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Hawaii on a Budget: Guide to Camping on Kauai and the Big Island

Hawaii conjures up pictures of sunsets, surf, volcanoes, palm timber, hippies enjoying ukulele and… empty wallets. There’s no denying Hawaii’s an expensive selection of vacation vacation spot, but there are methods to maintain the costs down. When you want huge fluffy bathrobes and tiny bottles of ‘complimentary’ conditioner* to be pleased you might as nicely just cease studying now. However should you crave a Hawaiian adventure without the lavish price ticket then this is perhaps the weblog for you. Camping is the reply!

*Truthfully, is there ever enough conditioner in these tiny bottles for anybody aside from a balding man taking good care of his two hair strands?

View of the Na Pali Coast, Kauai

View of the Na Pali Coast, Kauai (pretty shut to Koke’e State Park camp floor)… You’ll be able to virtually see the dinosaurs roaming about (Jurassic Park was filmed here).

Camping is a smart way to discover Hawaii on a finances. Forsaking fancy resorts* left us with enough cash to lease a small automotive and loop around each Kauai and the Big Island. All up our camping gear value us roughly $200 (USD). That feels like a lot… till you examine it with the worth of 1 night time’s accommodation in a lodge. Discount! $200 obtained us a Walmart tent (don’t purchase something too low cost, it needs to be principally waterproof), an airbed, two pillows, a sheet, a sleeping bag, a camping range and a pan. And obviously should you’re flying from residence you’ll be able to just pack most of this!

*Okay…full disclosure: I fricking love fancy resorts, and we did spend two nights in a single moderately fancy resort (it was the least expensive one we might discover that also had a pool).

Earlier than I get into the details it’s time for a fast actuality verify. Throw away all of your “freedom in the wilderness” fashion fantasies of tenting alone in nature wherever you are feeling like pitching your tent. Camping in Hawaii is very regulated and you need to purchase permits prematurely to camp at principally all the campgrounds. The visitors might be terrible and what counts for a “car” is what most in Australia would name a “truck”. And whereas wilderness does exist, many areas are extremely developed, touristy and down proper tacky. And don’t even get me began on the exclusive, glitzy resort strips only accessible when you can identify greater than seven designer shoe brands.

Additionally, ‘Hawaiian’ pizza isn’t even Hawaiian. It’s Canadian.

Now that that’s out of the means… tenting in Hawaii was one among the greatest things I’ve ever achieved. Throughout the day in style vacationer spots might be teeming with individuals, but they actually come to life in the late evenings when all the day-trippers have gone back to sipping cocktails by the pool (sigh, I really like cocktails).

Get up to the sound of crashing waves and chirping birds. Take a morning stroll alongside an empty Hawaiian seashore (taking care not to step on all the turtles lazing on the shore in fact). Watch the sunset without additionally having to watch a bunch of different humans which might be a lot richer than you (ugh).

From lively volcanoes and steaming sulphur vents to powerful waterfalls and pounding surf, Hawaii is filled with (considerably) reasonably priced adventures.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Waimea Canyon, Kauai. Canyon even consider it?

Most tenting on Kauai and the Big Island is by allow solely. Permits MUST be obtained prematurely. They will’t be bought at campgrounds, with the exception of tenting within Volcanoes Nationwide Park on the Big Island, the place camping is first come first served.

Camping is by permit only…Simply making sure that point obtained via.

The policing of camping permits different a lot while we have been tenting, from twice a day to under no circumstances. County campgrounds have been notably strict at checking permits. Our sore, sleepy eyes have been virtually blinded by a rave celebration of vibrant torches as a large group of individuals scrambled to get their permits from their automobiles… at 5am! These allow checkers are fairly shut to evil. The first time I heard the ominous sounds of whispering outdoors my tent in the center of the night time I used to be positive I used to be about to get murdered.

It’s easiest to display your allow on your tent at all times so you don’t get rudely woken up. Cling them in a little plastic sleeve folded in a approach that ensures all relevant details are visible.

Sadly there isn’t a single, centralised tenting permit reserving system that covers all the islands of Hawaii. There are separate groups of campsites operated by the State of Hawaii and by each islands county. Moreover, camping in Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is operated individually.

Be careful to learn every websites circumstances and amenities before making your selection and booking. Some campsites are only accessible by mountaineering, or unsealed roads that may void your rental automotive agreements. Having stated that, it’s undoubtedly potential to get a full camping experience without a 4×four. We did it in the least expensive rental obtainable, despite the rental company making an attempt to convince us we completely wanted to upgrade our automotive to a full sized Jeep (sneaky liars).


Value: County tenting on Kauai is super don’t-even-have-to-resort-to-two-minute-noodles-for-dinner sort of low cost! At $three per individual per night time (for non residents) you will not find a cheaper means to experience the island. The only exception is at the Lydgate Camping Floor where websites are $25 per night time due to its widespread and central location (shut to Lihue).

Lydgate Camping Ground is close to Lihue. Sites are numbered and allocated.

Lydgate Camping Floor is close to Lihue so regardless that it’s $25 it’s a good first night time tenting spot whenever you fly in. Websites are numbered and allotted.

Reserving and Availability: Because they haven’t found the Web yet, no on-line booking is obtainable for county-operated camping on Kauai. Strolling into the Lihu’e, Kalaheo and Hanapepe Neighbourhood Centres is the easiest method to purchase permits. Bear in mind they’re solely open Monday to Friday and have differing opening hours (you’ll be able to verify these here: We bought our permits in individual with cash at the Lihue Neighbourhood Centre. The process was very straightforward and took less than half an hour.

