Camping in the Hawaiian Islands

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 11-18, 1996
Biking and hiking in Nevada
Utah's Fishlake National Forest
Camping in the Hawaiian Islands
Exploring Canada's remote Ellesmere Island
Low-budget snorkeling in the Florida Keys
A family vacation in Jamaica

Camping in the Hawaiian Islands
Question: I'm looking for ideas about camping in Hawaii--where to go, what to bring, etc. Thanks.

Amy Gard
San Francisco, CA
[email protected]

An ancient Hawaiian footpath runs through the Waipio Valley
Adventure Adviser: The most obvious choices for tenting in Hawaii may be Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes national parks, but if you're looking to forego a no-brainer approach for something off the beaten path, consider one of the following options:

On the Big Island, head to the Kohala peninsula, a little slice of Switzerland, with its high alpine pastures and views of snowcapped Mauna Kea in the distance. Backcountry camping here means hiking an eight-mile ancient Hawaiian footpath from Waipio Valley, a deep, bowl-shaped, beach-fronted valley, to the uninhabited Waimanu Valley--a rigorous trek over the pali (steep mountain) from the tiny town of Waipio. The well-worn trail begins at the western end of Waipio Beach and switchbacks up the northwest cliff face of Waipio Valley, over a series of ravines and gulches and past small waterfalls to an open-sided shelter at mile six. Call ahead to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (808-933-4221) for a camping permit. Or trek all the way to Waimanu Valley and pitch your tent in one of several sites there--complete with fireplaces and a couple of outhouses. You can make reservations up to a month in advance and pick up your permit en route to the trailhead at the Last Chance Store in Kukuihaele, about a mile from the edge of Waipio Valley.

Or skip the hike altogether and laze around black-sand Waipio Beach instead. Hamakua Sugar Company issues free camping permits that must be picked up in person at their office, next to the post office in Paauilo, just off Hawaii 19 about six miles south of Honokaa.

If Kauai's your first choice, plan to spend several days on the Na Pali Coast, a stretch of isolated beaches, plummeting sea cliffs, and lush rainforests that epitomizes wild Hawaii. Take the 11-mile Kalalau Trail from Kee Beach, at the end of the Kuhio Highway, and hike to the tent site at Hanakoa Valley, about 6.5 miles in. From there, you'll have five miles of heart-pounding hiking along sheer cliff faces as high as 860 feet above the ocean. Permits are required for overnighters and can be secured by writing ahead to the State Parks Office, 3060 Eiwa Street, Lihue, HI 96766. Call 808-241-3444 for details.

For more camping ideas, check out "True Hawaii" in the Destinations section of our March 1995 issue or "America the Hoofable" in our April 1996 issue.

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