Camping at one of Kauai's gorgeous camping spots is an often overlooked option for affordable accommodations. From high up in the mountains to down along the coast, Kauai has a large number of campsite options. One of the best beach camping options is Polihale State Beach Park, located at the end of the road on the west end of Na Pali Coast.
Polihale stretches for miles, which means there's plenty of space for camping on the fine white sand. Or you can try to snag a pavilion at the back of the beach at the northern end, which makes cooking a little easier. These are close to cold showers, restrooms and life-saving devices (There's no lifeguard on duty.). Plus, the tall cliffs at the northern end of the beach protect campers from the scorching west side sun for a while in the morning.
A view towards Echo Beach — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
At the very end of the sand, where the cliffs meet the ocean, is Echo Beach. This is a section popular for surfing that is reserved for those most experienced, because of the rocks and the current.
Cliffs in the area mark the beginning of the famous Na Pali Coast and provide a home to the Polihale Heiau (a Hawaiian temple). This sacred place is said to be where the souls of the dead leapt off the cliffs to the "land of the dead," a mythical underwater mountain a few miles off the coast.
To get here, drive until the pavement ends on Highway 50, and turn left on the dirt road at mile marker 33. It’s about a 3.5-mile (20- to 30-minute) drive to the very large tree at the fork in the road. You can veer to the right to go to the facilities or go left for safer swimming.
About a minute down this road, you'll see a short driveway leading to the beach. This takes you to Queen’s Pond, where a fringing reef creates a somewhat safer swimming area. Queen's Pond is a delight, especially when large surf is rolling in. During the winter months, the surf can render swimming unsafe at Polihale.
Polihale Beach in Kauai — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
Polihale offers the best seat to watch the sunset on the island. Watching the sunset over the forbidden island of Ni'ihau from Kauai's shore creates a special end to a day spent here.
Permits to camp at Polihale must be obtained from the Hawaii State Parks office at 808-274-3444. They are $12 per night for up to six people. Although four-wheel drives aren't necessary on the pothole-laden, bumpy dirt road in, they are a must for driving on the sand.