Top 10 Spots to Camp On the Big Island, In My Opinion

Spencers Beach

In early 2013, the cost was $5 a day per adult to camp here if you ordered on the Internet

Love, love, love this beach. It’s great for kids and families. There’s plenty of tent camping spots, and there’s even a permanent security tent.

On the Big Island, beaches like this are hard to find, but this is a really great one. If you want to camp here, you must get a permit from the county.

Sometimes it can get a bit windy here. One time we had to sleep in the van because the wind was picking up dirt and throwing it through the tent screen. My husband was able to sleep through that but not me and my son.

Hapuna Beach A-Frames Camping

In early 2013, the cost was $50 a day for a cabin for non-residents.

These A-Frames are just above Hapuna Beach on the hill. They have electricity, and there are bathrooms, showers, and a communal kitchen nearby. There are no beds – just a wooden bench that you put your bedding on.

Hapuna beach is one of the nicest beaches on the Big Island, and the view of it from most of these cabins is pretty good. We enjoyed our time here. Get camping permits here

Punaluu Beach Park

Cost $5 a day per adult

Tent camping only. Nice place with restrooms. The turtles hang out here. The camping area is a grassy field off to the right of the beach. The beach is not my favorite place to swim – cold and rough, but if you like the turtles or want to fish this is a cool place to hang out at for a few days. permits.

Camping in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Camping is available at Namakani Paio campgrounds and Kulanaokuaiki.

Namakani Paio is a small area off Highway 11 just outside the National Park entrance. There is room for tents, with bathrooms and grill areas and there are small cabins operated by the Volcano House. This is a good place to stay for National Park access – but pretty far from everything else.

Kulanaokuaiki is a campsite 5 miles down Hilina Pali road – good for hiking in the park, but that’s about it.
An article about earthquakes in the area of Kulanaokuaiki

There is other camping in the National Park available by permit only. It is very important you get a permit – the rangers will come looking for you if you don’t come out when you said you would. Many in-over-their-head people have been rescued this way. One couple was camping near a quiet volcanic vent WHEN IT ERUPTED in 1997. The rangers went in with a helicopter and got them out amid lava fountains at daybreak. I was the military medical liaison during that event in the volcano’s history and remember it as very exciting, especially since no one got hurt.

Hookena Beach Park

Cost $5 a day per adult

Hookena is cool because they will rent you camping supplies, and apparently a whole camping support system is cropping up there. See the link above for all the information. One caveat here is that this is a big local camp-and-hang-out area and there have occasionally been incidents of violence against campers (I used to link to a news article here with a story about some incidents, but it has been taken down. Nothing has happened noteworthy for years, so that’s good.

Mauna Kea State Park This is up on the saddle road, it’s a bunch of cabins in a grassy field. Windy and cold. Not for everyone – only if you have some interest in it. Cost is $80 per night, with an occupancy of 6 people. Get camping permits here

Laupahoehoe Beach Park

Lots of locals camp here on the holidays. Not so much swimming available here – it’s rocky and rough and it may rain. Pretty though. permits

*** you can camp at Mackenzie Beach park – I wouldn’t. I don’t think it’s safe to camp down there.

*** it seems there is no camping allowed in waipio valley anymore

RV alternatives – NOTE, there are NO RV parks on the Big Island

Big Island RV – in Kona

Harpers Motorhome rentals

Camping on the Big Island, Local Style

When I go camping, my husband and I load up the truck with the fishing poles and a tarp and we just go. We normally go to very remote places, accessible with our four-wheel drive and only stay for two days. We pull a tarp off the truck and sleep underneath it on a cot or an air mattress. Bugs aren’t usually a problem near the ocean, and neither is rain if we camp at the drier parts of the island.

The two exceptions to this are South Point, and the Hilo side. If we camp in either of these places we always take a tent.

At South Point, there are seasonal runs of field (lava) mice or big bugs that will torment you without a tent.

On the Hilo side, it will probably rain. We stow all the gear in the truck, and sleep in a tent under the tarp. Just a tent probably will *not* stand up to a Hilo downpour (as we learned on our honeymoon) and if you don’t have a way to set up a tarp over the tent, just bring it with you and drape it over the tent if it starts to rain (a rain slip is not enough).

Whether you want to hike in or drive up, there are plenty of places to camp on the Big Island.

** A note about crime – In Hawaii, we are blessed with a very low rate of person on person crime. It is one of the reasons I love this place, but it is no cause to let your guard down. Stay together, or near other people and keep an eye on your stuff, just to be safe. Don’t leave anything valuable in your car, there is some vehicle break-ins in quiet areas, just like any other tourist area.