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What You Should Know About Van Camping in Hawaii

Unlocking the Aloha Spirit with Practical Advice for Your Campervan Journey

Ever dreamed of visiting Hawaii? What if we told you van life is one of the very best ways to see many of these gorgeous islands? You see, Hawaii is chock-full of gorgeous natural areas, and by choosing camping in Hawaii over staying in a hotel, you can park right in the middle of it all and fully immerse yourself in nature’s beauty. 

All that said, there are some things you should know before you jump into camping in Hawaii. Below, we’ve included all our top tips for those who want to spend time traveling by van in this spectacular place. 

Vans Are the Way to Go

If you’re here reading this, you’re probably already pretty on board with the whole campervan lifestyle. Therefore, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that van camping is absolutely the way to go while spending time in Hawaii. 

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You see, many of the roads and campgrounds on these islands simply are not made to handle bigger RVs (and you won’t be able to find many big RVs there anyway). On the other hand, tent camping can get pretty uncomfortable, especially if you plan to stay for a while.

Van camping in Hawaii is the perfect happy medium that will keep you comfortable and allow you to navigate from one place to the next easily. 

Shipping Your Van Over Could Be Worth It

But where will you get a van to stay in while camping in Hawaii? You might think that renting a camper van locally is the obvious way to go, and in some cases, this is true. However, it isn’t the only way to go, nor is it always the most cost-efficient way to do it. 

One option you might consider? Shipping your own van over. This might sound shocking, but vehicle shipping rates generally fall between $2,000 and $3,000, meaning if you plan to stay for a month or more, you’ll save over the nightly rate for a rental. 

Be Prepared for Dry Camping

While there are plenty of campsites in Hawaii, very, very few of them offer any sort of hookups whatsoever. In fact, we don’t know of any campgrounds that have RV hookups, and only a small handful of Hipcamp and Boondockers Welcome locations do. 

Because of this, it’s super important that you go into the trip prepared for dry camping. Make sure the van you rent or ship over is outfitted to keep you comfortable without any hookups at all, and plan to spend much of your time exploring outside to avoid a hot and stuffy van during the day. 

Expect Warm, Humid Conditions

The weather in Hawaii is warm all year long. That part is pretty awesome, but it is important to understand that with that heat comes some really intense humidity. Unfortunately, this can lead to some pretty sticky situations when you’re van camping. 

We recommend ensuring your van has a way to create air flow to reduce the moisture in your rig. You’ll also want to pack moisture-wicking clothing and stick some DampRid in your van storage areas to prevent mold and mildew. 

The exception to this? When you get up in the mountains (found in both Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks), the weather can be chilly or even downright cold. If you’re feeling too hot down on the beach, just drive up a mountain, and you’ll cool off quickly!

Book Campsites Early

Camping in Hawaii is a popular activity, and campsites book up fast. Be sure you know when your booking window opens and be ready to book the second that happens in order to ensure you get the campsite(s) you need. This is stressful, but it’s way less stressful than driving around the island trying to find a legal place to park without a reservation of any kind. 

Know Where to Look for Campsites

Finally, you’ll need to know where to look when it comes to places to camp in Hawaii. Unfortunately, there are laws that prohibit van camping in many places, but there are still several options available, and each and every one is pretty great. In fact, we recommend hopping from one campsite to another so you can experience as many awesome campsites as possible. 

State Parks

State parks are some of the best places to go camping in Hawaii. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these parks do not allow RVs or vans of any kind. The one exception? Waiʻānapanapa State Park on Maui has a small area that is especially for those staying in camper vans. 

City and County Parks

There are some city and county parks that offer camping as well. On Maui, these include Kanahâ County Beach Park and Papalaua Wayside County Beach Park. On the Big Island, there are 10 county parks that allow overnight camping. Meanwhile, the city and county of Honolulu offer camping at a number of parks. That said, we couldn’t find info about whether or not campers are allowed to sleep in vans in the county parks on the Big Island and Oahu.  

National Parks

Hawaii is home to two spectacular national parks: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island and Haleakala National Park on Maui. Both of these awesome parks play host to campgrounds. Kipahulu Campground is the place to camp in a van in Haleakala. Meanwhile, Kulanaokuaiki Campground welcomes van campers to Hawaii Volcanoes. 

Private Campgrounds

Because there are rules against van camping in many government-owned campgrounds, private campgrounds are often the way to go. There are several smaller private campgrounds on the islands, and some of our favorites include Camp Keanae YMCA and Malaekahana Beach Campground.

Boondockers Welcome

Boondockers Welcome has a very small number of hosts listed on their map. It’s certainly worth taking a look to see what locations are available if you have a subscription already. 

A Final Reflection on Van Camping in Hawaii

Van camping in Hawaii offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect deeply with the islands’ natural splendor and unique culture. By choosing a van over traditional accommodations, you embrace a journey filled with adventure, flexibility, and an intimacy with nature that is rare and precious. Whether you decide to ship your own van, rent locally, or navigate the diverse range of camping spots from state parks to private campgrounds, each choice leads to a new discovery and a deeper appreciation of Hawaii’s breathtaking landscapes and aloha spirit.

Remember, preparation and respect for the local environment and customs are key. Embrace this adventure with an open heart and mind, and let Hawaii’s enchanting beauty unfold before you in ways you never imagined. Happy travels, and may your van camping journey in Hawaii be as enriching as it is unforgettable!

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