A lot of people dream of visiting Hawaii. That said, not many people consider RV camping in Hawaii. This is unfortunate because camping is one of the very best ways to see these beautiful islands and all they have to offer.
All that said, Hawaii is a very unique place, and planning a trip to go RV camping in Hawaii requires some knowledge you may not have without doing some research. That’s where this guide comes into play. Below, you’ll find all the info you need to start planning the Hawaii RV adventure of your dreams.
Preparing for RV Camping
The first things you need to do? Find an RV to use while RV camping in Hawaii and then pack it with all the right things.
Of course, even if you have your own RV here on the mainland, you probably won’t be shipping it to Hawaii for an RV getaway. For this reason, finding a Hawaii rental RV will be necessary for this trip. Additionally, you will have to keep suitcase space and weight in mind while packing your gear, making packing a bit trickier than it normally would be.
Choosing the Right RV for Your Needs
Let’s take a moment to discuss finding the right Hawaii RV rental. First, it’s good to go in knowing that you really won’t find any large fifth wheels or motorhomes on the islands. There just isn’t room for the same big rigs you find here on the mainland.
Instead, you will find a lot of campervans and SUVs with rooftop tents. Don’t worry though, there are options out there for families. If you plan on visiting with a group of more than just two, you might try a van with a rooftop tent, a van that includes a traditional tent, or even two vans in order to ensure you have enough space.
It’s also a good idea to look for a rental that includes bulky essentials such as towels, linens, cookware, and camp chairs, as packing these things for a flight could be difficult.
Packing Essentials for a Successful Trip
Clearly, you will need to pack your clothes and toiletries, and since you’re flying, you will hopefully find a rental that includes most of the usual camping essentials.
Whether you pack them or get them with your rental, the items below are some basics you probably don’t want to forget:
- First aid kit
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Entertainment (books, games, movies, toys for kids)
- Outdoor recreation gear
- Electronics and chargers
- Pots, pans, and dishes
- Paper towels
- Folding chairs
- Bed sheets
- Pet gear
- RV leveling blocks
- Sewer hose and adapter
- Freshwater hose
- RV surge protector
Not sure this covers everything? Our more comprehensive RV packing list might help you decide what else you need.
Considerations for Camping in Hawaii
We’ve mentioned a couple of things that separate RV camping in Hawaii from RV camping in most other states. That said, these aren’t the only things you need to know before you go.
Hawaii traffic laws state that no trailer or motorhome should exceed 45 feet in length, 14 feet in height, or 9 feet in width. Fortunately, this isn’t really a problem considering the types of RV rentals that are available in the state.
It’s also good to know that safety chains, brakes, and a breakaway switch are all required on any trailer exceeding 3,000 lbs. Lastly, overnight parking is prohibited in rest areas or in any parking area that is not specifically for camping.
Fun fact: there are no true RV parks in Hawaii. There are plenty of places to camp though, and some of them are truly luxurious because of the amazing scenery and experiences they have to offer. There is also urban camping available for those who want to stay near a city—and for those who like to rough it, there are plenty of spots out in the Hawaiian wilderness.
Exploring Public Campgrounds in Hawaii
National Park Camping
Hawaii is home to two incredible national parks: Haleakala National Park on Maui and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. Both of these parks are spectacular and you will want to visit both during your time in Hawaii if at all possible (note that doing so will require island hopping).
In Haleakala, RVs are able to stay at the Kipahulu Campground. Be aware that the campground is narrow and winding, so only smaller rigs can fit. Additionally, as of March of 2022, reservations are now required to stay at this campground.
Those wanting to try RV camping at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park should head to Kulanaokuaiki Campground. You will need to stick with a small rig to fit into this first-come, first-served campground. It’s also important to go in knowing that no water is available at this location.
No matter which national park campground you choose, please be prepared to pay the park entrance fee in addition to the campsite fee.
