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Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

Ipswich, UK
Level Contributor
11 posts
4 reviews
11 helpful votes
Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

Hi,

My partner and I are planning a 3 week trip to the Big Island in June. I've spent the last couple of weeks trawling the net for information about camping on the Big Island and get the feeling that camping in the designated camp sites across the island is a really bad idea. So... as neither myself nor my partner are crowd followers, (what I mean is that neither of us want to be involved in heavily commercialised surroundings), we are hoping to explore the island mostly on foot, sometimes with a hire car or motor bike, and discreetly set up camp at night somewhere off the beaten tracks and be gone again in the mornings. We don't need facilities like toilets and showers as we are perfectly capable of cleaning ourselves in a spring and removing our rubbish (including biological) and disposing of it correctly. As we sleep in "beanpods" (hammock-tents), we have no need for a groomed flat surface, nor do we need to set up a "proper" camp i.e fires and more permanent style structures etc... Any advice/thoughts on our plan?? I've visited Kauai'i before and had a wonderful time. This time I am visiting the Big Island because of its diversity and vast areas of undeveloped countryside. However, I can't help feeling that I might get murdered in my hammock!!!! I guess I was just really surprised to hear of so much hostility! So how bad is it really?!?? :-D Thanks!

South Pole
Level Contributor
41,666 posts
4 reviews
25 helpful votes
1. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

While I don't think you have to fear for your life, I don't know what you are envisioning the island to be like. (It is not like Kaua`i.)

Basically it's illegal to camp except in designated campgrounds by permit. Period.

What do you envision "off the beaten track" to mean?

Privately owned land? That would be trespassing i.e. wrong and could be dangerous.

Public lands? See the illegal part above ...

The county campgrounds are barely developed, and hardly heavily commercialized. It sounds to me like you have an unrealistic picture of this island, and how it's laid out ...

so I will ask you a question? Have you identified an area where you think such an undeveloped place exists?

Ipswich, UK
Level Contributor
11 posts
4 reviews
11 helpful votes
2. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

Hi there!

Thanks for getting back so quickly, much appreciated. Basically I'm just trying to make sure I don't do the wrong thing and end up spoiling our holiday or inadvertently upsetting the locals purely because I am not.. I've read loads of posts about people saying how bad the camping on the BI is and that we shouldn't do it and that kind of thing. Camp sites being dirty and generally unsafe! Almost made me want to cancel the flights to Hilo I've just booked!! LOL!

The thing I'm confused about is the difference between state parks, national parks, county parks, when to get a permit, when not etc etc... I got the feeling that these areas are full of criminals, druggies and the homeless! And if not them, then locals wanting to see you off their turf...! So, all I'm really looking for is a little good news and perhaps also which parks are suitable for discreet little campers who require very little and would prefer to stay out of the way! :-) (I wasn't suggesting trespassing!! LOL!) Many thanks! Nadia

South Pole
Level Contributor
41,666 posts
4 reviews
25 helpful votes
3. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

I sympathize with your desire, but there is nothing that fits that description ... in national, state, or county you can only camp in designated areas with permit or expect to be thrown out, and all the rest is private and trespassing.

Spencer Park has security, and Punalu`u is a good location.

As for the hammocks, do they require trees? Because that isn't necessarily available.

Yes, it is true that some people who are homeless rotate around the island campsites; there are rules about staying more than two weeks in any one during the year though.

There isn't any informal camping and you cannot sleep on the beach; you will definitely be thrown out ...

better budget choice would be a hostel ...

Personally I wouldn't sleep outside here -- bugs, and centipedes roam around at night (and they climb trees).

Ipswich, UK
Level Contributor
11 posts
4 reviews
11 helpful votes
4. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

Oh. What a dreadful shame. I had really hoped there might be areas of forest we could hike to that would be suitable to spend the night in. As for the bugs, the hammocks are bug and rain proof... no, really!! (Unless you leave the zipper open overnight of course!) They're designed for Tropical Jungle/Rainforest survival! Snug as a bug! ;-) Ok, thanks for the advice though, I guess I'm going to have to play it by ear when I get there, I would rather not sleep indoors though... I find you get a much better feel for a place if you "rough" it! Maybe we will get lucky and meet landowners who may not mind us borrowing a couple of their trees for the night! ;-)))

Palm Springs...
Level Contributor
11,533 posts
127 reviews
304 helpful votes
5. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

camping is only in designated places, and by permit only. Your idea of sleeping in the forest is only going to bring you to grief and either result in not good confrontations with locals whos land you are trespassing on or the police/park rangers in the parks... Also there is an element which also seeks isolated areas...for criminal activity. They have dogs and guns. It happens every few weeks...some free spirt visitor..goes missing never to be seen again.

Please dont consider your self immune.

Where are you going to park your car when you are doing all this??? And what if its not there or vandalized when you get back??? There is no public transport....

