Ultimate Guide to Camping in Kauai (2022 Update)

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Ultimate Guide to Camping in Kauai (2022 Update)

Interested in camping in Kauai? This is a great way to see the island and save money on lodging if you’re visiting the garden isle!

However, Kauai camping is a bit complex. You only have a few options for campgrounds and you need a camping permit to stay at any of them.

Don’t worry – we put together this guide to make your camping trip on the island of Kauai, Hawaii super easy so you can spend more time enjoying your trip and less time trying to figure it out! Let’s dive in.

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Tent Camping vs Camper Vans & Rooftop Tents

You should know that it is illegal to camp inside of any vehicle, INCLUDING camper vans and rooftop tents! We stayed in a camper rental on the island and found this out when we were woken up at 3 AM by park rangers who told us what we were doing is illegal.

While you can do it anyway, you are running a big risk and we do not recommend it. Instead, stick to tent camping. And make sure you have your permits and are legally allowed to stay. More on that later

Click here to browse car rentals in Kauai that come with camping gear!

State Campsites & Country Campsites

Your options for campgrounds in Kauai are state campgrounds, county campgrounds, and private campgrounds. You need camping permits for all of them.

State camping permits cost $20 per night (or $30 for non residents) and county camping permits free for Hawaiian residents (or $3 per night for non residents). The state campgrounds are only on the northern side, and most of them are only accessible by dirt roads, which can get muddy (not good if you don’t have a four wheel drive vehicle).

State Campsites

Kauai has three state campgrounds. These are:

  1. Kōkeʻe State Park
  2. Polihale State Park
  3. Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park

Let’s discuss each in detail.

1. Kōkeʻe State Park

Kōkeʻe State Park

Kōkeʻe State Park offers lush, amphitheater-headed views of Kalalau Valley from 4000 feet elevation. You’ll be able to hike in the native rainforest, along the rim of Waimea Canyon, and there are extra hiking trails in neighboring forest reserves!

In addition to hiking, Kōkeʻe State Park offers:

  • Hunting
  • Sightseeing
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Seasonal plum picking
  • Trout fishing
  • … and more!

Interested in staying in Kōkeʻe State Park? Here are the basic things you need to know:

  1. Entrance Fee: Hawaii residents stay for free (with proof of a Hawaii ID or Driver’s License), non-residents are required to pay a $5 fee, and children under 3 stay for free!  
  2. Camping: You need a camping permit to stay. Hawaii residents stay for $20/night, non-residents stay for $30/night.
  3. Parking Rates: For non-commercial vehicles, Hawaii residents are able to park for free (with proof of a Hawaii ID or Driver’s License), non-residents pay $10 per vehicle. For commercial vehicles, the prices are as followed:

    1. 1-7 passenger vehicle = $25.00
    2. 8-25 passenger vehicle = $50.00
    3. 26+ passenger vehicle = $90.00

We highly recommend Kōkeʻe State Park, but be aware – there are hazardous cliffs!

2. Polihale State Park

Polihale State Park

Note that Polihale State Park is currently CLOSED for camping until further notice. It is open for day-use only.

Polihale State Park is a stunning beach park with gorgeous views of the high sea cliffs of Nāpali Coast. You’re able to go picnicking and tent camping on a wild coastline with a large sand beach backed by dunes.

In addition to camping and picnicking, Polihale State Park offers:

  • Sightseeing
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Beachgoing
  • … and more!

Interested in staying in Polihale State Park? Here are the basic things you need to know:

  1. Entrance Fee: Free for Hawaii residents and non-residents alike!
  2. Camping: Free for Hawaii residents and non-residents alike!
  3. Parking Rates: Free for Hawaii residents and non-residents alike!

Polihale State Park is a beautiful place to camp, but keep in mind that it’s located in a very hot, dry area and beware of strong offshore currents!

3. Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park

Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park

Note that camping permits here must be purchased 90-days in advance!

Known as one of the most beautiful and recognizable coastlines in the world, Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park is an awesome place to camp while in Hawaii (and an awesome spot to check out some of the best beach camping spots on the island).

Wondering what there is to do in Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park? Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Take a helicopter ride to see the massive cliffs, waterfalls, and beaches from above (some of these areas aren’t accessible by land – if you want to see all that this park has to offer, a helicopter ride is needed!)
  • Hike the Kalalau Trail (we recommend only experienced hikers take this on, it’s an extremely challenging trek along sheer cliffs, through stream crossings, and into narrow passages)
  • Visit the Hanakapiai waterfall
  • … and so much more!

Interested in staying at the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park? Here are the basic things you need to know:

  1. Camping: Only primitive camping is allowed at the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park. You need a camping permit from Hāʻena SP. Hawaii residents pay $25/night whereas non-residents pay $35/night. Note that camping permits must be purchased 90-days in advance!
  2. Parking: Overnight parking is limited and it’s recommended that you take a shuttle into the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park. If you don’t want to do that, rates change daily. Check out GoHaena.com to see what the rates would be!

County Campsites

There are quite a few county campgrounds in Kauai.

However, due to COVID, there are only two currently open for camping: Anini beach park and Anahola beach park! (Updated March 7th, 2022)

Here is a list of all the county campsites:

*As noted in parentheses above, the campgrounds close on particular nights for maintenance. This means, if you’re camping in Kauai for an extended period of time, you may have to move to a different campground for a night. We had to stay one night in Anini Beach Park (Thursday while Anahola was closed) during our trip, then go back to Anahola on Friday night.

Private Campgrounds

If the state or county site camping doesn’t interest you, there are two private campgrounds you can stay at as well: Kumu Camp and YMCA Camp Naue.

