states that exist due to deforestation, overgrazing, lack of topsoil, and lack of ecosystem water capture. However, there are also opportunities to simultaneously test applied and conceptual ecological problems, as well as incorporate local and Indigenous knowledge into restoration practices via collaborators, students, and community outreach. Such collaborations have the potential to lead to more holistic and sustainable management of these important ecosystems.