State Park Camping
Many of Hawaii’s beautiful state parks offer camping. That said, the only one that allows any sort of RV camping is Waiʻānapanapa State Park on Maui, which has a small designated area that is specifically for campervans. Reservations can be made 90 days in advance, and van campers must obtain a permit specifically for campervans.
Exploring Private Campgrounds and RV Parks
Looking for more awesome campgrounds in Hawaii rvshare? The state has a handful of private campgrounds that might be worth looking into. From simple dry-camping accommodations to glamping with showers and dump stations, you’re sure to find something that suits your fancy.
One of our favorite Hawaiian private campgrounds is Camp Olowalu on Maui. This campground is set up in the town of Lahaina and offers gorgeous views, morning coffee, restrooms with showers, easy beach access, and a welcoming atmosphere that you’re sure to love.
Boondocking in Hawaii
Dry camping on the islands is plentiful, but true Boondocking in Hawaii is a bit different, as there aren’t a lot of places that allow overnight camping without a permit or a fee. That said, there are a few fee- and permit-free gems out there. Additionally, in some cases, required permits are free, meaning you can still stay without spending money; you just have to plan in advance.
Wondering about those places that don’t require a fee or a permit? Check out Kiholo Beach on the Big Island or Hale o Lono Beach on Molokai. Just note that you will need a pretty tough vehicle to make either drive without getting stuck.
For an option that requires a permit but no fee, look at Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden on Oahu.
Researching Campground Options and Making Reservations
Still looking for a campground that sounds right for you? We highly recommend checking out Hipcamp and Boondockers Welcome for options outside of the handful of private parks and government campgrounds.
Planning Your Itinerary
Now for the best part: planning your itinerary. There are so many things to see and do in Hawaii that you could easily fill several trips with fun. Since you won’t be able to do it all, we’re here to help.
Whether you plan to spend most of your time in Honolulu, explore the wilderness of Kauai, have an adventure on Maui, or take in the sights on the Big Island, we can help you decide what to do.
Features and Attractions in Hawaii
If you like scenic drives, you’re going to love Hawaii. This state is home to some of the most beautiful drives in the country, including the famous Road to Hana.
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure to see some of the state’s famous landmarks such as the aforementioned Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea Lighthouse, and Queen’s Baths. National sites such as Pearl Harbor National Memorial also make excellent stops, so be sure to add some of those to your itinerary.
Festivals, Fairs, and Events in Hawaii
You can add to the fun of your Hawaiian vacation by scheduling your trip around an annual event. Aloha Festivals take place across the state in September and they are a great way to learn about Hawaiian culture. Duke’s OceanFest on Oahu in August is perfect for water sports enthusiasts, and Kōloa Plantation Days on Kauaʻi in July celebrates the unique social history of the state.
Exploring Outdoor Activities
Obviously, you will need to spend a good chunk of your time in Hawaii exploring the gorgeous natural areas on the islands. You can do this by hiking or biking trails, kayaking or paddle boarding, swimming and snorkeling, and more.
In this section, we will discuss some of our favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors while in Hawaii.
Hiking, Biking and Nature Trails
Like to wander way out into nature using trails? Whether you prefer to walk, jog, or bike, Hawaii has plenty of incredible trails for you to explore.
Some of the best hiking trails in the state include the following:
Meanwhile, cyclists should consider one of the trails below:
Of course, these aren’t the only amazing trails in Hawaii. If you’re looking for something different than what we’ve listed above, be sure to search AllTrails to find something that suits your needs.
Fishing, Boating, and Water Activities
It’s no secret that Hawaii has a lot of water. Most of this is absolutely beautiful water, and a lot of it offers fun recreational opportunities. Be sure to take advantage of those!
If you’re into fishing, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of great fishing spots in Hawaii. Lake Wilson on Oahu is great for those who enjoy freshwater fishing. Meanwhile, Nawiliwili Harbor boasts some excellent fishing charters that will take you out to catch a wide variety of fish.
