My recent encounter with a couple from Hungary planning to camp across Oahu reminded me of how different camping is in Hawaii from Europe or the mainland. Camping is a popular way to vacation in Europe and beaches are equipped for fairly comfortable family stays. Many of us probably have memories of camping in national parks on the mainland, as well (mine involve a night at the Grand Canyon that was far colder than I thought it would EVER be in Arizona). It is an inexpensive family activity and a good way to get close to nature when campsites are properly equipped.

However, I would not recommend planning to camp for an entire vacation in Hawaii. There are limited campsites run by the city, county or on Oahu. You must apply for the beach permit in person and almost all of the sites are closed for two or three days each week.. In addition to the difficulty of guaranteeing a camping spot for the entire time you plan to spend on the island (and the expense of camping equipment), there are safety concerns. Like any major population center, Hawaii has homeless people and problems with petty theft and break-ins. The safety and quality of life here is far better than other urban centers (Honolulu consistently ranks at or near the bottom on rankings of crime rates) but both homelessness and theft are more pronounced in beach parks. Also, the park bathrooms are adequate for day trips but nothing like the full shower facilities provided at most national parks.

There is no reason to avoid any of the parks, but they are less attractive options as basic lodging than local hotels. That said, camping for a day or two as part of a trip to the neighbor islands might be a fun adventure option during a vacation. This distinction is one of the many excellent reasons to consult with local travel agents when planning your visit.


  1. Don't laugh (too hard), but are there any RV parks/camping facilities there?  Seems like a nice way to camp in a rented RV that's completely self-contained including a hot shower.  Waking up next to the ocean and having your morning coffee outdoors in paradise sounds awesome…

  2. Yup, there are some great camping places but they are few and far between. And like Cindy mentioned it's hard to get permits.There are some places that are sold out on permits up to a year in advance. And some places are just plain scary lol.

  3. When I go camping w/ my families & friends, there has never been a time when some tourist couple or small group start stetting up there camp near ours or another locals families camp site. Most times the other locals would tell them(tourist) that they would have to leave, & to show that they(locals) have the permit for that camp site. Our families camp site is always big(1- 20’x60′ family & kitchen)tent, & about 4-6 med(13×10 – 14×16) sleeping tents, & a small area near the hose bib for our shower tent, in our camp site. So somtimes when we see the tourist’s packing up their belongings, cause they didn’t know about the permit. We’ll go over there (1)to make sure theres not trouble, & (2)ask them(tourist) if they wanna set up camp in our area, & show them where they can set up, & ask them if they want they can hang & enjoy w/us. & most times if they’re(tourist) game, they would & we all enjoyed our self.
    My advice to them(tourist), when you see that the camp area is full & you really or need to bed down for the night. All you have to do is really “ASK”. I know that most locals will be more then happy to share a little area for you as long as you don’t have to much stuff that would not crowd the camp site.
    Thats how you can make life long friends & also maybe become part of they’re “OHANA”. We’ll even try to teach you some of our local customs & ways of life!

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