Kauai offers tent camping in seven county-run beach parks and, for extremely hardy and self-sufficient types, several state-managed, backcountry areas of the Napali Coast and Waimea Canyon. Tents and simple cabins are also available in the cooler elevations of Kokee State Park, and minimal campgrounds at Polihale State Park; you have to be hardy and well equipped for the rugged conditions in the latter. With the exception of Kokee cabins, all camping requires permits, which must be purchased in advance; camping in vehicles is not allowed.
County campsites, often busy with local families on weekends, close one day each week for maintenance. The most recommended for visitors, both for scenery and relative safety, are at Haena, Hanalei Blackpot, Anini, and Lydgate beach parks. Go to www.kauai.gov/camping for schedules, permit applications, hours, and addresses for the neighborhood centers (closed weekends and holidays) where permits are issued in person. Permits for nonresidents cost $3 per adult (free for children 17 and under, with adult), except for Lydgate, which is $25 per site.
For camping in state parks and forest reserves, the Department of Land & Natural Resources (http://camping.ehawaii.gov; 808/274-3444) prefers to issue online permits; its office in Lihue, 3060 Eiwa St., Suite 306, is also open 8am to 3:30pm weekdays. Napali Coast State Wilderness Park allows camping at two sites along the 11-mile Kalalau Trail—Hanakoa Valley, 6 miles in, and Kalalau Valley, at trail’s end—for a maximum of 5 nights (no more than 1 consecutive night at Hanakoa). Camping is also permitted at Milolii, for a maximum of 3 nights; it’s reached only by kayak or authorized boats mid-May through early September. There’s no drinking water, trash must be packed out, and composting toilets are not always in good repair, yet permits ($20 per night) often sell out a year in advance. (Note: Rangers conduct periodic permit checks here, so make sure yours is handy.)
Permits for primitive campsites in eight backcountry areas of Waimea Canyon and nearby wilderness preserves cost $18 per night, with a 5-night maximum; see http://camping.ehawaii.gov for detailed descriptions.
In Kokee State Park, which gets quite chilly on winter nights, West Kauai Lodging (www.westkauailodging.com; 808/652-6852) now manages 11 cabins ($79–$129 a night, 2-night minimum) that sleep two to six people and come with fully equipped kitchens and linens. Be sure to book well in advance. Less than a mile away, down a dirt road, the YWCA of Kauai’s Camp Sloggett (www.campingkauai.com; 808/245-5959) allows tent camping in its large forest clearing for $15 per tent per night, with toilets and hot showers available; there’s also a four-person cottage ($120–$150). Groups may rent its bunkhouse ($160–$200) or lodge ($200–$225), both of which sleep up to 15.
If you need gear, Just Live! (www.ziplinetourskauai.com; 808/482-1295) sells and rents top brands of tents, camping stoves, sleep sacks, and more in Harbor Mall, 3501 Rice St., Lihue. Kayak Kauai (www.kayakkauai.com; 888/596-3853 or 808/826-9844) offers camping rentals, supplies, and car and luggage storage at its Wailua River Marina shop, 3-5971 Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa. Pedal ’n Paddle (www.pedalnpaddle.com; 808/826-9069) sells hiking boots, freeze-dried food, and other necessities and rents tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags; it’s in Ching Young Village, 5-5190 Kuhio Hwy., Hanalei.
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.