Kauai has four campgrounds located in its state parks. Two of these, both located in upland forest meadows are easily accessible by car, one, on a beach, is best reached by four-wheel, and the fourth is a backpacker’s campground at the end of the Na Pali’s 11-mile trail.
Koke`e State Park – Mosquito Free, Upland Camping on Kauai
Two campgrounds are found here in Koke`e State Park’s cool and misty uplands just a few miles from the desert dry Waimea Canyon. Many of the State Park’s numerous hiking trails begin near the campgrounds and meander through fragrant cedar and eucalyptus forests, under ancient koa and towering redwoods and past fragrant blossoms and succulent fruit.
It’s not what you might expect from a tropical vacation, but it is a very beautiful rainforest and for those interested in Hawaii’s flora and fauna very intriguing. The area is steeped in legend and also home to one of the island’s most magnificent vistas that opens up to the Na Pali. And an extra bonus – the mosquitos don’t care much for the coolness, so you will rarely see one, but you will see lots of colorful birds that also appreciate the mosquito free climes.
The temperature typically dips into the 40s at night up here at 3,600 feet, so bring or rent warm sleeping bags (or stay in one of the well heated cabins, cottages or YWCA hostel). The temperatures are quite pleasant in the daytime, and you will likely only want a lightweight rain jacket.
Koke`e State Park Campground
The State Park campground is situated in a long meadow bordered by tall evergreens. The Koke`e Natural History Museum and main office of the privately run Koke`e Lodge (with a restaurant/bar) also are right here. Like most of Hawaii’s State Park camp sites, it’s only $5 per tent site for the night. Camping permits can be booked up to a year in advance. If you’re not ok with getting up early though, this may not be the place for you – the resident roosters crow at dawn.
The other campground in Koke`e State Park is Camp Sloggett, named after the family who donated this to the YWCA in 1938. This includes the tent sites (with showers and restrooms), a charming 1925 built lodge along with the bunkhouse (hostel) and beautiful grounds, all maintained by the Kauai YWCA. This is a fun place to stay – you’ll feel like your back at summer camp! There’s a historical fire pit with seats for 40 and lots of activities.
The campground’s rates are significantly higher than the Koke`e State Campground: $10 per person opposed to $5 per site, but this is a really fun and nice place for families, while the Koke`e State Park campground and private cabins mainly attract hunters and backpackers.
Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
This is backcountry camping for experienced backpackers and hikers. It is set on the Na Pali’s stunning rugged coastline at the 11-mile turn around point for the Kalalau Trail. Camping fee: $10, and instead of per site as with the other two, it’s per person on the Na Pali.
Camping on the Beach at Kauai’s Polihale State Park
This Polihale State Park campground is located on a strikingly gorgeous white sand beach on the sun drenched west side of the island near where the Na Pali Coast ends. It is an extension of Barking Sands Beach and has huge sand dunes, as tall as 100 feet in places.
The downsides to this campground: you need to traverse about 5 miles on a pot hole ridden dirt road. Most don’t go here without 4-wheel drive.
The other downside is that this is not a safe swimming beach due to its treacherous currents. There is the possibility of swimming in Queen’s Bath, a rock lined pool on the south end, but Queen’s Bath is only safe when the surf is small or the ocean is calm. Otherwise it is very dangerous. And there’s no lifeguard at this beach.
On the upside: the setting is as mentioned awesome and you’ll have romantic sunsets, views of the Na Pali, shore fishing (when it’s calm), restrooms, picnic shelters, camping areas, outdoor showers and drinking water. Camp sites here are $5 per night.
Camping Kauai can be a really fun way to save money and meet locals and other visiting campers, if you enjoy camping. And if you do, there could be just the perfect campground for you on the Garden Isle.