Obviously, beach time is a must while in Hawaii. Waikiki Beach on Oahu is one of the most famous and most beautiful beaches in the state. Other great options include Punaluʻu Beach on Big Island where you can sink your feet into Black Sand and Makena Beach on Maui, which offers some seriously beautiful views.
Another thing must-do while in Hawaii? Chase waterfalls! There are so many gorgeous waterfalls on these islands that we couldn’t even begin to list them all. A few favorites include Wailua Falls on Kauai, Manawaiopuna Falls (aka Jurassic Park Falls) on Kauai, and Manawaiopuna Falls on Oahu.
Wildlife Viewing and Photography
One of the most fascinating things about Hawaii? The many unique animals found there. On these islands, you’ll find such species as Hawaiian monk seals and the Hawaiian hoary bat. You might also see green sea turtles, humpback whales, and manta rays.
Not sure where to go to see these amazing creatures? Many ocean animal sightings happen at local public beaches, both from the beach and by snorkeling the near-shore coral reefs.
You can also head to places like Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, and the many state and national park sites across the state to see all kinds of wildlife.
Family-Friendly Activities and Attractions
Planning to take the little ones to Hawaii with you? You’re going to have an amazing time on your family vacation. Go ahead and do all of the things mentioned above, but be sure to toss some of these kid-friendly attractions below into the mix as well.
Historical Sites and Museums
One of the best things you can do when traveling with kids is add some education into the experience. There are tons of ways to learn something new while traveling, and you can have a blast doing it!
A great way to get in a bit of education while exploring Hawaii? Visiting Hawaii’s national sites. We mentioned Pearl Harbor National Memorial above (and that is a must-see if in Oahu), but we also really love Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island for learning even more about the history of Hawaii.
Museums are also great places to learn. The Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo on the Big Island is one top pick. We also love the Bishop Museum in Honolulu and the Kona Coffee Living History Farm in Kona.
Amusement Park, Zoos, and Wildlife Refuges
Another great place to take the kids? Hawaii amusement parks, of course. Admittedly, there aren’t a lot of amusement parks on the islands, but the ones that do exist are a lot of fun. Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii in Kapolei is a great place to cool off and have some family fun!
Zoos and aquariums also offer some fun ways for families to spend time together. Honolulu Zoo is the best in the state, but we also love the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo on the Big Island, Waikiki Aquarium in Honolulu, and Sea Life Park Hawaii on Oahu.
Safety and Preparedness when RV Camping in Hawaii
One should always head into any trip hoping for the best but prepared for the worst. In Hawaii, planning for the worst means being prepared for hurricanes and tropical storms and local wildlife.
Weather Conditions and Natural Disaster Preparedness
Hurricane season in Hawaii runs from June 1st through November 30th. During this time, hurricanes are more likely to strike, but this doesn’t mean one will definitely ruin your trip.
In order to stay prepared, we recommend downloading a few weather apps and allowing each one to send you push notifications. If you receive an alert, heed it and take steps to ensure you are safe. An emergency kit with a radio, flashlight, first aid kit, water, and snacks is always a good idea, as is knowing where you can seek shelter should a severe storm hit.
Wildlife Encounters and Precautions
Hawaii is a relatively wild place. This is great in many ways, but it also means you do have to take steps to ensure you are safe, especially while out exploring natural areas such as rainforests and beaches.
Always watch your step to avoid stepping on snakes, jellyfish, and other small creatures, avoid reaching into enclosed dark spaces where bugs might lurk, and get out of the water if a shark is spotted nearby. Of course, you should never approach or feed any wild animal, and always give them plenty of space.
More Inspiration for Your Hawaii Travels
As you can see, Hawaii is an absolutely amazing place and we are certain you will have an amazing time exploring it. Want even more ideas for your upcoming trip? Check out the links below for more travel inspiration: