Camping is an amazing way to spend time in Kauai and to really take in the beauty of the island. In addition to seeing the best of Kauai, it’s also a great way to save money while visiting this island. But booking a campsite is not as easy as you may be anticipating.
The permit system for Kauai camping is not centralized so depending on which department has oversight (county, state, etc), there are different methods for booking a reservation. It can get a little tricky, so read on to learn all you need to know about how to get permits to camp on the beautiful island of Kauai!
Content and photographs provided by Yana Kogan and Timon.
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How to Rent Camping Gear in Kauai
Even if you aren’t planning to bring your own gear for camping, don’t exclude camping as an option in Kauai. There are several places on the island to rent all the camping gear you’ll need.
How to Buy Camping Gear in Kauai
Another option to renting gear is to buy all the gear you need in Kauai. This is a good option since you can keep most of the items (but don’t fly with any fuel canisters). You can get an entire camping setup for a few hundred dollars (still probably cheaper than paying for a hotel in Kauai for a week).
Most camping staples are available at Walmart and Kmart. And if you plan ahead, you can buy these items (better quality and prices too) from Amazon. Here are a few of our suggested Kauai camping essentials:
- Tent ($55 – $270): Budget Coleman tent, inexpensive but good quality ALPS Mountaineering tent, or high-end Mountain Hardwear tent.
- Sleeping Pad ($40-80/each): Basic camping mat or a mid-range Thermarest camping mat.
- Blanket ($20): Cheap multi-use and stylish blanket.
- 2 Camping Chairs ($30): It is better to buy camping chairs in Kauai unless you invest in compact camping chairs such as these amazing Helinox chairs.
- Camp stove + butane ($45): MSR Pocket Rocket is the most portable stove, just buy Isopropyl fuel in Kauai.
- Cookware and utensils/plates ($30): Inexpensive cooking set.
- Head torch/lantern ($20): Head torch.
- Cooler ($10): Buy in Kauai so you don’t have to check it.
Permits for Kauai Camping
Kauai County Permits
There are seven county campgrounds on the island at different beach parks. County permits are $3 per person per night for non-Hawaiian residents (free for Hawaiian residents). To get permits you’ll need to apply in person at one of the four locations: Lihu’e, Kapa’a, Kilauea, Kalaheo, or Hanapepe neighborhood centers.
Campsites are closed 1 or 2 days per week for cleaning and the locations to get the permits are also open for limited hours. Find out more information at the county website.
County Campgrounds in Kauai
- Haena Park (closed Monday nights for maintenance)
- Hanalei Blackpot Park (open Friday & Saturday only)
- Anini Beach Park (closed Tuesday nights for maintenance)
- Anahola Beach Park (closed Thursday nights for maintenance)
- Hanamaulu Beach Park: day use only
- Salt Pond Park (closed Tuesday nights for maintenance)
- Lucy Wright Park (closed Monday nights for maintenance)
- Lydgate Park Camp Ground (closed Tuesday nights for maintenance)
Our favorite campgrounds for camping in Kauai were Salt Pond, Anini Beach, and Haena Park. Some of the county campgrounds are known to have some homeless people as well as people on drugs. If you do not feel safe, do not stay the night. We preferred Anini and Haena Park the most in terms of comfort and safety.
Backcountry Permits for Kauai
Camping permits for backcountry locations can be obtained in person at 3060 Elwa Street (room 306) at the Forestry and Wildlife office and the permits are free. Backcountry camping is available in Waimea Canyon but not in Koke’e State Park. The office can help with information on hiking trails and places to camp in Waimea Canyon.
State Park Camping Permits
Camping within Kauai state parks costs $12 per campsite for Hawaiian residents and $18 per campsite (up to 6 people) for non-residents. The only exception is camping within the Na’Pali Coast State Park on the Kalalau Trail, which costs $20 per person/night.
There are three excellent state parks to explore with camping options. If county campgrounds are not your cup of tea, the state park campgrounds are safe, spacious, and usually more private. Permits can be obtained in person at 3060 Elwa Street (room 306) at the Department of Home Lands or book ahead.
State Parks for Camping in Kauai
1. Koke’e State Park
Koke’e is accessed from the town of Waimea. With endless amounts of hiking, coastal views, mountains, and lush jungle, this is the best state park to explore in Kauai. There is a wonderful scenic drive to the Kalalau Lookout. Don’t miss the Cliff Trail and the Awa’awapuhi Trail. There is one campground in Koke’e.
2. Na’Pali Coast State Park
The Kalalau trail located on the Na’Pali Coast is one of the most famous hikes in the US. It boasts amazing coastlines and lush valleys filled with waterfalls. The Kalalau Trail can be visited as a day hike for the first 6 miles, beyond that, you’ll be required to get a permit. Camping costs $20 per person per night and must be reserved ahead online.
3. Polihale State Park
Polihale State Park is on the northwest corner of Kauai. This beautiful long stretch of beach is accessed by a dirt road and can be reached by 2WD car. However, if it has rained recently, driving may in impassable in a small vehicle.
There is a designated area for camping at Polihale. This beach is pretty remote and far from any stores, so make sure to stock up on all your provisions and enough water for your entire stay.
That’s it – all you need to know about camping in Kauai! We hope you have a wonderful vacation!
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