Visiting Hawaii can be the trip of a lifetime—there are mountains that shoot up from the sea, word-class waves, and beautiful beaches with clear water. However, planning for plane tickets, hotels, transportation, and food can also be expensive. Camping is one way to enjoy the island’s natural beauty on a budget, but which island is best for camping?
Kaua’i is the best Hawaiian island for camping because of the different kinds of camping offered to visitors, the number of established campsites, and the variety of activities available. Consistent 70 to 80-degree weather and campsites with minimal fees help travelers enjoy the natural side of Kaua’i.
Camping on Kaua’i can be a refreshing experience, but Hawaii camping is unique, and campers should prepare accordingly. If you want to find out details of camping on Kaua’i—places to camp, where you can and can’t camp, how much you should plan on spending, and the best time to go camping—check out the following sections.
Camping on the Island of Kaua’i
All the Hawaiian Islands are beautiful, but Kaua’i has a slight edge over the others when it comes to camping. Kaua’i offers an abundance of state parks, which have camping facilities as well as cabins and cottages for rent.
While there are many campsites around Kaua’i, here we want to highlight a few favorites:
Kalalau Beach is the most remote campsite on the island and one of the best. This secluded site is on the North Shore of Kaua’i, where you will find yourself surrounded by ocean and soaring cliffs. To get to the campsite, you must hike the Kalalau Trail, a strenuous 11-mile hike. You will have to pack in all your gear, food, and water/water filters on your back.
Staying at this site also takes some planning. There are minimal facilities and no potable water, so you will have to bring in everything you need. The plus side is that very few people make the trek, so you’ll likely have the beach all to yourself.
This campsite requires that you purchase a permit, which you can purchase up to 90 days in advance. You can purchase your camping permit here for $20. Another thing to consider is how to get to the trailhead—you can take the shuttle or buy a parking permit.
The Kalalau trail is rated as difficult, so this is a backpacking trip for experienced backpackers. However, if you choose to adventure down the trail to this campsite, you will be rewarded with the epic cliffs and valleys of the Na Pali Coast, which makes camping at this site a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Another great place to camp is Ha’ena State Park. This campsite is right on the beach and has a handful of facilities like cold showers for rinsing off after a swim in the ocean. It’s close to the famous Na Pali Coast, which is known for its dramatic vistas and lush valleys. There are cabins, yurts, and tent camping sites here. The first-come-first-serve campsites here require non-Hawaii residents to purchase a permit. You can find permits from neighborhood vendors.
Camping here includes access to Ke’e Beach. This popular snorkeling and swimming beach is semi-protected from the waves. On a calm day, the water is smooth and clear.
Van Camping Life Tip: Having a simple mat to stand and wipe your feet on before getting into your van will keep your van much cleaner. This tip is especially useful in Hawaii because you will almost always have sand on your shoes or feet.
Another ideal campsite on Kaua’i is Anini Beach Park. There are picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and cold showers available. The lack of surf and sheltered location from the wind make this beach ideal for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and paddleboarding. Plus, you can’t beat the views of Mount Waialeale. Only ground tents are allowed at this campsite.
Kaua’i also has van camping available. There are many upsides to van camping: your transportation and home are all together—you don’t have to worry about booking both a hotel and a rental car, all your gear goes with you everywhere, and you can hide out in your van during a rainstorm. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when van camping in Kaua’i. First, not every campsite allows vans. You will need to check the restrictions on each campground to make sure they can accommodate your van. You will want to only camp in designated campsites since Hawaii has laws against camping outside of designated areas.
There are a variety of camping vans available for rent on Kaua’i. You can reserve a pop-top Westfalia, a rugged 4×4, a luxury van with everything you need, or a humble campervan with not much more than a bed.
The rural environment of the majority of Kaua’i helps make it the best island for camping. Many beaches offer stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and other activities, as well as camping facilities such as bathrooms and showers. You can also get to different places quickly on Kaua’i since it is less congested than the other islands.
Kaua’i is also great for campers who enjoy hiking. When you’re not at your campsite, you can trek trails that offer views of the Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon, and Mount Waialeale. Hikers can find waterfalls, cliff-lined coasts, and lush green mountains.
Camping on any Hawaiian island is different than camping in most other places. Since you’re on an island, you’ll need to remember that if you’re in a tent and decide you want to rent a hotel due to bad weather or an unforeseen circumstance, there may not be any rooms available.
You will also want to follow the state and county laws and regulations concerning camping. Doing this will show respect to the island and its people and ensure you have an enjoyable time.
Theft is also something to consider. Though theft is lower on Kaua’i than other islands since it isn’t as busy, it still happens. Therefore, it’s essential to have a safe place to keep your valuables other than a tent.
Camping in Kaua’i is for the adventurer looking for a unique perspective of the island. Kaua’i has a healthy mix of campsites and fun activities to keep campers busy during the day.
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Can You Camp on Any Beach in Hawaii?
Though Hawaii’s beaches are beautiful and inviting, you can’t camp on them at night without a permit. Unfortunately, permits are only issued for designated campsites, so the only time you can camp on the beach is if the site you occupy is right on the beach.
You can always bring tents and equipment to the beach for day use and napping, but it can’t stay there overnight. Though some people still sleep on the beach, this isn’t recommended because you might be kicked off the beach in the middle of the night by law enforcement. To have the most worry-free time in the Aloha State, find a designated campsite near a beach instead of camping on an unauthorized beach.
Is There Free Camping in Hawaii?
On all the islands of Hawaii, the only way to legally camp is to obtain a permit. Some permits cost as little as $3 per night, and others cost up to $20 per night. Check here for some of the state campsites on different islands and their required fees/permits.
The state of Hawaii usually doesn’t sell permits at campsites, so plan where you want to stay in advance. You can reserve campsites anywhere from 1-6 months in advance, depending on where you want to visit. Hawaii’s official website will help you make reservations and obtain the proper permits.
If you’re looking to camp in Hawaii on a budget, your best bet is to find a campsite that has a lower permit fee. You can also try camping on Kaua’i, which tends to have lower costs than the other islands. Though legal Hawaii camping isn’t completely free, it can be very affordable.
When is the Best Time of Year to go Camping In Hawaii?
Though Hawaii is warm throughout the year, it still experiences different seasons. The winter is typically a bit colder and rainier. Winter is also the time of year when the waves get big. For this reason, summer is the best time to go camping in Hawaii. The weather is more consistently warm, and there is less rain.
However, summer still has rainy weeks, and winter has sunny weeks. So, if you don’t mind a little bit of rain, any time of year is good for camping in Hawaii. Another thing to consider is that the island will be more crowded in the summer months in Hawaii and less crowded in the winter.
A Fresh View of Kaua’i
Camping on the island of Kaua’i gives travelers a fresh, exciting look at the island and offers a variety of different camping opportunities, from secluded beaches to designated campsites. Van camping, tent camping, and backpacking opportunities make Kaua’i a dream destination for any serious camper.