The 5 Best Camping Spots in Oahu, Hawaii

Sunrise from Hanauma Bay on Oahu, Hawaii.

Oahu is the Hawaiian island that is home to the most people in the state, but it is also one of the most popular vacation destinations for tourists. Although there are plenty of hotels, condos, vacation homes and condos all over Oahu, there are also many places where you can pitch your tent and sleep under the stars. All you need for power is a propane tank or two for small appliances like camping stoves and portable heaters. Propane tanks are lightweight, convenient, and easy to use, so they are really important if you plan to do some camping in Hawaii.

If you are dreaming of waking up to the sound of lapping waves on a white-sand beach only a stone’s throw away from you before you go snorkeling for the day, or if opening your eyes to all kinds of exotic foliage in a botanical garden sounds great, we encourage you to bring or rent a tent and check in to any of these top-rated campgrounds. It is far easier to camp in Hawaii. It is nothing like camping in Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. There are no bears or snakes (although there are sometimes a few mosquitos), and you will never be too cold to sleep, even if you take your camping trip in the middle of winter.

While Oahu, the “Big Island”, is the most populated island in Hawaii, there are a few more camping restrictions than in Maui, Kauai, or some of the other Hawaiian Islands. Of course, there are plenty of great spots to pitch your tent and set up camp. But if you plan to go tent camping on Oahu, whether it is at a state or county site, you will usually need to obtain a camping permit in advance. Also, keep in mind that if you want to camp in a state park, they are generally closed on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and some parks are only open to camping on weekends.

Also, be aware that campfires and bonfires are illegal on all public beaches and parks in Hawaii. For cooking, you may use above-ground barbecue grills, but they have to be at least 12 inches above the ground. And if you are planning to camp during a holiday weekend, always be sure to make your reservations as early as possible. 

Also for cooking, bring along some heavy-duty aluminum foil if you don’t want to carry a cast-iron skillet around. You can build simple foil packets that can be placed on the coals to cook and then the food can be unwrapped and eaten once the packets are cool. If you are careful with the foil, it can even be rinsed off and reused. 

A good pair of metal tongs can also be useful to reach into the fire and pull out your aluminum foil packets. Just make sure you place your aluminum packets where they can be rolled out of the main heat and be allowed to cool down before you handle them. Tongs are also very versatile because they can also be used to pick up hot lids and retrieve anything else that might fall into the fire.

Camping at State Parks 

All state campsites on Oahu are administered by the Hawaii DLNR, State Parks. They prefer that all reservations are made on their online portal. You can make your reservations no more than 30 days in advance (unlike for the campsites on the other Hawaiian islands where you can reserve up to one year in advance). There are other special rules that apply to Oahu campsites only. As we mentioned, camping in state parks is not available on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and some parks are only open to campers on the weekends.

Here are five of the best state campsites on Oahu, with two bonus attractions as well.

The sun rises into the Kahana valley at Ahupua?a ?O Kahana State Park

Kahana is a relatively unspoiled valley, and one of only a few publicly owned ahupuaʻa, or ancient Hawaiian land division, in the state.

1. Ahupuaa O Kahana State Park

A popular campground is the Ahupuaa O Kahana State Park. It is the only land division owned by the state that connects the ocean to the mountains. There are several hiking trails, archaeological sites like the remnants of a Native Hawaiian heiau (temple), and even a prehistoric fishpond. It’s one of the wettest valleys on the island, so bring your rain gear. Up to ten campsites are available here.

You’ll find Ahupuaa O Kahana State Park at 55-222 Kamehameha Highway, Kaaawa. They are open from 7 am to 7:45 pm daily. The cost is $18 per night for nonresidents (up to six people, $3 per night for each additional person), and children ages 2 and under are free. The camping permit is free. Click here for more information, permits, and reservations. 

Pros: 

  • Interesting archaeological sites
  • Free camping permit
  • Mild weather

Cons: 

  • Only a few sites available 
  • A little hard to access

2. Malaekahana State Recreation Area and Campground

The Malaekahana beach campground is on 110 acres that are home to hundreds of shady ironwood trees and a sandy beach. The campground has lots of picnic tables, with up to 37 campsites available. There is a camp store if you forget minor things like batteries, lighter fluid, or other essentials. The water is calm enough to swim, paddleboard, or snorkel here, and there are kayak, surfboard, and bodyboard rentals available. Check out the sea turtles and whales offshore or watch some endangered seabirds from the nearby sanctuary. 

