Camping the 50 States Series: Hawaii

April 6, 2010
Polihale Beach, on the west coast of Kauai, Hawaii

Polihale Beach, on the west coast of Kauai, Hawaii
Photo by: Gregory Runyan (Stock Exchange)

Aloha, everybody! On today’s AllCampgrounds blog we’ll be camping another of the 50 states as we look to get the low-down on all campsites in Hawaii. Tourists, surfers, and adventurers visit Hawaii’s pristine beaches every year to enjoy beautiful sand and crystal clear waves; but did you know there’s also a tent camping scene there? Amazing, but true; there are over a dozen sites around the Big Island, with several more dispersed across the rest of the land that makes up Hawaii. Now, I’m not going to lie to you; camping in Hawaii can be a tiny bit complicated. That’s why, as far as this post goes, I’m going to make sure you have all the info and resources you need to get started.

Parks & Camping on the Big Island is the first stop. It’ll tell you about the camping permit situation and other things you need to know when you’re selecting camp grounds on the Big Island. It’ll also link you to the state’s convenient permitting system, as you’ll need to get one before you can camp at most sites in the state. You can also get a quick run-down of the state parks and their features here.

Alternative Hawaii has a breakdown of regulations and descriptions of the state parks, national parks, county parks, and state forest reserves that Hawaii offers. You can find information on tenting or renting cabins from here, and it’s definitely informational enough to get you rolling, even though rules vary from island to island and site to site.

Now, if you’ve been reading along with these links so far, you might be thinking: “Yeesh! You REALLY have to know your stuff to go camping in Hawaii! Isn’t there any way to make this simpler?” Thankfully, there is. Things are a little bit more copasetic when you take a look at privately owned camp grounds. But, Hawaii being Hawaii, there are relatively few to choose from! Let’s look at a few …

Arnott’s Lodge offers a “BYOT” (bring your own tent!) lawn for tent camping. It’s only $10 per person, and includes your very own outdoor “camping bathroom” and hot showers, as well as access to other amenities. But what Arnott’s is really famous for is their expeditions, including close-up lava viewing, scuba diving trips, and star-gazing at the Mauna Kea Volcano 14,000 feet above sea level. These treks are designed for experienced hikers, and based on similar adventures in Australia and New Zealand.

Camp Olowalu is another option. It offers 36 sites for tent camping, with enclosed cool water showers, portable bathrooms, and a sink with drinkable water. For a more convenient travel experience, you can rent full kit from the camp, so you don’t have to lug all of your usual gear back and forth (though, if you’re like me, you’re too fond of the “old faithful” not to!). There are some reports of dolphin sightings around this camp …

Let’s say you’ve seen the above and you’re not quite impressed. If you want to brave camping on public land in Hawaii, you’ve got a lot of fantastic options that more than make up for a little bureaucracy. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has two drive-in sites and requires no permits (though there’s also no reservations!). Tenting is in vogue here, though cabins are also available at the Volcano House Hotel.

There’s also Haleakala National Park, occupying the slopes and subalpine forest around the dormant Haleakala Volcano on the island of Maui. Though camping permits are required, there is no additional fee, and this is a perfect spot for campers who want their experience wild and “primitive.” To get more details, visit this third-party guide to Haleakala.

Hawaii is one of the most beautiful states, and as campers know: if you haven’t camped it, you haven’t seen it! Stick to your guns and don’t let a little extra regulation scare you away: the thrill is worth it. Aloha!

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