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How To Plan A Camping Trip On Kauai Hawaii | 1-Week Itinerary Included

So you want to visit Kauai, but probably looked at the price of their cheapest hotel and said, nope, even that’s too much. Because that is pretty much exactly what Jake and I did. Personally, I think sleeping on a beach and hearing the waves crashing against the sand beats a dingy cheap hotel room any day. So don’t let a tight budget stop you from enjoying a trip to Kauai.

One big caveat to planning a camping trip in Kauai is the rugged Napali Coast is not suited for cars to drive on. So driving North along the east coast, the road comes to an abrupt stop at Haena State Park. And driving North on the western side of the island, the road goes as far as Polihale State Park at sea level or Pu’u O Kila Lookout high up on the mountains.

Also, since Covid-19 and the flood from 2018, many of the camping areas have since closed or are still “temporarily closed”. Luckily there are still a few good choices for camping areas around the island to help accommodate you for the night. And camping on each Hawaiian island is different, including the application process and how far in advance you can get a reservation.

So here is everything you need to know for how to plan a camping trip on Kauai, HI. Plus a recommended 1-week itinerary with campsites included.

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No Free Camping on Kauai, HI:

First, it’s important to know that there are no free campsites on Kauai. If you are used to vanlife or primitive camping in the United States then you probably know there are plenty of free camping options on BLM or Public land.

Sadly, Kauai doesn’t have public land where you can pull over and sleep for the night.

It is also illegal to sleep in your vehicle on the island. So that puts renting a camper van or rooftop tent technically “illegal”, outside of a few private campgrounds that allow it.

But personally, we saw camper vans around the island and noticed they would often drive in late at night and leave early in the morning at many of the campgrounds. So honestly, we were a little jealous since we live in a camper van full time on the mainland.

Difference Between Private, State & County Campgrounds on Kauai: 

Kauai has a few different options for campgrounds around the island. There are private, state, and county campgrounds. Each offering some amazing beachfront property to set up a tent.

Additionally, a few state campsites and private campgrounds offer inland camping areas in the Napali Coast Wilderness and Waimea Canyon. Some of the state campsites have some very remote camping options which require either a 4×4 and high clearance vehicles or getting there by foot.

Most beach campsites offer a similar camping experience, but have different application processes. Which can make it extra fun to apply and get permits for each campsite. (Kidding!)

Private Campgrounds can be booked up to 3 years in advance.

State Campgrounds can be booked up to 90 days in advance.

The County Campsites can be booked 120 days in advance.

Plan Your Trip in Kauai: 

The different camping areas in Kauai
Hawaii Camping in Kauai Map

The first step is you need to decide what you want to do on the island of Kauai. This will ultimately help you decide where to camp on the island.

For example, you don’t want to be camping up at Anini Beach Park if you plan to spend a few days in Kokee State Park or vice versa. There are luckily still campgrounds placed around the island that will be close enough in proximity to where you will be exploring for the day. 

But as mentioned above, you need to be conscious of the days the County campgrounds close for their weekly maintenance.

Anini Beach Park (closed every Wednesday)

Anahola Beach Park (closed every Thursday)

Salt Pond Park (closed every Tuesday)

Lydgate Park Campground  (closed every Tuesday & Wednesday)

Consider the Weather When Planning A Camping Trip On Kauai:

A big factor for how to plan a camping trip on Kauai is the weather. It highly influenced whether we liked a campsite or not depending on the rain, temperature, and cloud cover.

The East part of Kauai has a “wetter” climate. So you can almost guarantee you will be rained on if you camp on this side of the island.

The North can be considerably cloudy which can ultimately mean rain in the area. The Napali Coast is located in the North and often brings about clouds forming on the high-elevation cliffs.

We got to experience the Napali Coast 3 different ways during 3 different times on our camping trip to Kauai (by hiking, helicopter, and boat). All 3 times there were clouds either surrounding the mountains or definitely nearby. So you can almost expect to experience a rain shower sometime throughout the day.

The South & West are definitely the drier and sunnier sides of the island. So our camping experiences over here were much more enjoyable in terms of the weather. But there really isn’t an abundance of campgrounds on the Southwest part of the island. And Salt Pond Beach Park which is in the Southwest was not very big for the amount of people staying there.

Choosing Between the North, East, South & West on Kauai When Planning a Camping Trip on Kauai:


The North part of the island you will find Princeville, some small beach towns, and access to hiking the Napali Coast Wilderness. (Personally, this was our favorite area in Kauai)

Suggested Duration in the North: 2-3 days

Camping in the North of Kauai: Anini Beach Park & Camp Naue

(This is also where you can access the backcountry campsites via the Kalalau Trail)


East is the most populated area. This is where the Lihue Airport is, which you will be flying into when you visit Kauai. Many people live in Lihue, Kapa’a, and Wailua. This area is the most built up, and where you will find many department stores, large grocery stores, Costco, Walmart, etc. 

