Don’t Think You Can Afford A Hawaiian Vacation? Think Again!

With a little know-how anyone can go on a camping trip to Hawaii. For $3 a night you can have the best ocean view on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai.

A family vacation hawaii is within your grasp if you can afford the plane ticket!

If you like camping than you’ll love camping on Kauai!

The sound of Hawaiian music is so sweet to my ears. I turned some on just now to inspire me as I write my first of what will hopefully be many blog posts on Hawaii. It is rare for me to listen to Hawaiian music, especially for how much we love those tropical islands.

I save this very special music for times of vacation and sunny days only. I know, it sounds a little weird, but it sure makes this music that much sweeter when I do listen to it.

We have had the privilege of traveling to Hawaii 5 times as a family in the last 10 years.

First it was our honeymoon on the island of Kauai, which is our absolute favourite island. Then we went to the Big Island twice, once by ourselves and the second with a baby and a 2 year old. Our last two trips have been to the island of Kauai with our now family of five. There is one big difference that made these last two trips extra special – we were tent camping in Hawaii!

On these last two trips we made so many unforgettable memories; it was surreal.

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It did help that one of the trips was for a full month, so we had much more time for adventures. The other reason it was unforgettable is because we had our 3 little kids with us, who were 3, almost 2 and 7 months old at the time.

I still remember the first morning crawling out of the tent and seeing my wife breast feeding on the beach and my other two kids crawling around on the white sand eating cereal and overlooking a Hawaiian sunrise.

family camping in hawaii, kauai campingYou’ll notice this picture was taken with the kids in their pyjamas… we were just a few steps away from our campsite enjoying the sunset before bedtime. 

Many people were in disbelief when we told them we were going for a month-long camping trip in Hawaii. The first response was, “how can you afford it??” When we told them we would be camping on Kauai for most of the time, the next thing our very supportive and optimistic family and friends would exclaim is “You can’t do that! Your kids are too young. That’s not possible”.

Oh but it is, we would say… and just watch us.

It did help that my wife and I are outdoor enthusiasts, so that gave us a boost of confidence and experience… but really in the end we found out anyone can go camping in Hawaii with an adventurous spirit and a little know-how.

This blog post is mostly about camping in Hawaii, but we have to admit to you that we splurged both times on very comfortable top-notch resort accommodations as well.

On one trip we turned in our rental car 3 days early and spent our last nights in Kauai basking in the sun at an oceanfront resort. The kids love camping, but that pool side water slide was a BIG highlight. The other time I did a lot of work and I researched and researched online in advance with the goal of finding ten places that would give us last minute deals if we booked their accommodation with 24 hours notice if their place was still empty. It’s easy to do this on craigslist or VRBO websites.

We spent a week of our month-long vacation at a cliff side, oceanfront, 2000 square ft, ground level condo with pool and ocean beach near by.

Hawaii family camping trip

Regular price was $300 a night, plus tax and a cleaning fee. We got it for a screaming deal of $80 a night including tax and a cleaning fee. It did help that we were vacationing in Kauai during low-season.

5 reasons that motivated us to go camping in Hawaii

1. $3 a night for tent camping in Hawaii! Enough said.

For just $3 a night per adult we had a little piece of Hawaiian beach all to ourselves. Since we could afford the flights, and a rental car, a Hawaiian family vacation was well within reach.

2. We love sleeping steps away from the ocean listening to the waves role in.

You can’t find any closer oceanfront accommodations than camping in Hawaii. Sunrises, sunsets and a beautiful unobstructed view from our accommodation every day.

3. We love camping in the tropics in the Fall

We both grew up tent camping and because of Jay’s summer camp job, that puts a little damper on a family camping trip of our own during the summer. This was the best way we found to live out our fond childhood memories of family camping trips of our own.

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Best place in the world to wash dishes with mom!

4. We can extend our vacation by weeks by camping in Hawaii

Typical Hawaiian accommodations will set you back $100 a night for a reasonable place, all the way to $400 a night and up! With all the money you save by camping, it makes it easier to spend your hard earned vacation money on activities like scuba-diving, helicopter rides, sunset cruises, or add on an extra week of vacation like we did.

5. We love the beach, especially Hawaiian beaches

With the age of our kids we basically spent every day at the beach camping, snorkelling, boogie boarding and playing in the sand. We found that beach camping is very conducive for all of these activities.

8 important things to know about camping on Kauai – confidence builder. 

1. You will need to a apply for a Hawaii camping permit.

This is a very easy process. During the non-summer months, you can actually just pick one up same day at the municipal office. You need to attach this permit to the outside of your tent to show the park ranger you have taken the proper steps to pitch a tent. On the island of Kauai, they go around every morning with a flashlight before you are awake and check your permit. More information on Kauai camping permits. 

2. Our favourite campground on the island of Kauai is Anini Beach Park.

We tried several others and as far as we are concerned this one is the best of all Kauai County campgrounds. All the County campgrounds are an open area and you essentially find a picnic table and pitch your tent in the designated tenting zone. Your car is parked about a stone throw away behind some rock barriers. Anini is our favourite because you will mostly find backpackers, tourists and like-minded campers. The campground is off the beaten path, which makes it quieter and more peaceful. Anini also allows you to pitch your tent right up against the beach along it’s vast stretch of beach park.  In 2012 a new campground was opened called Lydgate. We haven’t visited this camp ground ourselves yet, but it appears to be a more regulated campground with actual sites, indoor showers, and other amenities. It is also $25 a night, so that’s something to consider.

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3. Yes, you bring almost all your camping equipment with you on the plane.

