Lifestyle

All the Best Places to Go Camping in Oahu

Published On 08/02/2016 Published On 08/02/2016
Hawaii beach camping
EpicStockMedia/Shutterstock

Although we live on an island, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget that there’s so much natural beauty around us to explore. The best part about camping in Oahu -- besides the fact that we can camp year-round -- is that there aren't even any bears to hide your picnic basket from. Or snakes, for that matter. So say goodbye to city living for a day or three, pack a tent, book a permit, stock up on mosquito repellent, and hit up one of these camping spots for some quality time with the great outdoors.

Flickr/Scott McLeod

Malaekahana

Laie
Easily one of the most popular campgrounds on the island, the windward beachside site is well-liked for a reason. The waters are calm enough for swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, and snorkeling for novice water folk, and the campsite entrance is secured from 7pm to 7am to ensure safety. The private grounds offer tent camping as well as plantation hut and suite rentals for those who prefer a wooden roof over their heads. And if you forgot toothpaste or want to upgrade your sleeping bag to an air mattress, the camp store has you covered -- you can find everything from candy to batteries to charcoal and lighter fluid. And if you want to try out being more active on the water, kayak, surfboard, and bodyboard rentals are also available. A food truck is on hand Thursdays through Mondays to relieve you from cooking duties, offering breakfast and lunch options like French toast and fish tacos, which saves time for more important stuff -- like attempting to actually stand up on a stand-up paddleboard before your half- or full-day rental is up.

Bellows Field Beach Park

Waimānalo
Civilians can only camp at the windward beach, which is located on a military base, on weekends. Although the park offers 50 campsites, permits book quickly, so be sure to reserve yours in advance. The beautiful site is perfect for relaxing and unplugging, with just the right amount of modern technology available (in the form of showers and restrooms). With the Koolau mountains in the distance and tall ironwood trees framing calm, turquoise waters and white sand, this campsite is perfect for a picturesque, romantic camping weekend.

Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden

Kaneohe
Make the rainforest your home and the mountains your backyard at the only non-beach, city- and county-run camping site on the island. Hawaiian for "make a place of peace and tranquility," the 400-acre park fits its name perfectly; its verdant and tranquil grounds are home to a 32-acre reservoir, plus hundreds of plant species from around the world. With 29 campsites to choose from, you’ll have ample space to build a campfire, hike, take a nature walk, fish, and feed ducks at the lake. Restrooms, outdoor showers, and picnic tables are located near each site.

Peacock Flats

Mokuleia
Getting to Peacock Flats is not for the meek. You’ll need to backpack, or take a four-wheel drive through rugged and rocky mountain terrain before accessing the campsite through Ka‘ena Point Satellite Tracking Station, with your permit. Once you get there, you’ll be rewarded with an open meadow and breathtaking views of Oahu’s North Shore. Continue on the Mokuleia trail to Three Corners, where you’ll find sweeping views of Makua, Mākaha, and Mokuleia valleys. On clear and cloudless nights, you’ll be treated to stunning stargazing opportunities. The camping area provides a shelter and picnic table, but no running water, so be sure to stock up before you go. And don’t forget the deodorant.

Flickr/Marvin Chandra

Kualoa Regional Park and Campground

Kaneohe
Two campgrounds occupy this 150-acre peninsula on Kualoa Bay; however, Campground A, shaded amongst ironwood and monkeypod trees, is closed during the summer for a children’s camping program. Campground B, a less-covered, grassy area, offers 14 campsites (with bathrooms and outdoor showers), facing the iconic Mokoli'i (Chinaman’s Hat), where you can walk to the small islet during low tide. During high tide, the island is accessible by kayak, but always be sure to check weather reports before heading out, as the current can be rough and unpredictable. Be sure to check out the ancient Hawaiiian fishponds nearby.

Kokololio Beach Park

Laie
With only five campgrounds along this forested park and white sandy shoreline, permits for this beachside site fill up quickly. The park opens to a large grove and grassy lawn, perfect for playing volleyball or horseshoes. During the summer months, the current is calm enough for swimming, but as the winter swell hits, entering the ocean is best left for experienced surfers and bodyboarders. Situated on the island’s northeast side, this postcard-perfect beach is a great spot for waking up early to catch the sunrise.

Flickr/Nick Welles

Waimanalo Bay Beach Park

Waimanalo
Also known as Sherwoods, this popular windward-side campground shares the same beach as Bellows Field Beach Park. Ten campsites are situated between large ironwood trees along the wide turquoise shoreline, and picnic tables, restrooms, and outdoor showers are all available on-site. Although the area is great for swimming, be aware of any Portuguese man-of-war, especially during strong, windy swells. If you see blue, boxy jellyfish dotting the sand, don’t jump in the water -- you wouldn’t want to end your camping trip with jellyfish stings, begging a friend to pee on your leg (which doesn't work anyway)!

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Summer Nakaishi is a freelance writer for Thrillist, who thinks the best part of camping is obviously the s’mores.

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