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.
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.
You’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I came across your blog through someone's post on FB and though hey...I know that guy! Hi Jay & family! Great to see what you're family is up to. This post was inspirational, I love camping and never really thought about camping there...must try! -
Hi Edel! Good to hear from you! Glad you found the post inspirational. You should really try it! The price can't be beat and you get the most gorgeous accommodation view on the island! We can't wait to go back some day... the kids often play Hawaii camping imagination together. In fact, right now we have our tent set up in the living room and all three kids are having a campout :) -
Hi Jay, Our family of four with two girls 10 and 8 will be traveling for the first time to Oahu and the big island July 29-August 12. We will have our camping gear with us, because we are back country camping in Colorado and Bend as we travel to the west coast and then Hawaii. We are considering Kuai because it's so beautiful, but we may just want to do Oahu and the big island, so we can enjoy a slower pace and fewer breakdowns of camp. You said you'd been to the big island. Do you think one week is enough, or should we just do Oahu and the big island our first time? Do you have recs for camping near Volcano Nat'l Park or around the island? We also want to do a helicopter ride and snorkeling with our girls, so any pointers would be great. I found one site that said camping was $5 and $6 for residents per night but $21 and $26 for non residents. Did you find that to be true? It would be almost $100 to camp that way for the four of us. I look forward to your response. Thank you for posting your recs! Karis -
Sounds like an amazing Hawaiian vacation with great potential for life long memories. We don't know Oahu at all so won't be much help unfortunately. Would love to hear back from you on what your camping experience was like on Oahu and the Big Island. I would recommend just picking one Island and experiencing all of that Island for a slower pace. Just depends how you like to vacation. Last time we were on the Island of Kauai camping for adults was only $3 a night. That was back in 2011. Not sure if things have changed. I know that each Island is a little different with lower prices for locals On Kauai I believe it was free for locals. We just loved our time on Kauai on Anini Beach and strongly recommend touring on that Island if you like the slower less commercialized Hawaiian experience. Get camping permits well in advance for summer time especially! Jay -
I've never thought of camping in Hawaii before. I have always thought of it as a destination to stay in a nice resort and lay by the pool all day. There are lots of helpful tips in this post that has made me rethink this and consider Hawaii for a camping trip one day. Thanks for sharing your experience. -
Hi Jen! I know eh! I think we are so trained to think we need to be able to afford a Hawaiian resort when going to Hawaii that we don't think of alternatives. If you love camping, you will love camping on Kauaii if you follow our instructions. Now Hawaii is affordable for many who thought otherwise. Aloha! -
I have friends who have camped in Hawaii before and it looks like a great idea. I am heading there again next year so will hopefully be using your great camping tips then (if I'm not too scared to camp by myself that is!) -
Hi Katie! If you are camping on the Island of Kauai. I'm your expert! I would be happy to help you with any questions. There is no closer or more beautiful beachfront accommodation than the place we camped as far as I'm concerned. For $3 a night we extended our Hawaiian vacation for a month! Jay. -
Great post Jay, I haven't done any form of camping for years - Not because I don't like it, mainly because the opportunity hasn't popped up! This kind of adventure looks quite appealing, I can imagine crawling out of a tent early in the morning to be greeted by the rising sun. Your family looks like you have such good fun together - Very refreshing to see. -
It sounds like it's time for you to pull out the camping gear, Paul! Let us know if you have any questions whenever you're ready. -
It's awesome to find another like-minded family. We love "away" camping with our three active teen-agers. Arizona is another great place to fly into with camping gear! Debating Hawaii as our next destination but need to go in March... do you have any experience camping there mid-March? Looking at either Kauai or Maui. -
We can't wait to go back to Hawaii to camp! We haven't been to Kauai in mid-March... but from our research it is the month where it is making the transition to summer, so it could be hit and miss depending on what part of the Island you are on. If you camp in Maui, we would love to hear about your experience. We want to try camping an another island, but haven't done a lot of research as of yet. Camping in Arizona sounds fun too! We have thought about taking a road trip to Arizona sometime in our future. Thanks for reaching out! -
Hi Guys, Nice blog. My daughter & spouse (25 yrs old) are heading to Hawaii Aug 18 for 21 days landing in Honalulu . They can only afford to camp & do not drive. They will be backpacking. Can they travel to campsites by public transportation? Any idea of cost? What would be the cost (ferry?) say from the big Island to Kauai? They are happy eating vegetarian so cooking is minimal, but are there any markets accessible by walking near campsites? Can they get permits at a campsite for the next campsite if when move on? Any backpacking suggestions? -
