Camping in Oahu
Camping in Oahu is definitely different from camping on the mainland, but waking up in a tent with the sounds of waves crashing against the shore is not something you can do everywhere. Another advantage of camping when in Hawaii is the money you will save from staying in a hotel, this allows you additional funds for local activities.
Most Oahu campgrounds are for tents only, with the exception of a few places where you can car camp on Oahu. Some local private agencies offer glamorous camping, aka glamping. They will set up your tent with luxury surroundings and supply you with your camping needs. These are located on private property and not at State Parks.
Some of the more popular Oahu campsite spots include:
Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park
Located on the windward side of Oahu, this park is steeped in Hawaiian culture, with surrounding hikes to temples and ancient fishing ponds. This valley is very wet, so bring the bug spray.
Bellows Field Beach Park
On the Southeast side of Oahu, Bellows is one campsite that books up fast. The gorgeous backdrop view of the Ko’olau mountains is the reason why. However, this campsite can be closed at times due to military training and even during Hawaiian sea turtles nesting times.
Malaekahana State Recreation Area
One of the most popular Oahu campsites, this North shore campsite is very family friendly. With calm waters most of the year, swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking are all safe to do here. This gated campsite has 24 hour staff on site, with a camping supply store, as well as a food truck most days for a nice hot meal.
Camping on a white sandy beach with a background view of majestic mountains, is what Oahu camping is all about.
Oahu Camping - What Do I Need?
Oahu is the most populated of all the islands, it is also the easiest to obtain camping permits to get your adventure under way. The State of Hawaii manages several State Parks which contain campsites and all campgrounds in Oahu require a permit. There is no camping on Wednesday and Thursday nights on Oahu and you can only book sites for 3 or 5 nights at a time. Permits can be obtained no more than 30 days in advance and do sell out quickly. Camping without a permit is not recommended, the fine and even prison time is not worth the risk. Due to Covid restrictions, camping occupancy has lowered. Get all your camping permit Oahu information at this website: https://hawaiistateparks.org/camping/. They always have the up to date procedures on how to obtain your beach camping permit in Oahu.
Honolulu camping permits and all Oahu tent permits must be printed out as digital copies are not accepted. Parking permits are required for all vehicles staying overnight and that permit must be displayed clearly on the dashboard. To request the parking permit you must supply make and model, year, color and license plate. If you are renting a car, you must provide the rental agency name and rental confirmation number. Parking permits have to be completed at the same time as the camping permit, you can not add it on later. Once a permit is issued, there are no cancellations, changes or refunds.
Normally you drive to your campsite from your home and bring all your camping gear with you. When you have to fly first, packing for a camp trip becomes tricky. Sure you can rent camp gear in Oahu, but the more you can bring the less you will spend on rentals. Some items you may consider bringing from home include: camping lantern (solar), inflatable sleeping pad and pillow, small backpacking tent and light towel/blanket.
Other items you may want to bring along include: a waterproof phone case, UPF swim shirt and picnic set for meals. Local agencies will rent you chairs, coolers and cooking units, like barbeques with charcoal and some cooking utensils.
The amenities at most Oahu campsites include: picnic tables, outdoor showers, water fountains, trash cans and restrooms. There are a few parks that are wheelchair accessible campsites, like Kualoa Regional Park, Keaau Beach Park, and Waimanalo Beach Park.
Camping in Hawaii does take some preparation, you can’t just ‘walk-in’ to any campsite on Oahu, all sites must be pre booked, even if private. You can nap on any beach, but once you want to sleep overnight, you need a permit. Once you have your camping permit booked for Oahu, then you are ready to plan the rest of your Hawaiian adventure.
Oahu Hawaii Camping Tips
For safety reasons, all Oahu campsites have gates that are locked nightly. Make sure the times that they are locked do not interfere with you getting to or from the airport for flights. Bonfires and campfires are illegal at all public parks and beaches, with very steep fines. You are allowed to use a charcoal barbeque, but it must be at least 12 inches off the ground. Propane barbeques are not allowed in all city campgrounds.
All campsites have a ‘quiet time’ usually between 10pm and 6am… this will be enforced. No private parties or pets are allowed at Oahu campsites. As well, you are not allowed to plug into outlets at the park buildings, it is strictly prohibited.
For safety, camping alone is not encouraged, it is best to always camp with your family or a friend. Always bring more water than you think you need, dehydration is a concern in this environment. As well, never drink water from an untreated stream.
When setting up tents, tarps or canopies, they must always be free standing and not attached to any structures, trees or vegetation. When camping in Hawaii – Oahu to be specific – you must be prepared to ‘rough it’. Many homeless people live at campsites, therefore some sights and smells you will encounter may not be what you expected. Best to be prepared now than taken by surprise later.
Unlike camping on the mainland, snakes and bears are not an issue, but the mighty mosquito can make your tropical adventure unbearable without protection.
With Hawaii’s warm temperatures (even in the winter months) camping on Oahu has much to offer. In the end, the sweet perfume of the local foliage, the beautiful landscape and ocean camping on a tropical island has some unique benefits.