Maui > Camping
The following is a description of the available camping on the island of Maui. These spots range from difficult to access with heavy hiking, to easy spots with drive-up access.
What to have ready:
- A permit or permission to camp on the land you’re on.
- Tarps. If camping in or near Hana, bring extra tarps. The last time we camped, we had tarps secured in every direction around our “waterproof” tent. When heavy enough, rain comes at ya from below too.
- Tent, Car, RV, or Cabin. Choose something you’ll be comfortable in.
- Large Rake. If you camp near or under Kiawe Trees (especially prevalent at many of the campgrounds on the west side), you’ll want to rake up as much as you can.
- Sleeping Gear. Blow-up or thick folding mattresses are key when camping on the ground on lava rock.
- Cooking Gear. Make sure you bring what’s allowed at the campground your at.
- Light. We never have enough lanterns and flashlights.
- Warm Clothes. Depending on where you camp, you’ll be surprised at the nighttime temperatures.
- Ear Plugs. If you camp near the highway. Or if anyone snores…
- Trash Bags. Tag out what you brought in, and some. We find a lot of the camp areas have loads of trash. Not cool. Pick up some extra trash before you leave.
- ALOHA… You have camping neighbors. Don’t keep their kids up till 4am. If you need to party late, find someone with legal access to private property away from neighbors.
Without a doubt, the easiest and best way to go Maui camping is on a privately-owned campground. A spot where you can pay to stay and not worry about permits and all the items you might have forgotten. Camp Olowalu is one of those places. Along the west coast of Maui, directly on beach, you can tent camp, RV camp, or take advantage of their luxury tentalows. Watch the video below for more details.
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Kipahulu is one of the favorite Maui Campgrounds by locals. Sitting on a grassy area just above the ocean, warm breezes bring the sounds of crashing waves to your campsite. This area is often wet with regular rains, which causes this site to be a favorite for local mosquitoes as well. Kipahulu Campground is only a short walk to Oheo Gulch and the Seven Sacred Pools just north. With no water available, this camping area does have a few amenities, though you’ll have to bring almost everything you need. It has some picnic tables at select sites, a grill at every site, and some communal chemical toilets. A maximum of 100 people are allowed to camp here. Seek out your spot, and then take a walk to the Kipahulu Visitor Center only 1/8 of a mile away for your permit. The park officials here are quite friendly, and lax about what time you need to pay them, so long as you do.
For those of you that really like to hike and get away from the crowds, Maui is home to some isolated wilderness camping. The maximum anyone can camp is 3 nights in a 30-day period. There are no open fires allowed at either camp spot.
Hosmer Grove Campground
Located in the cool and windy climate of Haleakala’s cloud belt, Hosmer Grove Campground is just below the 7,000 ft level of the summit area. Because of the elevation, you will most likely experience temperatures of at night in the 30’s or below. During the day, highs are from 50-65°F. Chance of rain here is good. You’ll be camping on a grass area next to the shrubland and forest of Hosmer Grove. It has a few picnic tables, pit toilets, some barbeque grills, and drinkable water available.
No permit is needed at Hosmer Grove for camping, and it has a 50-person maximum. With the abundance of habitation, mornings here are active with animal and bird noises. Hosmer is a great place to get up for an early hike of the self-guided nature trail that begins and ends at the campground. 3 day max, 12-people to a group max.
Holua is an option for the avid and hardcore hiker, at 6,940 feet, near Koolau Gap. Located 3.7 miles down the Halemau’u Trail, Holua is set in shrubland around lava flows. It is 7.4 miles from the Sliding Sand Trail, needed to get to Paliku. Learn more about the Halemau’u Trail Hike. Keep in mind that this is a very challenging hike getting back up to your car. The Switchbacks are often referred to as the “Cliffs of Insanity” from a favorite movie. Unless you’re in top physical condition, are an experienced hiker, and are able to haul all of your gear in and out, opt for Kipahulu. Also, keep in mind the weather gets below freezing at night and often rains. The campsite and cabin require online reservations up to 6 months in advance. Since there isn’t much occupancy available, they get booked up almost immediately.
9.3 miles along the Sliding Sands Trail, and 10.4 miles on the Halemauu Trail, you’ll find Paliku Campsite on the east end of the wilderness valley. Located 6,830 feet from sea level, Paliku is at the base of the rainforest cliffs. The hike is advised only for the expert hiker, as it is very difficult and long (think up and down loose lava rock, high-elevation with thin air, temperature changes from blazing hot to literally freezing, and only one stop for water that requires boiling). Paliku is cool due to the frequent rains that come in with clouds and fog from over the cliff tops. This is one of those spots every hiker dreads a possible folded ankle. There’s no help, it could take you 5-6 days to get out with a limp. Again, with not many campsites and only one cabin, this spot is booked up 6 months in advance. “Can I just go and illegally camp without a permit?” There are actually 2 cabins at this site, once for the Rangers. You do not want to mess with the Rangers.
Yes, that’s a completely frozen hiking pole. It’s wet, then freezing, and I thought I was going to die the one time I attempted the hike. If you do go, make sure to bring water filtration and boil your water. The water they have is literally cloudy and yellow. It tastes terrible, and we once heard of campers that came when the water catch was dry. I can’t imagine arriving here and not having water. Can be a dangerous situation, so bring enough water. Also, know they have a pretty bad rat problem too, so don’t disturb the traps.
State Parks and Campgrounds
Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area
Polipoli is located at 6200 feet elevation in Kula Forest Reserve. With trails weaving through the forest reserve, Polipoli camping is an incredible experience. Located 9.7 miles up from Kula, you’ll find the views encompass all of Maui from the central valley, to the west Maui Mountains. You also get views of both the North and South coast and the neighboring islands of Lanai, Kaho’olawe, and Molokai. There is one cabin and plenty of camping area. It is recommended to have a 4-wheel and plenty of clothing. In the winter, temperatures can reach below freezing. There are no showers and some hunting in season for pigs and birds.
Wai’anapanapa State Park
Located in Hana off of the Hana Highway, Wai’anapanapa camping is found at the end of Wai’anapanapa road. This campground and park is a much sought-after area by visitors to Maui. With the perfect black sand beach, natural blowholes, lava tube caves, native Hala forest, natural ocean arches, and dramatic sea stacks, Wai’anapanapa is legendary. Its legend is everywhere, but especially in one of the caves where a powerful story of ancient Hawaiian Ali’i echoes. Around 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours from the Kahului airport, depending on how much traffic you hit and how many times you stop for waterfalls, this is an ideal camping spot with great shore fishing, some lodging, picnics, and hiking. One ancient Hawaiian coastal trail leads all the way to Hana. Wai’anapanapa is a tough one to get a permit for though. You need to get one in Kahului before you leave on your trip. The lady in charge is elusive. Also, be prepared for the most unfriendly State Park staff you’ll ever encounter. Learn more about Waianapanapa.
Maui County Camping
Kanaha Beach Park
Next to the Kahului airport, Kanaha Beach Park is one of the last Maui County Parks that offer camping. Amenities include drinking water, chemical toilets, picnic tables, bbq pits, outdoor showers, 3 volleyball courts, lifeguards, payphones, and a great beach. It allows for 15-20 people at one time, and a 3-day maximum is enforced.
More Maui Campgrounds
We still need to cover camping on Lanai, as well as a few other lesser-known spots, but that will have to come when we have more time and can digest all the changes that have happened lately.