Namakanipaio Campsite in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Camping on the Big Island

You are here: Home >> Camping

Camping is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about how you will be  spending your nights on the Big Island. Sleeping outdoors adds an element of adventure or romance to your vacation. It let’s you be closer to nature and will show you an element of the Big Island few other visitors will experience.

There are quite some places on the Big Island where you are allowed to camp, but camping permits are sometimes required. The rules at the campsites are very different, and figuring out whether you need a camping permit can be a hassle.

Our camping guide is split into the following topics:

All in all, camping on the Big Island is a unique and exciting experience! It doesn’t offer the comfort that you can find in a real bed, but if you are an outdoorsy type, you will find many rewards. There are many campgrounds to choose from in an array of different climates, and spending at least part of your vacation under the star-studded sky of Hawaii is highly recommended!

Do you need a camping permit for…

Hawaii County Parks? YES!

Permits are required for all 10 county parks that allow camping. You can book a campsite online via the official Big Island Camp Reservation System. Permits can be purchased up to a year in advance, see the camp reservation website for prices and other details.

The following Hawaii County Parks allow camping. Please note that the facilities vary for each campsite, and that some sites have no potable water.

The information in the following table has been last updated in July 2015 with the information on the county of Hawaii campsite website (link).
County of Hawaii Camping Site Location
Isaac Hale Beach Park Pohoiki, Puna
Ho’okena Beach Park (website) Ho’okena, South Kona
Kapa’a Beach Park Kapa’a, North Kohala
Kohanaiki Beach Park South from Kawaihae toward Kailua Kona
Kolekole Beach Park Wailea, South Hilo
Laupahoehoe Beach Park Laupahoehoe, North Hilo
Mahukona Beach Park Mahukona, North Kohala
Miloli’i Beach Park Miloli’i, South Kona
Punalu’u Beach Park Punalu’u, Ka’u
Spencer Beach Park Kawaihae, North Kohala
Whittington Beach Park Honuapo, Ka’u

Hawaii State Parks? Maybe

State park requirements vary within the Island. Permit applications and other valuable information such as information on the park history and archaeology, health and safety information, and the park rules can be found at the state website: http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/hawaii/

Camping in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

There are also camping areas with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Camping here is free of charge, but the Park entrance fees should be paid, and camping is on a first-come first-served basis. Pack warm clothes as it will get chilly at night. More information on the campsites can be found at the official website: http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/camp.htm

Map of Big Island Campsites

Given the exotic names of the campsites on the Big Island choosing where to stay may be confusing.Your options include places where you can fall asleep with the sound of the braking waves on the background, while you watch the stars overhead. Or what about spending the night with your family and/or friends over freshly grilled fish  from the BBQ? And did you know you can also camp on top of the worlds most active volcano? Just be sure to pack some warm clothes because nights will get chilly at 4000 ft elevation. The map below will help you orientate.

Are you curious what those campsites look like? Have a look at our gallery of campsites on the Big Island.

Camping tips for beginners

You can skip this section is you are a seasoned camper and outdoor-guru. If not, taking a minute now might safe you some frustration later! Here are some pointers about what to pay attention to when you are looking for a place to set up your tent:

  • You don’t want to roll around in your tent or cook in the Hawaiian sun: Choose a level location that is protected both from the wind and sun
  • Don’t pitch your tent in a low point: if it starts raining you might be swimming. Likewise, if you are camping close to the ocean you should anticipate the high tide! Spots that look flat and dry during low tide may flood during high tide.
  • Nobody likes an uneven bed. Ensure there are no rocks or roots on the ground where your tent will stand
  • Are you close to a water supply?
  • If you have one, can you park your vehicle close by to keep an eye on it?
  • If there are restrooms facilities, are they within a reasonable distance?
  • Consider the layout: Where to cook? Wash up? Eat? Light a fire? What is the prevailing wind direction (in Hawaii: East -> West), so how should you organize the fire so that you wont have a smoky tent?

After you have pitched your tent

Now that you are all set and done, it is time to start explore the island! This website being a guide, we have some great resources on the outdoor activities on the Big Island.

If you do not feel like reading to much, but want to skip directly to the highlights: Have a look at our 3 favorite beaches (in 3 colors!), 5 short-but-stunning hikes, and best snorkeling spots on Hawaii.