The campground is privately managed and it is one of the safest campgrounds on Oahu’s North Shore. It has staff on-site as well as a gated entrance. The campground has 26 tent campsites, 5 vehicle campsites, 40 plantation huts, and 4 plantation suites. Fees vary for each type of accommodation (see below). There is also a group camping section that can accommodate up to 20 campers. Outdoor showers are available, there are fire pits at each campsite, and there is even a food truck where you can purchase basic breakfast and lunch meals. 

You’ll find the Malaekahana beach campground at 56-335 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku. Click here to make reservations. The cost is $9.41 per night, per person for tent or vehicle camping; $58.82 per night for a small, basic plantation-style hut that sleeps up to four people; or $117.65 per night for a plantation suite (sleeps up to four) with electricity, beds and larger interior space. 

Pros: 

  • Calm water for swimming
  • Very safe
  • Sea turtles and whales

Cons: 

  • Limited camping options
  • Only outdoor showers

3. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

This lush, 400-acre rainforest park of Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kāne‘ohe, backed by the majestic Koolau mountains, is a peaceful refuge indeed. The garden was designed and built in the early 1980s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood protection for Kāne‘ohe. There are up to 20 weekend campsites with restrooms, outdoor showers, and picnic areas, where you can hike, and also fish and feed the ducks at the lake. 

This place is a plant lover’s paradise, with labeled flora, cool, leafy places to pitch your tent and even catch-and-release fishing in the lake. You can reach this relaxing site in less than 30 minutes from urban Honolulu. Bring a permit and mosquito repellent and be prepared for some rain and muddy conditions.

You’ll find the Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden at 45-680 Luluku Road, Kāne‘ohe. Reserve a campsite and print your permit here. Camping is open from 9 am on Friday through 4 pm on Monday. There is free catch-and-release fishing on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 am to 2 pm. The cost is $32 for 3-day camping permits, which are available two weeks before your camping date. 

Pros: 

  • Interesting flora and fauna
  • Catch-and-release fishing
  • Cooler weather

Cons: 

  • Only a few sites available 
  • A lot of bugs at times

4. Bellows Field Beach Park, Waimānalo

This gorgeous white-sand beach park has up to 50 campsites in two sections: one that requires a military ID and a public one run by the City and County of Honolulu. Both sections offer attractive beachside camping options with perfectly soft sand, ironwood trees along the shore, clear blue water, and stunning sunrises. 

Bellows Air Force Base has a few additional amenities: there are some basic beach cabins, some group and RV campsites, equipment rentals, more restrooms and showers, a mini-mart, and a few fast-food restaurants. This is an excellent place to do some sunbathing and relaxing by the beach, but if you go swimming, do be aware of the posted jellyfish warning signs.

You’ll find this place at 220 Tinker Rd. (Bellows Air Force Base) or 41-043 Kalanianaole Highway (public), Waimānalo. Be aware that it is open to the public on weekends and holidays only, and campgrounds are not available before noon on Friday. The office is closed between 8 pm and 6 am. The cost is $32 for a 3-day camping permit (Friday through Monday). Click here for more information, permits, and reservations. 

Pros: 

  • Amazing scenery
  • Beachside camping
  • Mini-mart

Cons: 

  • Jellyfish
  • A lot of bugs at times
View at Kualoa Regional Park in Oahu, Hawaii

Halfway up the coast toward Oahu’s legendary North Shore, Kualoa Regional Park offers breathtaking views

5. Kualoa Regional Park and Campground 

You’ll find two campgrounds at this 150-acre peninsula on Kualoa Bay: Campground A and Campground B. The smaller, shady Campground A is closed during the summer after Memorial Day Weekend for a children’s camp but it reopens on Labor Day Weekend. Campground B has up to 14 campsites with bathrooms and outdoor showers, as well as amazing views of the iconic Oahu islet known as Chinaman’s Hat. While in the area, you can visit the Heeia fishpond and the Kualoa Ranch, where “Jurassic Park” was filmed. 

You’ll find this place at 49-479 Kamehameha Highway, Kāne‘ohe. The gates are closed from 8 pm to 7 am. The cost is $32 for a 3-day camping permit (Friday through Monday), and $52 for a five-day permit (Friday through Wednesday). Click here for more information, permits, and reservations.

