Camping is available at 10 county beach parks, six state parks and reserves, a few private campgrounds, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I don’t recommend most county parks, because of noise at popular sites (such as Spencer Park) and security concerns at more remote ones (such as Punaluu Beach), but Kohanaiki Beach Park is zealously well-maintained. County campsites require advance-purchase permits, which cost $20 a night per person for nonresidents (http://hawaiicounty.ehawaii.gov; 808/961-8311).
State campsites also require permits that must be booked in advance (http://camping.ehawaii.gov; [tel] 808/961-9540). The most desirable are at Hapuna Beach, which offers six A-frame screened shelters with wooden sleeping platforms and a picnic table, plus communal restrooms and cold showers. Nonresidents pay $50 per shelter per night for permits; purchase at least a month in advance. Friday through Sunday nights, Kiholo State Park Reserve allows tent camping in a kiawe grove on a pebbly beach, with portable toilets but no water; nonresidents pay $18 per campsite per night. For hard-core backpackers, camping in the state preserve of remote Waimanu Valley is typically the reward for tackling the extremely arduous Muliwai Trail. Permits for nonresident campers cost $20 per site (for up to six people); you’ll also need to pay $20 per night to leave your car at Waipio Valley Artworks, due to no overnight parking at the Waipio Valley Lookout.
At South Kona’s Hookena Beach Park, the privately run campground with local security is perfect for pitching a tent by the waves. Campsites for nonresidents cost $21 per person per night for ages 7 and older; reserve at last 72 hours in advance (www.hookena.org; 808/328-7321). You can also rent tents, camping stoves, tables, and chairs for use on-site.
In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, two campgrounds are accessible by car. The easiest to reach and best supplied is Namakanipaio Campground, which offers 10 cabins and 16 campsites. The updated one-room cabins sleep four, with bed linens and towels provided, grills, and a community restroom with hot showers; the cost is $80 a night. Tent campers have restrooms but not showers; sites cost $15 a night, on a first-come, first-served basis, with a 7-night maximum stay. Both cabins and campsites are managed by Volcano House; www.hawaiivolcanohouse.com; 866/536-7972 or 808/441-7750). Call the hotel in advance to rent a tent set up for you with a comfy foam mattress, linens, cooler, lantern, and two chairs for $55 a night, including the site rental. Park entrance fee of $25 is additional. Note: It can be very cool and damp here, especially at night.
Kulanaokuaiki Campground, which has nine campsites with picnic tables but no running water, lies a 5-mile drive down Hilina Pali Road. It’s first-come, first-served; pay the $10 nightly fee (1-week maximum stay) at the self-registration station. Backpack camping is allowed at seven remote areas in the park (some with shelters, cabins, and water catchment tanks) but first you must register for a $10 permit, good for up to 12 people and 7 nights, at the Backcountry Office (www.nps.gov/havo; 808/985-6178), no more than 1 day in advance.
Note: No island merchants rent camping gear, but you can buy some at the Hilo Surplus Store, 148 Mamo St., Hilo (www.hilosurplusstore.com; 808/935-6398), or at a big-box store such as Kmart, 74-5456 Kamaka Eha Ave., Kailua-Kona ([tel] 808/326-2331). Another way to go, literally, is with a fully equipped roof-top tent in a pickup truck from Huakai Campers (www.huakaicampers.com; 808/896-3158), $105 a night with 3-night minimum and pick up in Hilo. Note: Vehicle camping is allowed at county parks and the two national park campgrounds with standard camping permits.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.