Visiting Hawaii means staying at a luxurious beach resort for many people, but camping on Kauai is a much wilder adventure. By spending your days and nights outdoors, you’ll spend a lot less money on accommodations, but that’s just part of the fun.
Being next to nature gives you a better feel for this tropical paradise. Camping for a few days makes it easy to explore Kauai’s scenic mountains, lush rainforests, and cascading waterfalls more easily.
Do you want to find out how to make this a reality? Let’s go!
Plan a Camping Trip to Kauai, Hawaii
Sometimes called the “Garden Island,” Kauai is the northernmost of Hawaii’s main islands. Its size of around 550 square miles makes it the fourth-largest. It’s home to the gorgeous Na Pali Coast, distinguished by its towering, jagged cliffs that often show up in movies and on TV.
Kauai has an incredibly remote feel, but it’s by no means some deserted island. In fact, more than 72,000 people live on the island, and more than a million visit each year.
What to Expect from a Camping Trip to Kauai
Kauai has more miles of white sand beach than any other Hawaiian island, but most campgrounds aren’t directly on the beach. Instead, they’re usually just a bit farther inland, often in grassy, shaded areas. Many beach parks close at sunset, so camping isn’t an option there.
➡ Looking for a spot to camp right on the beach? Find out: Where Can You Go Beach Camping in Hawaii?
Here’s another quirk: Many campgrounds close down for a day or two each week for cleaning and maintenance. Keep that in mind when scheduling your accommodations.
Also, don’t expect great cell service—there maybe none whatsoever in some areas. And bring your own water for drinking and cooking.
Tent vs. Camper
Most people who go camping in Kauai spend their nights in a tent. Typically, you’re reserving just a small space, and you can expect to have other tent campers close by. Camping with a compact travel trailer or a small motorhome, such as a converted van is possible. Using a motorhome for camping in Kauai has its pros and cons.
First, you can also use it as your daily driver while on the island. Second, because the campgrounds on Kauai are mostly geared for tent campers, you won’t reserve a huge site.
One downside comes quickly to mind: Gas is pretty expensive here, and a camper van will burn a little more than an economy-class rental car or hybrid. However, Kauai really isn’t that large of an island and has few roads. In fact, it only takes a few hours to drive the 76 miles of road around the edge of the island.
Camping Rentals in Kauai
Obviously, it’s hard to pack up a campsite of supplies and stow them on a plane or a boat. Thankfully, it’s easy to acquire them in Kauai – in fact, there’s kind of a cottage industry built around it.
Numerous retail shops rent camping gear like tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, and stoves. Some of them also rent small travel trailers and even van-style motorhomes. You can also book them through online sites such as Airbnb and Outdoorsy.
➡ Thinking about renting a camper on Kauai? Here’s our best advice: We Rented an RV Camper in Hawaii. Here’s What We Learned.
Types of Campgrounds in Kauai
Understanding Kauai’s different types of campgrounds can help you plan your camping adventure there. Here’s what you need to know:
The county maintains and operates seven campgrounds on Kauai. They’re incredibly popular because they’re so reasonable. In fact, at $3 a night, they’re downright cheap. (An exception is Lydgate Campground, which is $25.)
The state government runs three Kauai campgrounds that allow camping. They’re a bit pricier at $30 a night for up to 10 people. (An exception is the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, which is $35 per person a night.)
There are a few private campgrounds, but not many. Private companies own them rather than a government agency. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $20 to $30 a night.
Do You Need a Permit to Camp in Kauai?
For county and state campgrounds, you’ll need to get a permit in advance rather than just showing up at the park. Make your reservations online as early as possible. There’s a tremendous demand for these coveted spots, especially during the peak tourist season.
Fees are non-refundable, and you must pay them at the time of reservation with a credit card or debit card. Print your permit information and bring it with you, or at least save it on your smartphone, so you can easily present it at check-in. You don’t need a permit for private campgrounds–just pay a fee.