Motorcycles are for rent here, but Harleys only....for $150.00 a day... about 3 times more than a car require a special licence and have restrictions and require 1 year harley esperience. ( speaking of Cars, sleeping your car is mot permitted)

The lack of facilities...which you need and the bathing in a spring...is a very bad idea...MSRA and a lot of nasty critters live in streams and springs and if this is some persons water sourse then I can see people getting violent with you.

Since the last time you went to Kauai...many of the camping areas have been closed and they are trying to reduce camping...state wide

In the Hilo area there has been a long history of alternative backpackers who generaly found someones property and camped on it...stealing food etc. That history has resulted in a very unfriendly treatment of campers. The resentment is built in.

Fing a hostil or a cheap room...because you plan is not going to work in the Big island....I can see huge problems you will face....

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
15,891 posts
310 reviews
834 helpful votes
6. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

I am not even sure you could legally do what you envision for Hawaii in the UK. But if you intend to get to know local landowners who will allow you to park on and use their land, you'd best get on it...figure out how to do that and start networking. But really, this is not the place to do what you describe...cancelling the plane tix might be best for all concerned. Sorry.

Portland, OR
Level Contributor
1,886 posts
38 reviews
152 helpful votes
7. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

Nadia,

First, you will need a car no matter what, so plan on renting one for the duration of your trip. Second, instead of trespassing or other illegal activities, suggest you locate landowners that may allow you use of their land, or rent a spot for the night. The hard part will be locating proper land owners. Whatever you do, don’t just set up camp at some random spot, because that spot is highly likely to be owned by someone. Even better, stick to state parks and locations with allowed camping. Be aware of your surroundings and limit cash on hand, etc. As others have mentioned there are concerns with camping.

Here is some contact info for the state parks:

www.hawaiistateparks.org/camping/hawaii.cfm

…national-park.com/camping.htm

ehow.com/how_2041044_state-campgrounds-Hawai…

Some things to remember: at elevation in Hawaii the temperature can be as low as 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit, so be prepared. KK mentioned the centipedes so use of some repellent might be nice. Be careful when which trees and how your hammock is attached to those trees. Some are not as strong as they look and some harbor ants and other bugs. Be careful with Ohi’a trees, do not scour the bark with ropes and cords (Scientific name: Metrosideros polymorpha) as with most trees this can cause damage to the tree.

www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/forestry/Data/trees.asp

I think someone already mentioned camping on the beaches is also illegal, and is enforced.

Pack everything in and out. Park your car properly and safely.

Read this page in your planning:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g28932-c79918/Hawaii:…

Good luck and happy travels!

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
15,891 posts
310 reviews
834 helpful votes
8. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

Another U.S. choice for you might be the Cinnamon Bay campsites in the U.S. Virgin Islands--$27 for a baresite. Good snorkeling, hiking, lush greenery all over, prepared for campers.

http://www.cinnamonbay.com/rates.html

South Pole
Level Contributor
41,666 posts
4 reviews
25 helpful votes
9. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

As Dan said, the days when hippies and free spirits came and camped here on land without explicit permission are long gone. You're talking about thirty years ago, before you were born, and yes, the people who came before you wore out the tolerance for that.

There are many squatters on private property in some of the poor subdivisions of Puna, who are just the types that you are worried about in the County Parks. There is safety in numbers, in the beach parks. The permits are very cheap and easy to get. Out in the woods, there is no true remoteness. This is a populated island! There are however lots of pot-growing operations that seek out wilderness spots, which will be possible booby-trapped, guns, dogs, and people who are willing to use them. You have no idea what is what; it would be naive and foolish to go wandering around.

Yes, the stream water is unclean and not fit for swimming or washing because the feral pig and rat population donates urine and feces to the stream water, not to mention the standard parasites ...

However, the idea of a landowner being willing to rent you a place to camp is not farfetched if you arrange it prior. You will not run into such landowners when you leave the airport.

Puna and possibly the coffee country of South Kona are the two places where this might work out. It is possible that if you email the alternative lodgings and B&B owners who run coffee farm shark type lodgings, that they MIGHT be receptive or know someone who is.

For Puna, try posting on punaweb.org. Someone may know someone ...

Whatever you do, don't arrive on the island without two days set in advance. I still recommend Spencer Beach Park, but you will need a tent, as the campsites are marked out and don't include trees spaced for hammocks.

Island of Hawaii...
Level Contributor
7,943 posts
24 reviews
8 helpful votes
10. Re: Non camp site camping on Big Island, Hawaii

Ipswich_UKNadia, you got very good advice from everybody. I think you have the wrong idea about camping on the Big Island. This island ceratinly is not for campers and there are some camp sites where you probably wouldn't want to be as a tourist. By car for hire you mean taxi? It's very expensive and renting a motorcycle (Harley only!) is expensive too. You might want to leave the camping stuff at home or go to someplace else where camping is more common.