Suggested Duration in the East: 1-2 days

Camping in the East of Kauai: Anahola Beach Park, Kumu Camp & Lydgate Park


South, you will find Poipu, Koloa, Ele’ele, Hanapepe. These are smaller towns with charm! And Poipu specifically is the most upscale/touristy (think beach resorts and golf courses))

Suggested Duration in the South: 1-2 days

Camping in the South of Kauai: Salt Pond Beach Park


On the west, you will run into Waimea Canyon State Park, Kokee State Park, and Polihale State Park. If you love adventure and hiking, this area has some of the most beautiful landscapes.

Suggested Duration in the West: 2-3 days

Camping in the West of Kauai: Kokee State Park, Camp Sloggett, & Polihale State Park (there are also many backcountry hike-in campsites in Waimea Canyon)

An Ideal Itinerary For How To Plan A Camping Trip On Kauai:

In this ideal itinerary for how to plan a camping trip on Kauai, we will include some of our favorite activities in each area, our favorite food trucks & restaurants nearby, and which campgrounds to stay at.

Day 1 (Fly into Lihue Airport)

Fly into Lihue 

Pick up Rental Car

Viewpoint for Wailua Falls & Opaeka’a Falls

Dinner: Musubi Truck – Delicious Poke Bowls (Our personal favorite food truck in Kauai)

Camp: Kumu Camp or Lydgate Beach Park

Day 2 (Head North)

Breakfast: Grab a Taro donut at Holey Grail (They also have coffee here!) & Aloha Juice Bar (Amazing Acai Bowls!) 

Hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach & Hanakapi’ai Falls (7.7 mile/ 2457ft elevation) Requires entry-pass into Ha’ena State Park.

Catch a sunset at Hanalei Black Pot Beach (if there is time/still daylight)

Dinner: Kalypso (delicious cocktails and good bar food – Good Happy Hour Deals!)

Camp: Anini Beach Park

Day 3 (Snorkel & Hike)

Morning snorkel at Anini Beach (must have your own snorkel or rent from a place nearby)

Hike Sleeping Giant West, 1.7mi, 698ft (may need to wait for a parking spot)

Hike Hoopii Falls Trail, 2.4 mi, 196ft

Dinner: Street Burger (Great selection of craft beer & unique burgers)

Camp: Kumu Camp or Lydgate Park

Day 4 (Helicopter Tour & Head South)

Breakfast: Ha Coffee (specialty coffees & good acai bowls/ breakfast sandwiches)

Helicopter Tour (just do it! It’s worth the money! )

Tree Tunnel (you automatically drive through on your way to Poipu Beach)

Koloa Old Town (charming old town)

Lunch: Koloa Fish Market (great poke bowls) or Da Crack (awesome affordable mexican food)

Beach day at Poipu Beach (great place to snorkel and see turtles and monk seals) or Shipwreck Beach (loved the rock wall at this beach & less crowded)

There is also an easy hike called Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail from Shipwreck beach to Punahoa Point (3.7mi/318ft)

Camp: Salt Pond Beach Park

Day 5 (Waimea Canyon & Kokee State Park)

Breakfast: Gina’s Anykine Grind’s Cafe (tasty moco loco & fresh banana bread!)

Waimea Canyon State Park & Koke’e State Park

Must-do stops along the scenic drive

  • Red dirt falls (highway pull-off) 
  • Waimea Canyon Lookout (mile marker 10)
  • Puʻu Hinahina Lookout (mile marker 13.5)
  • Kalalau Lookout (mile marker 18)
  • Puʻu o Kila (mile marker 19)

Hike Awa’awapuhi Trail (6.7 miles/1945ft) Beautiful view of the Napali Coast

Camp: Kokee State Park

Day 6 (Boat tour of Napali Coast)

Napali Coast Boat Tour (boat tour from the Southwest to the Napali Coast)

Lunch: Porky’s (great BBQ)

Camp: Salt Pond Beach Park


Hike Canyon Trail in the morning and head to Polihale State Park for the afternoon (make sure you have a capable car)

Camp: Polihale State Park

Day 7 (Head Home)

Head home or check out our guide for the best things to do in Kauai!

Obviously, alter the plan to accommodate what you want to do on the island.

Next, we will learn how to book the campsites.

How To Book Campsites on Kauai:

As I mentioned above, booking a campsite on Kauai can be a fun task in itself, because you can’t book them all at the same time. And some are very competitive. It’s what makes booking a camping trip on Kauai such a challenge.