Alternatively you’ll be able to mail in an software type prematurely (downloadable on their web site), however you need to pay with a money order and apply long sufficient prematurely to obtain your permits by mail.

Notice:  Each campsite is closed for at the very least in the future a week so plan your stays rigorously.

Don’t miss: Camping at Haena Seashore Park and mountaineering the Kalalau Trail from close by Ke’e seashore.

A very good day hike choice is to stroll the starting 2 miles of the Kalalau Path to Hanakapi`ai seashore, then do the 2 miles to Hanakapi`ai Falls. For those who’re something like me this will probably be greater than enough strolling for you! Watch out for all the feral cats hanging round the waterfall though… we made the tragic mistake of packing tuna for a picnic lunch…

Hanakapi`ai Falls, the walk is worth it!

Hanakapi`ai Falls accessed off the Kalalau Path , the walk is value it!

Haena Beach Park

Haena Seashore Park is a nice base for starting the Kalalau Path and a nice seashore to sit on and drink beer while watching other individuals deal with the scary surf.


Value: Admittedly, at $20 per individual per night time, the value for these campsites is sort of costly for simply the privilege to sleep on the floor in a tent, however it’s nonetheless cheaper than different choices.

Reserving and Availability: County operated campsites on the Big Island could be simply reserved on-line and refunds are available online up to 15 days prior to reservation date. The web system exhibits what number of camp spots are available for all days of the week.

Don’t Miss: Camping at Punalu`u Seashore Park the place you’ll be able to watch the turtles lazing on the black sand seashore as the sun sets.

Punalu`u black sand beach has camping on a grass area just next to the beach. At sunset the turtles laze around without the hordes of people taking pictures of them.

Punalu`u black sand seashore has tenting on a grass space simply next to the seashore. At sunset the turtles laze round with out the hordes of people taking footage of them… which is a fairly crappy factor of me to write once I was clearly one among them.

Kohanaiki Beach Park camping is right on the sand next to the beach.

Kohanaiki Seashore Park tenting is true on the sand next to the seashore and is situated previous a safety gate and check-point making it the solely “guarded” spot we encountered.

Kohanaiki Beach Park perfect for sunsets

Kohanaiki Seashore Park is perfect for sunsets

Laupāhoehoe Beach Park. We saw a pod of whales put on a very impressive show from this camp spot.

Laupāhoehoe Seashore Park. We watched a pod of whales put on a very spectacular show from this camp spot.

Web site:,e-search.html

Value: State run camping is rather more expensive than county run sites on Kauai. The fee could be up to $50 per night time for some “shelters”.

Booking: The whole lot is managed on-line. Straightforward peasy, although refunds aren’t attainable within 15 days of your stay.

DO miss: Manuka State Wayside on the Big Island. If you’d like to really feel like you may get murdered in your sleep then you need to think about camping on this spooky, spider ridden “open shelter”. We had pre-paid permits for this website however once we received there we decided that not being hacked to demise with a blunt axe in our sleep was value forfeiting the money. Punalu`u Seashore Park (a county operated campsite) isn’t too distant and is actually value staying at.

Koke'e State Park camping is in lush forested area and is close to amazing views of the Na Pali coastline. Beware: It's freeeeezing camping here! (You're at 4000ft elevation)

Koke’e State Park in Kauai is in lush forested space and is close to superb views of the Na Pali shoreline. Beware: It’s freeeeezing tenting here! (You’re at 4000ft elevation)

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area. Shelters are a pricey $50 per night for non-residents (and you get to share the shelters with a million geckos and bugs), but this is still MUCH cheaper than hotels!

Hapuna Seashore State Recreation Area on the Big Island. Shelters are a expensive $50 per night time for non-residents (and you get to share the shelters with a million geckos and bugs), but that is nonetheless MUCH cheaper than inns!

Web site:

There are two camping decisions within Volcanoes National Park. The primary is the Kulanaokuaiki camping area that permits tenting ($10 a night time per website) for up to seven days in a month on a first come first served basis. Simply needless to say there are nonetheless entrance fees for Volcanoes Nationwide Park. There’s no operating water, however there’s a clean and comparatively smell-free drop rest room. I had the pleasure of using it. Hold that in mind once you put your bum on the seat… mmmm….we at the moment are bum buddies.

The second selection is Nāmakanipaio campground, situated conveniently on the aspect of Freeway-11. Sites listed here are $15 a night time and are first come first served. Pay by putting cash into a little envelope whenever you arrive. Alternatively, since the campsites are operated by Hawaii Volcanoes Lodge Company, you’ll be able to all the time pop into the close by Volcano House and pay by card. The websites are grassy, surrounded by big eucalyptus timber, and there’s nice clean bogs and operating water.

All of that is irrelevant although, as a result of the spotlight of this campsite has received to be sleeping beneath the pink glowing clouds reflecting the mild of the red-hot magma from the close by Halemau’ma’u crater. When you don’t want to sleep inside walking distance of an lively volcano then you definitely’re completely and completely crazy!

Namakanipaio campground, under the glow of the volcano.

Namakanipaio campground, underneath the glow of the volcano.

So if the value of Hawaii is putting you off but you’re still desperate to see the quirky chickens which have overtaken Kauai, hike via lava tubes, fly over lively volcanoes or get lei’d at the airport, then camping is for you. Apart from the lei half…in contrast to in the films that didn’t truly occur. Devastating.

The Big Islands active Halemau'ma'u crater. Reason enough to go!

The Big Islands lively Halemau’ma’u crater. Purpose sufficient to go!