Kumu Camp

Kumu Camp

Located at the beautiful Anahola Bay on the island of Kauai, Kumu Camp offers five different camping experiences for visitors:

  1. Tent camping: $15 – $20 per night. Can accommodate tents, camper vans and truck w/ tents. Access to hot showers, no electricity at the site (but is available in common areas such as pavilion and bathrooms), check-in time starts at 3pm, and there’s an extra $5 surcharge if changes need to be made after booking.
  2. Tentalo: $60 per night. 3 person maximum, has access to hot showers, check-in time starts at 3pm, check out is at 12pm, no electricity at the site (but is available in common areas such as pavilion and bathrooms), and cots are available on request (subject to availability).
  3. Bungalow: $90 per night. 3 person maximum, has access to hot showers, ability to lock, units 1-7 have queen beds whereas unit 10 has two twin beds, and cots are available on request (subject to availability).
  4. Yurt: $120 – 150 per night. Yurt rental starts at $120 a night for the 1st 4 people, $15 for each additional person (6 people maximum). There are three Yurt options – Ohana Yurt, Youth Yurt, and Sunrise Hale Yurt. All Yurts have electricity, refrigerator and lighting included, and access to hot showers.
  5. Hale Nui: $150 – $210 per night. Hale Nui is for groups larger than 6, with an additional $15 per person. Sleeps up to 10 people, large open “military dome style” with a variety of bed sizes (twin to king), access to hot showers, comes with electricity and a small fridge.

Some features Kumu Camp offer are:

  • Beach volleyball
  • Massage services
  • Water sports
  • Yoga classes
  • … and more!

Staying at Kumu Camp means you get to enjoy the beautiful rural setting of the great outdoors, look up at the night sky, hear the drum of the ocean, and feel the calm and peace of Kauai.

YMCA Camp Naue

YMCA Camp Naue

Located on the North Shore at Haena, less than two miles from the start of the famous Na Pali Coast, lies YMCA Camp Naue.

This private campground offers two ways to camp:

Tent Camping & Beachfront Bunkhouses

Tent camping is $20 per night and per person (ages 3+). Cash only!

There are five beachfront bunkhouses with a total of 50 bunk beds. To find rates on the bunkhouses, call (808) 826-6419.

If you choose to stay at the YMCA Camp Naue, you’ll get these amenities:

  • Kitchen and dining hall that seats 60
  • Men and women’s bathhouse with toilets and hot showers
  • Outdoor showers
  • Covered pavilion with picnic tables and barbecue
  • Campfire areas
  • Volleyball court
  • Playing field

If you stay here, make sure you take a swim at sunset (it’s an unforgettable experience).

Backcountry Camping in Kauai

If you prefer camping in the backcountry, Kauai has that option, too! You’ll have to get a Backcountry Permit from the Forestry and Wildlife office, though!

The permits are free, but keep in mind that you can’t go backcountry camping just anywhere Kauai – for example, backcountry camping is available in Waimea Canyon but not in Koke’e State Park. The Forestry and Wildlife officers will be able to point you in the right direction while you’re there, though!

We recommend bringing extra food, some toiletries, a sleeping bag, tent, pocket knife, headlamp, and other basic camping essentials for your camping trip!

Camping Gear to Bring or Rent

Wondering what to bring with you when camping in Kauai?

Good news – you don’t need to bring a ton of camping gear! Pitch A Tent Kaua’i offers tons of camping equipment, ranging from kitchen utensils to hiking poles and tents!

Here are some camping packages they offer:

  1. The Kitchen Package (for car camping).

Comes with a cooler, stove, fuel, pots and pans, utensils, dishes, dishware, knife, cutting board, paper towels, tin foil, pour over coffee filter, soap, and sponges. 

The prices are as followed:

  • 1 – 2 People: $35/day $150/week
  • 3 – 4 People: $50/day $175/week
  • For groups larger than 4, you’ll have to inquire with the Pitch A Tent Kaua’i staff
  1. Kalalau Camp Set (for backpacking).

Comes with a tent with a rainfly, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, small stove with fuel, small pot set, internal frame backpack, and hiking poles.

The prices are as followed:

  • Comes with one 1 – 2 person tent: $50/day $200/week
  • Comes with one 2 – 3 person tent: $75/day $300/week
  • Comes with one 1 – 3 person tent: $100/day $400/week
  • Comes with two 2 person tents:  $125/day $500/week
  1. The Works (combination of the two listed above).

Comes with contents in the Kitchen Package, the Kalalau Camp Set, chairs, a lantern, beach umbrella, and beach towel.

The prices are as followed:

  • One person – $115 for two days, $170 for three days, $220 for four days, $250 for five to seven days
  • Two person – $145 for two days, $215 for three days, $275 for four days, $310 for five to seven days
  • Three person – $180 for two days, $255 for three days, $315 for four days, $370 for five to seven days
  • Four person – $215 for two days, $300 for three days, $360 for four days, $400 for five to seven days
  • For groups over five, you’ll have to inquire with the Pitch A Tent Kaua’i staff

You can also customize the camp gear you want to rent! Check out the image below to see what you’re able to bundle and how much each item is:

Customizable camp gear

If you choose to rent your camping gear, you really only have to bring:

  • Sunscreen (you could opt to buy this on the island)
  • Sunglasses
  • Small pillow
  • Parka
  • Blankets
  • Extra clothes

Final Thoughts

Camping in Kauai is one of the best experiences of my life! When we stayed there, we got to camp right on the beach for virtually free ($3 per night is nothing compared to $300 in resort fees!). Check out this guide we wrote if you want to know how much a trip to Hawaii costs!

If you need more help figuring out what to do or where to go in Kauai, check out these other helpful guides we wrote:

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