Sounds like an amazing trip! We only know about camping on the Island of Kauai at this point. Yes, you can travel close to the campsite I recommended by public transpo. Anini campground is a little bit of a walk from where the bus drops you off, but it's well worth it. I don't think Hawaii has a ferry system... but the cost to do Island hoping on local airlines is pretty reasonable. Mokulele often offers flights under $100. They will want to buy there food in town and then keep it in storage at their tent. Some campgrounds have markets near by... but those aren't very good campgrounds. Here is all the info you need on camp permits: http://www.kauai.gov/government/departments/parksrecreation/campinginformation/tabid/176/default.aspx -
Hi, On days that do not coincide with the closure day of the campground, can you leave your tent lying on the campground everyday, or do you need to dismantle at 10AM and resetup at 12 noon everyday? Lily -
Hi Lily, you only need to dismantle your tent when the campground closes. And on that day, you need to remove absolutely all of your belongings. Otherwise, you can keep everything set up all day long. When are you going to Hawaii? It's such a wonderful place to go camping. I'm sure you'll love it! Do you have any other questions? -g -
Hi Gretta, thanks for your response! I'll be in Kauai Aug 10 - 17. Another question: I have permit for: tues 12 PM to thurs 10 AM at haena and thurs 12 PM to sat 10AM at salt pond. For Thursday, do you know if it's allowed if I were to dismantle my tent at haena at 5PM to resetup at salt pond, or is it firm that I have to leave haena by 10AM and only resetup at salt pond at 12 noon? Thanks for your help. Am trying to figure out if I can fit in some other activities in the morning instead of moving tent. -
Great questions Lily. On the day when the park is closed they are strict about having everything removed from 10am until noon the next day unfortunately. One recommendation we have about your Hawaii camping trip is to stay at Anini Beach Campground instead of Haena. Haena is nice but it has a lot of day traffic people. We love Anini and when we go back we will only stay at this campground area. Salt Pond is an "okay" campground, but it does have an outdoor seating area where locals like to stay up late and make noise... -
Hi there! Great info here and much appreciated! We just purchased tickets to Kauai for our family (2 young teens). First week in April. We camp a lot as a family and would like to camp on the island - so we're investigating that now. There is not time for us to reserve camp permits in advance at this point. Several questions...1) is early April considered somewhat of an off-season or will things be crowded and unsuitable for last-minute planning? 2) Do you think its smart to just show up to the camping permit office on the first day and get permits? How risky is that? 3) Does Anini fill up? 4) Could you share a list or ideas for places that give discounts for last-minute room reservations? Or how to go about figuring that out. 5) What are your tips for enjoying camping at Anini if it rains? Are there picnic tables at the campsites and if so, can a tarp be set up over them? Was it loud at night? We don't want a hardship trip - have had plenty of those adventures! And could afford to get a simple room, so we're trying to weigh whether camping would be a lovely and relatively stress-free experience or if we'd be better off taking the easy route this time and getting a room! THANK YOU!!! -
Hi BRoot! Wow lots of questions! I should add some more info to the blog post :) I'll try and answer all of your questions. You can always give the permit office a call. There might still be time to get the permit ahead of time. Although I don't think you will have any issues getting permits when you arrive if need be. We know several campers who did that. It's still a risk though... You are not going during peak season so my guess is that it should be fine. Anini has lots of room to spread out as there aren't specific campsites. But if you want a spot beachfront plan your first night when the campground re-opens. You are going during a season where the rains will be slowing down and more summer weather is common. If it rains and it's windy... well that's just not enjoyable. That's why we won't go in the winter months again. Yes there are picnic tables. Check the weather before you go, if it's sunny and hot then ABSOLUTELY GO FOR IT! Although the weather forecast can look tricky because it can show rain off and on, which is the nice rain. Here is my best trick for a last minute deal on a room reservation: contact owners ahead of time using VRBO and Craigslist. If you use Craigslist just get the info to go to their website to make sure it is legit. Ask them if they will offer you a special rate if you book with 24 hours notice. Check out their calendar to see availability. Aloha! Let me know how it went. Jay. -
Hi guys, this post really caught my attention. My partner and i are looking at going to Hawaii in late January 2016 (wet season, i know) We were thinking of taking a tent and a few camping things with us incase we decide that the weather is good enough to camp. I have been reading on forums though that camping in Hawaii is completely unsafe we will be traveling to Maui, Oahu and the big island on this trip.So i was wondering if you have any advice / know of any safe places to camp on these islands? Thanks heaps Kate -
Hi Kate, Have a wonderful trip to Hawaii! Our only camping experience on the Hawaiian Islands so far is on the Island of Kauai. We went twice with young kids and didn't have any issues with safety. We found out ahead of time which ones to avoid and which ones are tourist friendly. If you do some quick google searching there seems to be a lot of helpful information on camping on those islands. Aloha! -
Would like to try camping in Hawaii with wife, were older 66, 57, would like to camp in January, what is weather like, and have you camped at other islands, thinking of visiting 2 or 3, thanks for the great info, Dale -
Aloha Dale, we would love to someday get out to the other islands and have other camping experiences. We just have the two camping trips to the island of Kauai so far. We went back to Kauai because we knew it so well, and when traveling with young kids that really helps. In our experience the weather in January can look different on different islands and on different areas of the island. If it was raining in the North of Kauai, we would often pack up and head to a South Island campsite. Have a great trip! Send pictures! -