Not to mention that most people will want to book flights long before all campsite reservations are available.

So you need to get organized and plan to apply for a variety of campsites on the appropriate dates. We find it helpful to set reminders on our phones or calendars for each date we have to book something.

For all County camping areas, you can only book up to 120 days in advance. County camping areas include: Anini Beach Park, Anahola Beach Park, Lydgate Park, and Salt Pond Beach Park.

Click here to apply for a County Campground

For the State campgrounds, you can only book them up to 90 days in advance. State campgrounds include: Kokee State Park and Polihale State Park.

With the addition of the backcountry (hike-in) campsites which can also be booked up to 90 days in advance. Backcountry campsites include: Hipalau, Kaluahaulu, Kawaikoi, Lonomea, Sugi Grove, Waialae Cabin, Waikoali, and Wiliwili.

Click here to apply for a State Campground

For Private campgrounds, they can be booked much further in advance. Kumu Camp has the ability to book 3 years in advance. Camp Sloggett and Camp Naue don’t really have a specific time frame, rather you need to get in contact with the host themselves.

Click here to apply for Kumu Camp

Click here to apply for Camp Sloggett

Click here to apply for Camp Naue

Check out our inclusive guide for Camping In Kauai for everything you need to know about camping on the island.

Where To Rent Camping Gear In Kauai

There are a few different companies that rent out camping gear in Kauai.

Pitch-A-Tent Kauai

Pitch-A-Tent Kauai rents out affordable camping gear on the island in packages or individual items. But you will get the best bang for your buck if you choose one of the packages.

Their packages include the camping kitchen, which has everything you need for the perfect car camping kitchen set up. From a cooler, stove, pots, utensils, dishes, kutting board, coffee pour over, etc. To more of a lightweight backpacking set up for trekking the Kalalau Trail. And then of course a good combo of both if you don’t have any camping gear with you for your camping trip to Kauai.

They are located on the East side of the island near Lihue. Although, you don’t get the actual address until you pay in full for your gear.

Pitch a tent uses contact-less pick up. So when the day you have scheduled to pick up your gear, head to a pickup box location provided and enter the special code they email you.

Napali Kayak

Napali Kayak is located on the North Shore in Hanalei. While they are your one stop shop for a kayaking trip to Kalalau Beach, you can still rent just the camping gear. They offer very basic gear from a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, lightweight campstove, pots & pans, a soft cooler, first aid kit and backpacking pack.

Kayak Kauai

Kayak Kauai is another company that rents out camping gear as well as kayaks for kayaking the Napali Coast. But I’m sure they will rent you the gear even if you aren’t planning to kayak the coast.

They are located near the Lihue Airport. But one caveat of this plan, is they aren’t open on weekends, so getting or returning gear can strike more of a challenge. But via their website, it does say they can arrange a pick-up/return.

Just Live Zipline Tours

Also located in Lihue is Just Live Zipline Tours offering an assortment of camping gear to rent. They do tack on a $5 cleaning fee for every item rented, so just keep that in mind when choosing all the gear you want to rent.

Outdoors Geek

Another company that rents out camping gear is Outdoors Geek but the rental process is a little different.

Outdoors Geek’s rental process is a little more complicated. Once you select the gear you want, you add in the dates you want it for and they will send it via USPS to the island right before your trip. Then you simply head to USPS and pick it up!

Depending on how long you plan to camp on the island will help decipher if renting gear is worth the price. We personally find this option a bit more of a risk, because, let’s be real, who hasn’t had a package delayed by the USPS before?

Deciding if renting camping gear in Kauai is worth it?

Renting camping gear on the island can really add up if you don’t have any of your own gear.

If you already own your own camping gear, we would suggest checking a bag with your airline, as it will be significantly cheaper or even free with select airlines.

Or consider checking out our post, best websites to buy used camping gear and try your hand at finding cheap used camping gear on the island. 

Or you can always consider hitting up a thrift store, because Kauai is known for it’s outdoor activities. Therefore, you might be able to snag a few great deals on some used camping gear.

Takeaway | How To Plan A Camping Trip On Kauai

Overall, camping is by far the most affordable way to visit Kauai! So if you are on a tight budget, you need to be prepared to secure campsites for your trip.

We camped in Kauai for 13 days straight, and the cost of all 13 days was about equivalent to the price of 1 night at a mid-range luxury hotel.

So while camping might not be your first choice, or nearly as comfortable as a luxury hotel, it can offer the opportunity to experience Kauai. So we hope this guide for how to plan a camping trip on Kauai Hawaii helps make your dream vacation come true! 

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