One of the best ways to get in touch with the island’s natural rhythms and beauty is by camping, and the west side is the perfect place. Camping is possible island-wide, but the west side’s drier weather and often clear skies make it the ideal location to be revel in the outdoors.The west side is primarily a draw for camping, though, because of the varied landscape–you can set up your camp in the mountains, or directly on the shore.
View from Koke`e — Photo courtesy of Nani Maloof
In Koke‘e State Park, tent camping is allowed with a permit that costs $5 per campsite. Campers can obtain the permit at the state parks office in Lihu‘e. Picnic tables and toilets are available in the area, and two forest reserve campgrounds are located along Camp 10-Mohihi Road. There are four very basic campgrounds in Waimea and Koai‘e Canyons that can be utilized as long as you have a permit from the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife, which are free. The main camping area is in the open meadow past the museum. Campers can spend up to three days at Sugi Grove off of the road in Koke‘e, and the Pihea Trail leads to the Kawaikoi campsite.
Waimea Canyon, camp down in it — Photo courtesy of Nani Maloof
In Waimea Canyon State Park the Kukui Trail leads to the Wiliwili campsite. About a half mile up the Waimea River from here is the Kaluahaulu Camp at the beginning of the Koai‘e Canyon Trail. Three miles past this are the Hipalau and Lonomea campsites. These require substantial hikes in, so hauling in food and other gear is a must. There won’t be any running in and out of here, so be prepared to stay put.
Along the coast on the west side, camping is allowed by permit at the county parks of Salt Pond Beach Park in Hanapepe and Lucy Wright Beach Park in Waimea. Lucy Wright Beach Park isn’t the most ideal camping area. It’s directly off the highway, and there are much prettier and more secluded places to camp. At these parks, restrooms, cold water showers, grills, pavilions, and drinking water are provided.
Beautiful Polihale — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
By far the nicest beach camping is at Polihale State Park. Waking up early at Polihale is to wake up to a silence and feeling of peace in the world that will stay with you forever. An early stroll down the beach is a great way to start the day, especially before the sun comes over the cliff. When it does, it instantly brings intense heat. Polihale has cold showers, somewhat rough bathrooms (you’ll want to bring your own stash of toilet paper), pavilions, picnic tables, and trash cans. Camping in an RV is allowed here, and campsites are on top of the dunes at the back of the beach. Shade is one of the most important things for camping at Polihale. Unless you plan to leave in the morning, some form of shade, either an Ez Up or another pop-up tent, is a necessity. The sun out here gets scorching by midmorning and lasts until mid-afternoon.
The state requires that tents are used at these campsites instead of camping under the stars, although many locals sleep in the back of trucks. Permits, which are obtained at the Division of Parks and Recreation (4444 Rice St., Pi‘ikoi Bldg., Ste. 350, Lihu‘e, 808/241- 4463, Mon.–Fri. 8:15 a.m.–4 a.m.p.m.) are good for up to seven days. More information can be found here under the Camping Information link on the visiting page.