Hawaii for Cheap: Camping in Paradise

by on May 7, 2013 · 0 comments

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Hawaii County Campgrounds

Hawaii County Campgrounds

By John P. Anderson / San Diego Free Press

Hawaii – land of honeymoons, idle thoughts, and sitcom ultimate vacations since the mid-1970s. Also a land frequently visited by residents of Southern California due to the (relatively) close proximity and frequent flight deals. I have been fortunate to visit Hawaii twice – my first trip, to Oahu, followed my junior year of high school and included my first flight, first time seeing an ocean, and many other firsts. The second visit was a ‘babymoon’ in November of 2010, visiting Hawai’i, also known as ‘The Big Island’ since the state is commonly known by the same name as the largest island in the archipelago.

Following my typical travel planning routine we arrived in Hawai’i with no plans or reservations (other than a rental car). Fortunately we discovered that the county of Hawai’i (which covers the entirety of the island) runs a spectacular set of nine beach parks located all around the island. Camping is available at all the locations, although the associated amenities vary greatly at each park.

This dude overpaid for a hotel.

This dude overpaid for a hotel.

Additionally, campsite reservations can be made online so you can book on the fly with a smartphone and don’t run the risk of arriving at a fully booked campsite without a place to stake a tent. We stayed at campsites for about half of our trip (5 nights, I think), staying at hotels and a fabulous historic hostel in Hilo for a few nights to ensure a hot shower.

Camping options on the Hawaiian islands include:

  • Hawai’i – 9 campsites, electronic reservations ($5 per adult per night, $6 if booking online)
  • Maui – 4 campsites, no electronic reservations ($5 – $8 per adult per night)
  • Kaua’i – 4 campsites, no electronic reservations ($3 per adult per night)

These camping rates in Hawai’i are dirt cheap and far less then you’ll see for even the most modest hotel accommodations. For further comparison, consider that the camping rates for San Diego County range from $22 to $24 per tent. (Although this price is for up to 8 people, so if you have a large tent you’re getting a steal.)

A random lady over the Waipi?o Valley - a very, very steep hike

A random lady over the Waipi?o Valley – a very, very steep hike

There are also camping options in state and federal parks, as well as on most of the other Hawaiian islands. An internet search for the island of your choice should yield the information you need to make reservations and learn more. If my experience with camping on Hawai’i holds true for you, you’ll be fine even if you wait until you arrive to make your reservation.

Although a flight to Hawai’i will still cost you around $350 and up, the option of camping will help to lower the total vacation bill and also let you enjoy the natural beauty of Hawai’i after the sun goes down. Mahalo!

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