Where to Camp in Kauai: A Guide to the Garden Isles’ Best Spots for Pitching a Tent
If pitching a tent on the sand and watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean as you toast marshmallows or hiking into some of the most pristine and dramatic Hawaiian landscapes sounds like your kind of vacation, then pack you tent and check out these great places to camp in Kauai.
Anini Beach Park
Located on the North Shore of Kauai about 25 miles from Lihue and just a few minutes from Hanalei is Anini Beach Park. Here campers will find the standard facilities found at most Kauai county parks–restrooms, cold showers, pavilions and picnic tables. There is also a lovely, reef-protected beach here, which is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. However, Anini Beach Park is not only one of Kauai’s safest beaches, it is also one of its most beautiful. It sits on a blue Pacific lagoon at the foot of Kauai’s famed North Shore emerald cliffs and has a 3-mile long gold sand beach. Make sure you book your site earlier, as this campground is not only extremely popular among visitors, but also among locals on the weekends.
Polihale State Park
Visitors who brave the long, rutted dirt road to get to Polihale State Park will be rewarded by a beautiful, remote and wild white sand beach on Kauai’s western most end before the Na Pali coast. While this state park is a secluded and hard to get to, is well worth the journey on the dirt road to get there. Located miles from the nearest town, this state park is several miles long, though only the reef protected area at Queen’s Pond is safe for swimming. The park has running cold water, flush toilets, a few pavilions and even some semi-private showers. Camping is permitted on this great beach, though visitors should be aware that they will need to pack in all food and water, as there are no stores to purchase supplies inside of the park.
*Please note that as of January 2, 2009, Polihae State Park has been closed for repairs. Check with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources for updates.
Lucy Wright County Park
If you want to camp on the western, dry side of Kauai, but can’t get a spot at the secluded, yet popular Poilhale State Park, then Kauai County allows camping at the 4.5 acre Lucy Wright Park, located just outside of Waimea. While it may not be quite as nice as Polihale, this campground is located on the western side of the Waimea River and the campground has cold showers picnic tables and shelters.
Salt Pond Beach Park
Located on the western side of Kauai near Hanapepe, Salt Pond Beach Park (as indicated by the its name) is located near the only natural salt pond in the entire state of Hawaii and has been an area used for centuries by Hawaiians for gathering sea salt. While sea salt is still gathered from this place and this area remains closed to the public, there is a lovely beach which is open to the public. Here, campers will not only find shelters, picnic tables (with grills), cold water showers and campsites, but also a wide sandy beach where it is safe to swim. In fact, this beach is known for its great snorkeling and is a popular spot for windsurfing on Kauai.
Hanamaulu Beach Park
Located just about 2.5 miles from Lihue, this county park has a great beach and a protected bay where you can swim year-round. Here campers will not only find cold showers, picnic tables, restrooms, grills and covered pavilions, but they will also have a great spot to watch the sun come up over the water or take a dip. Also, because of its proximity to Lihue, this campground is perfect for those that may not want to spend a bunch on a hotel room but who want to be close to town and other activities.
Lydgate Beach Park
As one of the few beaches in Kauai that has lifeguards, Lydgate Beach Park is a great spot for families. The swimming in this protected cove is clear and calm year-round and is a perfect spot for little children and beginner snorkelers. Parents can also rest assured knowing that there is an extra set of eyes watching their kids in the water. Lydgate Beach Park also has a great grassy camping area with cold showers, picnic tables, covered pavilions and grills right next to the beach.
Haena Beach Park
Located on Kauai’s North Shore at the edge of the Na Pali coast, campers will be delighted to find Haena Beach Park. It’s grassy picnic area, tree shaded camping spots, restrooms, cold showers and covered pavilions all looking out over the Pacific Ocean and the Na Pali cliffs dropping into the water make this one of the most scenic official campgrounds in Kauai. The beautiful and famed snorkeling spot Tunnels Beach is also just a 10-minute walk down the beach and this is a great place to spend the night before heading out on the Kalalau Trail.
Koke’e State Park
Located near the deep ravines of the Waimea Canyon, Koke’e State Park is situated at 4000 feet elevation and overlooks the lush green Kalalau Valley below. For those looking to camp in Kauai without hiking in all of their gear, Koke’e is a great option. Not only are the views fantastic, but it is an excellent place to observe native plants and tropical birds. Campers will also find a lodge and restaurant, restrooms, outdoor showers and picnic areas. Koke’e State Park is also the perfect base camp if you are looking to explore some of Kauai’s many hiking trails.
Camp Sloggett YWCA
For those who want to save a little money without having to bring a tent along on their Hawaiian vacation, Camp Sloggett is the perfect compromise. Located in Kokee State Park, here you can chose to either pitch you tent or choose to stay in the dorm-like accommodations or private cabins. If the firepit, showers and ping-pong table wasn’t enough, than you’ll be pleased by the stunning views as you are perched in the evergreens just above the beautiful Waimea Canyon.
Camping in Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
Those who are willing to brave the 18-mile trek and hike the Kalalau Trail through Kauai’s rugged and mostly inaccessible Na Pali coastline can spend the night camping on at the Kalalau Beach. Although camping here requires a permit and campers are not supposed to stay more than 5 nights, you shouldn’t be surprised when you find there is a sort of community that actually spends large chunks of time hiding out at this beautiful spot. There is no running water at this beach campground, but campers will find composting toilets. While campers will find the views unmatched here, it is too dangerous to swim at this beach as ocean currents here are strong and unpredictable.
If you are looking for a spot to camp while hiking the Kalalau Trail, but aren’t sure you want to spend the night with the longer term residents at Kalalau Beach, then spending the night in the Hanakoa Valley (also known as the Hanging Valley) along Kauai’s Na Pali coast is a good alternative. Hanakoa Valley is located about 6 miles in on the Kalalau Trail and camping is allowed here with proper permits. The adventurous can also find the ill-maintained trail to nearby Hanakoa Falls—a popular rest spot for those doing the Kalalau Trail. While capers will not find showers or running water here, they will find rain shelters and composting toilets.
This hidden gem nestled along the Na Pali coastline is only accessible by boat (most campers here sea kayak—which is only permitted May 15-Labor Day), but it’s unparalleled beauty will make you feel like you stepped into a Robinson Cursoe chapter. You will often find yourself alone at this most remote Na Pali beach and the difficult journey to get here is well worth it. Lush valleys cut in between the green coated cliffs, waterfalls stream down the rocks, sea turtles float by in the blue Pacific waters and tropical birds sing from the trees. Permits are required and campers will find no running water, shelters or composting toilets here.
Although there is a beach during the summer months at Hanakapi’ai Valley, all campers are required to camp beyond this point along the Kalalau Trail. This beach, located about 2 miles from the start of the trail at Ke’e Beach. Keep in mind that ocean currents along these beaches are often strong and unpredictable and many have drowned along this section of the coast—meaning while the water may look tempting, you’ll probably want to stay out of it.
Permits are required to camp at all Kauai County parks, Hawaii state parks and in the Na Pali wilderness area. While at some campgrounds it is pretty easy to show up and get a permit, some of the other beaches have long waiting lists to get permits (like Milolii Beach, which has a short season for camping).
- Check out Kauai County’s official web site for more information on campgrounds, directions, facilities and permits.
- Check out Hawaii State Parks’ official website for more information on permits, state campgrounds, directions and facilities
>>Check out Best Camping Beaches in Hawaii for ideas on where to camp on the other islands or Kauai Hostels for where to stay on the cheap without lugging along a tent. If you want more ideas to what to do while you’re not sleeping in your tent, you can also check out Things to Do in Kauai