Stunning Places You Can Camp in Kauai
Now you have a better idea of what to expect and how to go about it. Let’s find out some details on where you can camp.
Salt Pond Park, South Shore
Address: Salt Pond Rd, Eleele, HI 96705
About Salt Pond Park: This six-acre county park on Kauai’s southwestern side has a popular swimming area that’s protected by a natural reef. One of the remarkable characteristics here is the rock salt left when water evaporates from the tidal ponds.
How to Get There: Take the Kaumualii Highway (Route 50) just past the town of Hanapepe, and turn left on Lele Road. Take the second right onto Lokokai/Salt Pond Road and follow to the end.
Need to Know: There are bathrooms and showers (cold water only) and picnic tables and pavilions. The campground shuts down each Tuesday from 10 a.m. until Wednesday at noon.
Polihale State Park, West Shore
Address: Lower Saki Mana Rd, Waimea, HI 96796
About Polihale State Park: This remote park is at the end of a long, narrow, bumpy road, but it’s worth the trip. Just keep driving toward the towering sea cliffs to reach the westernmost camping area on Kauai.
How to Get There: Follow the Kaumualii Highway (Route 50) to its end, where it becomes Kao Road. Continue along as it turns into Kiko Road and take a left onto Lower Saki Mana Road, which (eventually) leads to the park.
Need to Know: A beach umbrella is a good idea. There’s a 17-mile stretch of white sand beach here, but the trees that provide shade are a fair distance from them. There are bathrooms, picnic tables, and outdoor showers.
The Meadow, Koke’e State Park
Address: Hanapepe, HI 96716
About The Meadow: This is one of two campgrounds inside Koke’e State Park, near the rim of Waimea Canyon and overlooking Kalalau Valley. You can enjoy tremendous views here and indulge in popular activities like hiking, trout fishing, and plum picking.
How to Get There: From Koke’e Road (Highway 550), take a left onto Muhihi Road, just past the Koke’e Lodge and Natural History Museum. Follow Muhihi Road directly to the campground.
Need to Know: At an elevation of around 4,000 ft, you can expect a lower temperature, maybe by as much as 10 degrees. Amenities are typical and basic. Don’t expect any cell service, but the Koke’e Lodge is within walking distance and serves local cuisine.
Anahola Beach Park, East Shore
Address: Anahola, HI 96703
About Anahola Beach Park: This county park is the only place for tent camping on the eastern shore. It’s known for its secluded, family-friendly beach and calm waters safe for swimming and snorkeling.
How to Get There: Take Kuhio Highway (Route 56) to Anahola Road and follow it for 0.7 miles then turn onto Mana Road and follow it to the end.
Need to Know: Like the other county facilities, there are bathrooms, cold showers, and picnic tables. The park is closed every Thursday from 10 a.m. to Friday at noon for scheduled maintenance.
➡ Does the thought of a cold shower give you the chills? Consider investing in a portable solar shower for warm water no matter where you camp: 5 Best Outdoor Solar Showers for Getting Clean While Camping
Is There a Best Time to Go Camping in Kauai?
Camping in Kauai might seem like a great way to beat the winter blues back home, but not so fast. Winter is the rainy season there, and winter winds can cause swells that make swimming and snorkeling difficult.
Summer is a much better time to visit but it’s also the most popular, so that can make for more crowded campgrounds. We recommend spring and early fall because the weather is good and there are fewer tourists.
Kauai Camping: An Experience You Won’t Forget
Ultimately, camping on the Hawaiian island of Kauai can be challenging and takes some planning, but it brings lots of rewards. It’s a lot more affordable than staying at a ritzy hotel, and probably more memorable, as well.
Maybe the best thing is that you’ll get a better feel for the amazing beauty of this incredible place. You’ll discover the unique personality of Kauai and its people.
The Hawaiian Islands are full of adventures waiting to be had. If you’ll be island hopping, be sure to try one of these 7 Easy Hikes in Oahu with Amazing Views.
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