Camping in Hawaii: A Budget Traveler’s Guide to Beachside Adventures

Yes, you can camp in Hawaii! Sometimes right on the beach! If you’re like me, you’re always looking for the best budget way to experience a beautiful destination. Camping in Hawaii is for sure the #1 way to do it.

Not only do you save hard-earned cash, you get to be closer to nature and experience the raw beauty of the Hawaiian islands.

If you love budget travel and want to learn about some other secret spots from first-hand accounts, check out these other articles I’ve written:

FAQs about Camping in Hawaii

Camping in Hawaii is allowed, but you have to do it right!

  • Is it legal to sleep on the beach in Hawaii?

Napping on the beach is totally fine! But you cannot simply sleep on any beach – you need to obtain a camping permit. Better to stay in a state or national park campsite (read more below)

  • Is it legal to sleep in your car in Hawaii?

No. It’s illegal to sleep in your car in Hawaii (whether you own it or it’s a rental car.)

  • So where can I camp in Hawaii for cheap?

Hawaii has both state and national parks, many of which host campers and offer amenities like bbq pits, washrooms, showers, and picnic pavilions! They are reasonably prices, especially in Kauai.

  • How do I get a permit to camp at a Hawaiian County or State Park?

Note that you must get a permit to camp at a county or State Park in Hawaii. Back in 2010, we found this very difficult to get a permit ahead of time in Kauai as applications were by phone and mail, so we opted to go in person at their office, and this worked fine. For Big Island, it was easy to book online, and it’s wise to do this ahead of time (give it a month or two in advance) as the spots get fully booked (especially Hapuna beach).

Camping in Hawaii County Parks

There are 10 county parks on Big Island that allow camping, and even more on other islands, all varying in elevation, climate, and scenery. You can book permits up to one year in advance online through the official Big Island Camp Reservations. Up-to-date rices and other details can be found on their reservation system as well.

Hawaii State Park Campsite Info + Reservations

There are a variety of State Parks in Hawaii, all with different prices and booking requirements. Permit applications, as well as information about each campsite, can be found at the state website.

Hawaii State and National Park Campground Prices:

Prices range anywhere from $10 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or $5USD registration fee in Kauai, to more luxury $80USD for a cabin at Hawaii’s Hapuna Beach. Reserve early, as some of these campsites can book up!

Camping at Big Island’s Volcano – Kulanaokuaiki National Park

One of the most unique and exciting national parks in the USA is found in Hawaii’s Big island at Kulanaokuaiki National Park!

For information about entry fees and camping fees, visit the NPS Hawaii website

Camping overnight at this active volcano is an incredible experience! We ended up sleeping in the car as the rain was so heavy we couldn’t be bothered to pitch our tent. Once it was fully dark, we drove to the crater and watched the glow of the lava late into the night.

Kulanaokuaiki Campground is about 5 miles down the Hilina Pali Road at 2,700′ elevation. The nine designated campsites at Kulanaokuaiki have picnic tables and tent pads, and are available on a first-come basis. There is NO WATER at this location. There is a vault-type toilet (no running water). Checkout time is 11:00 a.m. Fires are NOT permitted.

Remember that Kulanaokuaiki National Park is at a high elevation so it can be cold, especially at night! Bring warm clothes and a rain jacket.


  • $10.00 per night at Kulanaokuaiki – stay limit of seven consecutive days
  • $15.00 per night for the Namakanipaio campsite
  • $5.00 a night per site for campers who hold the Interagency Senior (Golden Age) and Golden Access passes
    * Fees may be paid at the campground’s self-registration station

Private Campsites in Hawaii

There are many privately owned campsites in Hawaii. A great resource to search through them is Hipcamp – Hawaii.

Tips for Camping in the Tropics for Beginners

  • Setting up Camp:

Select a spot for your tent that is:

  • Level, smooth and rock-free, and not in a hole to avoid waking up in a puddle!
  • Shaded from the sun and protected from wind if possible
  • Above the high-tide line
  • Close enough to toilets and water facilities (or if this isn’t possible, ensure you set up near your car with supplies, or cart in your supplies before dark)
  • Consider if you are near enough cooking facilities – many Hawaiian campsites include charcoal BBQs and covered pavilions for dining and preparing food!
  • If you are having a fire, ensure you set your tent upwind so it doesn’t risk sparks and smoke

If possible, practice setting up your tent before your trip so you are accustomed to its quirks. Once, when we were camping in Kauai, a couple arrived at the site beside ours and started setting up their camp. They worked for over 2 hours trying to set up their newly purchased Walmart tent until it became too dark to work and they gave up!

What to bring when Camping in Hawaii

Here are some essentials you should either bring with you to Hawaii, or purchase at a department store before heading to your campsite:

  • tent, with a rain cover and pegs so it doesn’t blow away in the wind!
  • sleeping pad
  • sheet and pillows (or a stuff-sack of your clothing)
  • 1 set of warm clothing
  • rain jacket
  • drinking water
  • swimwear and snorkel gear
  • towel (the best for travel in my experience is a Turkish towel made from linen)

What to Eat When Camping in Hawaii

When we camped in Hawaii, we were just beginner campers trying to enjoy Hawaii on a budget. We bought charcoal, a cooler, ice, and bbq foods, but quickly realized that this is not the cheapest way to eat when camping in Hawaii. First, you need to buy ingredients, condiments, cooking supplies like aluminum foil, and if you’re only on a brief trip, buying these things is not economical. Second, it is so hot in Hawaii and you must replenish ice in your cooler for perishable foods, which becomes tedious.

The easiest and most budget-friendly option is to purchase ready-made foods that can be eaten cold or easily reheated on the BBQ, or check out budget restaurants like L&L Hawaiian BBQ, fresh poke from Foodland or KTA Market, Hawaiian plate lunches from great local diners like Oahu’s Rainbow Drive In, and of course Costco always offers great budget ready-made meals, as well at pizza and ice cream at their fast-food counter.

Snorkelling and Diving in Hawaii

Make sure you bring your snorkel gear on your Hawaiian camping trip! Renting gear is really a waste of money- for the price of one day’s rental, you could buy a set on Amazon or from Walmart.

The beauty of camping in Hawaii is you have the freedom to drive from reef to reef and get to know the coastline. One of the most beautiful places to snorkel was at “2-step” on Big Island, where we were lucky enough to spot a passing pod of spinner dolphins.

Hiking to Captain Cook Bay, Hawaii

Yes, you can hike to Captain Cook Bay (Kealakekua Bay). It’s steep and tiring, but beautiful. Depending on the season, you can pick guavas on your route down. You can head wild boars, and you can even spot the odd chameleon (invasive, but adorable) in the twiggy brambles. The hike takes about 2 hours either way. The path is carved through lush tall grass and cuts down lava rock, so watch your ankles.

Where to Park for the hike to Kealakekua Bay:

There is a bit of free street parking just above the trail head. Note there’s some excellent guava bushes right in front of the parking!

What to bring on a hike to Kealakekua Bay:

  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Swimsuit
  • Adventure sandals or hiking shoes
  • Mask, Snorkel, (Fins optional but good for safety)
  • Water! At least 1 litre per person. Snacks optional.
  • thin towel (optional)

Questions about camping in Hawaii? Comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected

We rely on ads to fund our website and keep our informational publications accurate and updated. Please support our authors by disabling your ads blocker.

Scroll to Top