Pros: 

  • Large campground with many options
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Good for families

Cons: 

  • Can get crowded
  • A lot of bugs at times

Bonus Attractions 

Covering an area of 384 acres, the Keaiwa Heaiau State Recreation Area has a camping area, several picnic tables, and the very popular Aiea Loop hiking trail. There are also covered pavilions and barbecue grills and up to four campsites. Another popular attraction is Sand Island State Recreation Area. This 102-acre piece of land is the only campsite in urban Honolulu, overlooking Honolulu Harbor, and there are up to 35 campsites available.

A Few Other Options 

There are a few other camping options on the North Shore. From a Sunset Beach treehouse bungalow to an eco-hideaway at the base of Mount Ka‘ala, you can experience an outdoor getaway complete with a bed, kitchenette with refrigerator, and even a private shower. 

For camping spots with access to some of Oahu’s most scenic trails, spend the night in the Mokulē‘ia Forest Reserve. Toss a tent in your four-wheel drive and visit Peacock Flats. Hike along the Mokulē‘ia Trail for an unparalleled view of Oahu, with both the west and north coasts at once. You can also stop at Three Corners, a lookout point connecting Mount Ka‘ala and the valleys of Mākua, ‘Ōhikilolo, and Makaleha. It is easy to reach this area off Farrington Highway before Yokohama Bay. 

Camping at City and County of Honolulu Campsites 

To get a camping permit for one of the City and County of Honolulu campsites online, you can do most of it from the comfort of your own home. Click here for more information, permits, and reservations. Camping permits may also be obtained in person at the DPR Permits office on the ground floor of the Fasi Municipal building at 650 South King Street in Honolulu.

Here is a full alphabetical list of all of the City and County of Honolulu campsites that can be booked in advance: 

  • Bellows Field Beach Park: 50 campsites – 3 day campground 
  • Hauula Beach Park: 8 campsites – 5 day campground 
  • Kahua Kuou (Hoomaluhia): 8 campsites – 3 day campground 
  • Kahua Lehua (Hoomaluhia): 6 campsites – 3 day campground 
  • Kahua Nui Makai (Hoomaluhia): 15 campsites – 3 day campground 
  • Kaiaka Bay Beach Park: 7 campsites – 5 day campground 
  • Kalaeloa Beach Park: 13 campsites – 3 day campground 
  • Keaau Beach Park: 25 campsites – 5 day campground 
  • Kokololio Beach Park: 5 campsites – 5 day campground 
  • Kualoa A Regional Park: 7 campsites – 3 day campground 
  • Kualoa B Regional Park: 14 campsites – 5 day campground 
  • Lualualei Beach Park: 6 campsites – 5 day campground 
  • Maili Beach Park: 12 campsites – 3 day campground 
  • Nanakuli Beach Park: 11 campsites – 5 day campground 
  • Swanzy Beach Park: 9 campsites – 3 day campground 
  • Waimanalo Bay Beach Park: 10 campsites – 5 day campground 
  • Waimanalo Beach Park: 19 campsites – 5 day campground 

Fees

In terms of the City and County of Honolulu campsite fees: if you plan to stay at a 3-day campground, the fee is $32. The fee for a 5-day campground is $52. These are flat fees. You pay this no matter if you plan to stay for just 1 night or for the entire time (3 or 5 days). The fee is per campsite. Each campsite is for up to 10 people. Camping always begins on Friday starting at 5 pm and extends through the weekend ending on either Monday at 8 am (3 days) or Wednesday at 8 am (5 days). 

For the state campsite fees: for Hawaii residents, the cost is $12 per campsite per night for up to 6 persons and $2 per night for each additional person. Children 2 and under free and the maximum fee per site is $20/night. For non-residents, the cost is $18 per campsite per night for up to 6 persons and $3 per night for each additional person, with a maximum fee per site of $30/night.

Say Aloha to Oahu!

Get your bags packed and a big group of friends together to start following all of your special Hawaiian dreams! Simply bring along a bit of gear and a survival pack, and you’ll be able to experience the rich beauty of one of Hawaii’s most beautiful islands. All in all, we are certain that you will find Oahu the perfect place to simply say “aloha” to all it has to offer when you get your sights set on a camping trip here.

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.