Hi Jay and Gretta, Thank you for all this information. My bf and I were planning to go camping on Kauai in December, and since it looks like it's too rainy then on the North shore, we would stay South. We were planning to get a rental car and camp, but from researching a little, we got concerned that homeless people and meth addicts may make camping dangerous... It sounds like you never had issues, but do you have any advice? We were concerned we might get attacked or things might get stolen... Thanks so much! -
Aloha! That's awesome that you're going camping! We have gone twice now with very little kids and that was just a few years ago. We didn't have any issues at Anini. We saw some beach bums, but at Anini there are a lot of tourists around and we didn't have any issues at all. We of course locked our valuables in the car, zipped up the tent and covered our things in the tent. The weather is a little iffy up North in Dec, but if you hit the weather just right this is a PERFECT place to pitch a tent and our #1 choice by far. Salt Pond is our second choice, but only because the weather is nicer in the South. It's not as nice for camping because the locals stay up late in the pavilion and drink. Anini isn't like that at all. Hope that helps! -
Thanks so much, that's very useful :) We'll try it out! -
Please let us know how it goes! Have a wonderful time. Send pictures :) -
Great info! I wanted to offer up a slightly different option for camping on the Big Island that may be attractive to some- a company renting trucks or SUVs with roof top tents mounted to the racks. It's just slightly more than a larger rental car and offers so much more flexibility. They even come with a propane stove, water, and all utensils. Check it out at huakaicampers.com. -
Thanks for sharing another Hawaiian camping option! Great way to explore the whole island if you like to vacation that way. J -
A question for you. Is Anini suitable for hammock camping? If so, are there areas where we could hang a couple near our tents? -
Hey there Adam! If you are an experienced hammock guy you will have no issues finding two trees to hang a hammock in the camping area. When are you going? J -
Yes, I have forsaken the ground for several years while backpacking and camping. This time will be just a one night car camp with family in late March as part of vacation there. Anini looks beautiful. I look forward to snorkeling there. Another query: how far is it from the Kalalau trailhead on Ke'e beach? Thanks for the aperçu! -
You will love snorkelling at Anini. I remember seeing a couple turtles right off the point in the channel when the tide is coming in and out. It's about a 45 minute drive to the trailhead. Love that drive and the hike. Hope to go back someday ourselves. -
I will note that you can not take a stove on Hawaiian Airlines. You also can not take a stove (except a new stove still in its box) on Alaskan. They don't advertise theses policies in an easy to see way. Note too, that I am not talking about empty fuel bottles. I am talking about clean empty stoves! -
Hi there! As far as we know yes you can take a camping stove as long as you have emptied all of the fuel. Wasn't a problem for us. -
No. We had Alaskan refuse a MSR stove that uses a canister. It doesn't even have a liquid fuel. What a flyer can get away with is one thing using the logic of the airline not being able to find out, but the company policy for Alaskan is "new stove in the box". By this rule the stove is one way only. Hawaiian is a total ban. We send trips to Hawaii yearly and will have to work around this. Jill -
Crazy! Something must have changed. We brought a whole coleman stove twice. Just had to prove there was no fuel in it. -
Great camping article, would love your review (maybe along with some camping views / advice) on our Anini Beach article here: https://lookintohawaii.com/hawaii/5434/anini-beach-park-beaches-kauai-kilauea-hi -
Hello there, I love your site it is extremely helpful! We are planning on a Maui camping Vacation. This is my first time to Hawaii so I have no idea what we are getting ourselves into- I am wondering about insects. We are an outdoor family and love camping, that is what we do at home when we go on a vacation, so we thought why not do it in Hawaii! However, I am a bit nervous about scorpions and cockroaches. I come from Washington state so these are very foreign to me! Any advice? Also mosquitoes, do you feel like you just can't get away from them or is it not that bad? Thank you so much for sharing your experience. -
Hi Kristin! Glad you found our travel blog so helpful. We love hearing that. Sorry for the late reply on your question. Did you end up going to Mauai already for camping? Would love to hear how it all went! Please share. We hope to go camping on Mauai someday ourselves. On Kauai at the campsite we went to we didn't have any but or insect or bug problems whatsoever. My son grabbed a gecko by the tail and it fell off in self defence, but that's about it! We did have a terrible experience at a state campground on the other side of the island though with mosquitos!! Got out of there quick and went back to Anini. J -
Hi Jay!! Sounds great. I only hear horror stories about camping in Hawaii, especially in county parks...so 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. -
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 -
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! -
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. -
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,,, -
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 -
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! -
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. -
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? -
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! -