As the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, the Big Island certainly lives up to its name. For the avid outdoorsman or woman, it features many diverse climate zones. Whether you are looking for picturesque beaches, deep tropical jungles, or even snow-capped mountains, you’ll find it here. This diverse geography allows for incredible campsites at jaw-dropping locations.
Prior to recommending our favorite campsites, we should cover the basics. There is no free camping in Hawaii. You will need to purchase a permit to camp. You can secure a permit from the county website: Hawaii County Camping Reservation. Make sure to purchase in advance and print it for park rangers or patrols.
Secondly, a permit does not allow camping anywhere. The permit allows for camping in designated areas. That being said the Big Island has an abundance of available campgrounds. Camping is available on the Big Island at 10 county beach parks, six state parks and reserves, private campgrounds, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Some are more remote than others with amenities or no amenities as well. Listed below are a few popular camping opportunities on the Big Island.
Hapuna Beach State Park
One of the most popular parks and recreation areas on the Big Island for its large A-Frame shelters. It’s a perfect getaway off the beaten path. The A-Frame shelters comfortably sleep four and the picnic areas are always well-kept. The beach is excellent for families as the conditions are usually calm and the sand is soft. The calm conditions make this a great spot for beginner snorkelers. Plenty of wildlife, including sea turtles, are seen in the crystal-clear waters.
Ho’okena Beach Park
A second spectacular beach park for camping. Ho’okena Beach Park is located about 40 minutes south of Kailua-Kona. There are plenty of amenities here as well, making this an easier place to pitch a tent. The best part about Ho’okena is the fine sand. It makes for a very comfortable bed as you gaze out towards your oceanfront view. The grey sand beach is calm and serene, making this your personal oasis at times. Booking is required 72 hours in advance and is made from the website.
This off-track opportunity is reserved for serious backpackers only, but it’s worth mentioning. To access this isolated, awe-inspiring paradise, you take the Muliwai trail located on the Hamakua Coast. In Waipio, you begin a daunting 1,200-foot ascent with switchbacks etched into the mountain wall. You’ll eventually make an equally difficult descent to get to camp. As is the case with many things, the difficulty leads to a great reward. The Waimanu river is the last obstacle before the campground. It is recommended to make this trek with a group to ensure safety. This is not a beginner hike and preparations need to be made ahead of time.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The main campground near the park is the Namakanipaio Campground. There are 4-person cabins and campsites available. The campground is 4,000 feet above sea level and 3 miles from the entrance to the park. I highly recommend waking up early to hike the 4-mile Kilauea Iki loop trail. The route winds through around the outskirts of Kilauea before descending to the crater floor. It can be incredibly serene at dawn amongst the bird calls.