My Favorite Camping Spots in Hawaii

Ah, camping in the tropics. The ultimate in low-price lodging is offered by Mother Nature herself. Although each island varies in its camping options, you can find some pretty amazing spots across the state. You can find campgrounds at county parks, state parks and the national parks, as well as few private campgrounds. At one time, most campsites were first come, first served.These days reservations are must. This can be a double-edged sword. Camping slots fill up weeks, if not months in advance; meticulous planners may get frustrated to find their top choices aren’t available during their travel window, while those that luck out and snag a spot are still at the mercy of the weather. Probably the best bet for most travelers is to book one of the much coveted cabins in the State Parks or National Parks. You can find camping gear rentals on each island, as well as shops that sell everything you need to brave the great outdoors. If you do decide to purchase your gear here, consider donating it to a thrift store at the end of your trip.

Koke‘e State Park, Kaua‘i

Kaua‘i is a great place to camp with 11 different areas—five state camping areas and six county campsites. These include a handful of spots where you can camp on the beach. While most visitors dream of an oceanside campground, I think the best option is up in the mountains in Koke‘e State Park. In Koke‘e State Park you’ll find exceptional hiking, with the additional benefit of higher altitude and its accompanying cooler temperatures. Sugi Grove with its towering, Japanese cedar trees is probably my favorite of the camping areas. You’ll need a 4WD vehicle to reach it, but you’ll be in the best spot to hike one of my favorite trails on the island—Mohihi Wai‘alae Trail. It’s not my favorite for any sweeping views—you only get one or two of those. This trail shines because it passes through one of the finest forests you’ll ever see.

Ho‘omaluhia Park, O‘ahu

O‘ahu is a great place to camp with 18 different areas—four state camping areas and 14 county campsites. Many of the campsites are only available during the weekends, and can get fairly crowded. One of the only county campsites that’s not on the beach is also my favorite. Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kane‘ohe is in a dreamlike setting with the Ko‘olau Mountains as a larger-than-life backdrop. The only thing more beautiful than the Ko‘olaus on a clear morning is on those afternoons when the invisible trade winds cause the soft clouds to dance along the jagged summit in a scene that will surely cause you to think, This must be what heaven looks like. There are three different campgrounds on the grounds, each with amazing views and gardens to peruse. While the list of rules and regulations here might seem like overkill, keep in mind this is a 400-acre garden with a Hawaiian name that translates to “peaceful refuge”. If you spend much time in Waikiki and Honolulu, you’ll probably be ready for some peace and tranquility. The 3-day permits are around $33, making this on of the most affordable places to stay on the island.

Wai‘anapanapa State Park, Maui

Maui’s camping opportunities are somewhat limited compared to the rest of the islands. There are two state park campgrounds, two campgrounds within Haleakala National Park, and one beach where county parking is allowed. (There are other county beaches that used to allow camping, but haven’t been available for years.) While the cabins within Haleakala National Park’s crater are probably the ultimate when it comes to bucket list campsites, my top pick is probably even more enticing to most visitors. Wai‘anapanapa State Park is where you can find Maui’s best black sand beach. A reservation system for entrance to the park was implemented in the last couple years, which means the camping here feels even more secluded and tranquil than in years past. The tent camping area leaves a lot to be desired—the spots are on an open lawn next to the restrooms. The cabins, on the other hand, are a whole other story. While still rustic, you’ll have access to one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline on the island. In dreamy Hana, no less. If you are lucky enough to find a cabin available during your trip, don’t hesitate. Book it!

Camp Ho‘okena, Big Island of Hawai‘i

South of Kona, Camp Ho‘okena stands out in the camping options. This is one of the very few places on Big Island where you can actually camp on the beach. They’re privately run, so you’ll have to book through their website. They require at least 72 hours notice for securing a camping permit and check-in is something of a process. Once you’re settled in, there’s a concession stand (that takes credit cards) where you can get food, drinks and even kayaks or other beach rentals. Outdoor showers, county restroom facilities and Wifi access available for purchase. These are the best amenities of any of the campgrounds I’ve listed so far. It’s not “glamping”, but showers and a concession stand are better than you’ll find most everywhere else. Rates are $20 per person, per night for those ages 7 and up, plus a $1 per day facility fee. Weekends tend to the busiest.

Camping might not be everyone’s top choice for a vacation to Hawaii. Luckily, we’ve checked out everything else that you can do on your trip and can help make planning your Hawaii vacation a breeze. From lu‘au to resorts, snorkeling to ziplining, we’ve done it all. Check out my believable guides so you can have an unbelievable vacation.




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