It is possible and it is the more affordable way to go than renting or buying equipment when you arrive. Our trick is to use a soft top car top carrier. To stay under the weight limit for the plane you put all your lighter supplies in the car top carrier and load it right on the plane. When you get to the island, just take it off the conveyer belt, strap it on top of your rental car, and just like that you are car camping! Don’t forget to rent a car with a roof rack, or things will get interesting (Yes, that comment is from experience) Read more on flying to Hawaii. Yes, you can bring a camping stove on the plane, all you need to do is remove the gas. Bring a large cooler and pack supplies inside. When you do your first food purchase, just take those supplies out of the cooler and move them into other bags. We actually like to bring some basic food supplies and frozen food with us believe it or not. Things can be quite expensive on the island.

4. When you arrive on the island pick up some quick supplies

Stop by a nearby store (Walmart is close to the airport) and pick up charcoal and white gas or propane for your cooking needs. The campground has outdoor BBQ’s so pick up some frozen chicken while you are there. You’ll need ice as well for your cooler. It is best to do your shopping in Lihue as prices are much more reasonable than being in a more touristy part of the island.

5. At Anini campground you will find bathrooms and outdoors showers

Don’t expect a state of the art provincial or state campground bathroom, but it does the trick. There are outdoor showers nearby with some limited privacy, but we just bathed in our bathing suits. The campgrounds have an outdoor dish washing station, picnic tables and charcoal BBQ’s.

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6. People always ask us if it is safe

We have done this trip twice now and didn’t have any issues with safety or having anything stolen. We of course were prudent and locked all our valuables in the car and buttoned up our camping area nice and tight when we left for the day.

7. All the County campgrounds close down for a 24 hour period at different times

This is important to know for planning your arrival and departure day. It is a little annoying having to pack up and set up your campground in the middle of your camping trip, but I can see why this is done. With the year-round beautiful Hawaiian weather, it could be very tempting for some Hawaiian beach lover to just set up a permanent residence… so with this 24 hour closure it prevents that from happening. During the closure period, we take the opportunity to stay one or two nights at a hotel and get all freshened up, so it actually turns out to be a lot of fun for the family. My kids at this point prefer sleeping all together in the tent, so they are always excited to go back to camping.

8. Please learn from our experience and only go camping between May and November on the island of Kauai

You drastically increase your chances for fantastic camping weather. Yes, it is still Hawaii, but from experience it can rain and get windy on the North shore during the winter months quite a bit. We went camping in December on the island of Kauai one time and promised to ourselves we would never try that again. The other time was late September into October and it was gorgeous almost every day. Not every island is as weather sensitive for camping, but we really enjoy the North shore of Kauai.

 Your turn! Use the comment section below and ask all your questions about family camping in Hawaii?


  • Hi Jay!! Sounds great. I only hear horror stories about camping in Hawaii, especially in county like your positive blog! I will travel to Hawaii in august and september and i really love camping. I wil be a single woman travelling around and would love to meet other people. I would not dare to camp alone .... so want nearby tents, travellers, just in case ;)! Do you have tips and tricks for me? Which camp sites would you recommend? I want to go to big Island, kauai en maui. - Reply

    • Hi there! August and September is the PERFECT time to go camping in Hawaii. We have only camped on the Island of Kauai and can confidently recommend the camping spot at Annini Beach. You'll love it! J - Reply

  • Great article! My husband and I are going to Kauai for seven days, and we would love to camp. Do you believe it's shrewd to remain at one campground and simply go via auto ( the island isn't enormous) or do you prescribe to remain at a few campgrounds? What campgrounds are the best ones? Much appreciated! - Reply

    • Hi Julies! Lucky you going to Kauai for seven days! We always stay at Anini beach campground and drive around from there. We have tried 3-4 other campgrounds and we don't like them. Nothing compares to Anini camping. If you want to avoid some driving and you find yourself wanting to spend a couple days in the South Island then Salt Pond campground is what you are looking for. Also Salt Pond down South does have more consistent nice weather during the winter months. Have fun! And send pictures, let us know how it goes! Camping is a great way to save money and have an extended Hawaiian holiday. - Reply

    • I would not recommend leaving your campsite set up while you tour around. Unlike mainland campgrounds, where there are often staff, there is no staff at almost all the island camping sites, and in addition, there are often folks there that we would call "homeless". While I believe there is little violence, there IS theft.I would recommend repacking everything each time you leave. Hassle, I know,,, - Reply

      • Hi Jill, thankfully we haven't had any issues on both our camping trips on the Island of Kauai. We simply cleaned up our campsite and put everything in the tent and took any valuables with us in our vehicle. We didn't have any issues at all. We connected with several others who were camping and didn't hear of any theft issues. We felt safe with our little wee kids and would go back in a heart beat. J - Reply

  • So... how terrible was the December camping experience at Anini exactly?! Haha... looks like it’s going to be my only option for a last-minute trip after Christmas and want to be prepared. Thanks for any feedback! - Reply

    • Hi Nicole! Well... let's just say we would never chance it again. The big reason is we know how great it can be in other parts of the year. August - October is a premium time to go camping at Anini because the weather is more stable. In December there is a lot more rain and wind coming and going... so if you don't mind some weather volatility than Anini can work for you. What we ended up doing was watching the weather and camping partly at Anini and partly on the South West side of the island with nicer weather. If you go to Anini say hello to Marco and Louis for us. They are local guys. Very nice. - Reply

  • Hey Jay! This blog was just perfect info for us! What do you think about camping on Kauai in January February or March? Would the weather be hit and miss ... similar as your December experience? - Reply

    • Hi Katharina! If we are talking about North Island... then end of March you might find some consistent nicer weather but January and February are definitely hit and miss. You can always go down South and it'll be okay... but our favourite spot on Kauai is the North Shore. Let us know how it goes! - Reply