Can we first talk about how wild + amazing it is that the United States is so versatile that we have a chain of islands as a part of our 50 states?! We are so lucky to have the ability to see so many different terrains throughout our one country, and Hawaii is a tiny few specs of gorgeous greens and beautiful beaches out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. These islands are easily on the bucket list for so many – allow me to review why a Kauai Island camping trip should absolutely be on your bucket list.
A Little Bit About Kauai
For starters, did you know Kauai is actually the oldest island in Hawaii? It’s pretty incredible that this is true because it is also the least developed within the four main islands. That means the Hawaiian culture, rainforests, mountain ranges, greenery, and the rest of the land remain more intact, less commercialized. That said, much of the islands’ revenue heavily relies on tourism. It’s important to remember that while you are there for a getaway, it’s still a lot of people’s every day, it’s their home. Share the excitement in being there, shop, and eat local, but be as respectful to the people and the land as possible.
Planning Our Kauai Visit
When we were planning on visiting Hawaii we heard a ton of suggestions on which island to go to, and Kauai actually wasn’t the most popular suggestion because it’s not necessarily the most luxurious island to visit compared to the other larger ones. This was okay for us though, because we value local experiences over luxury hotels any day. The more we looked, the more Kauai basically held a bright flashy arrow marquee pointing to it because of how lowkey it was and how much activity there was centered around exploring the land itself.
When it comes to travel, I like to prioritize outdoor activities, local foodie stops, and natural wonders. My favorite places to stay are Airbnbs or similar accommodations, but when I was searching for places to stay on Kauai, I realized no matter where I would book our 5-day trip, it would be $200-$300+/night. I just didn’t want to drop that much money on a place that we’d really only be when we were sleeping since we’d spend the majority of our time driving/hiking/swimming around the island. Rental cars are also extremely scarce on the island because, well it’s an island – there’s only so many available!
So, we resorted to Outdoorsy and rented a 4×4 Jeep Wrangler with a rooftop tent, and decided to stay ON the island. We essentially got our accommodation and rental for half the price we would have if we booked them separately.
I remember the sun was setting on one of the beaches we were camping at and a family was packing up all their things from their beach day to pack up their car. The father came up to us and asked if we were able to camp on the beach and how it was going. After explaining our situation, he beamed and said “That’s the way to do it! Don’t get me wrong, the resort we’re staying at is wonderful, but we don’t really spend a ton of time there because we’re out here!”
I thought that perfectly encapsulated why it’s so nice to take advantage of other means of travel. Camping around Kauai allowed for more than just beautiful beaches to wake up at. We went to bed at sundown, woke up at sunrise, had the quiet to ourselves, and so much more of our day, every day, to maximize our time on!
Our Kauai Itinerary
Arrival at (LIH) Lihue Airport – my husband and I got in a few hours before my sister and before we were able to pick up the jeep. We had some time to kill, so we ordered an Uber and went straight to Smiley’s Local Grinds for some lunch, using our suitcases as our table, in a parking lot, with a curious chicken.
Picked up the Jeep, went to Kauai Beer Co for an ice-cold brewski, and then to a farmer’s market in Kapa’a to grab some fresh fruit and coconuts on the beach. We drove by our first campsite at Anahola Beach just to check it out and were so excited.
My sister arrived at LIH in the early evening, so we went and picked her up, stopped by a few food trucks and had some pizza at Scorpacciata, and then went North to Anahola to set up camp for the first time!
We woke up to a rainbow over the beach, packed up our things, and hit the road. Our first stop was Java Kai for some coffee and breakfast burritos.
We spent the majority of the day driving around and pulling off anywhere that looked pretty (which was just about every few miles) Some of the places we saw were Queen’s Bath, Kilauea Lighthouse, and Anini Beach where we spent the rest of the day at.
To top off the night, we had some fun drinks at Tiki Iniki (recommend the Iniki, Painkiller, and Brown Sugar in Paradise!)
Instead of starting our day with some caffeine, we settled for some adrenaline at Skydive Kauai! Getting there before the sun rose, we were the first to jump out of the plane that day, and seeing the island from above was absolutely insane!
We continued our drive as far West as we could to spend a few hours at Polihale State Park. We had to off-road for a few miles, so when we finally reached the beach mid-day on a Friday, we realized we had so much coastline to ourselves! The waves were HUGE, the sun was hot, and the vibes were perfect.
To round out the day, we drove the scenic drive of Waimea Canyon stopping off at spots like the canyon overlook, red dirt falls, and other off-roading trails before heading all the way back around the island to Anahola Beach.
Seeing a waterfall from above, in the parking lot was pretty sweet until we saw a few people at the very bottom. We knew we had to find our way down there, so we started asking those that had just climbed back up how they were able to get down to Wailua Falls. Their legs and feet were caked in mud, so a couple of us went barefoot and the other sacrificed their shoes for the views (worth it!)
We hung out and explored the falls for a couple hours before climbing back up the trail and heading to Hanapepe – Kauai’s biggest little town! Where we found some cute artsy shops, a swinging bridge, and the model for Lilo + Stitch.
After Hanapepe, we headed East and down to Poipu through the tree tunnels to grab acai bowls at Anake’s. And then back up towards Kapa’a we went for poke bowls for lunch at Leong’s Meathouse. It was right across the street from the beach, so we set up shop there for a bit and capped the night at Jimmy’s beach bar with live music and drinks. Once we were back at camp, we stargazed on the beach before resting up for our early morning hike.
On our last full day, we caught the 7am shuttle to the Kalalau Trail where we spent the majority of our day hiking and exploring 9 miles of Napali Coast Rainforest. I don’t even know where to begin to describe how beautiful this trail is. The tropical fruits and plants lining the entirety of the coast, the insanely tall waterfalls, epic coastline, secluded beaches…so much to admire.
After a long day on foot, we threw on some dresses and “nicer” clothes over our swimsuits in the parking lot of LavaLava Beach Club (island life am I right?) and treated ourselves to some Mai Tai’s in the sand.
Our last morning waking up on the beaches of Kauai was bittersweet. We had grown accustomed to this lifestyle in a few short days and didn’t want to leave!
We ran into the water and had a morning swim to ourselves. We showered outside for the last time in the spigot of the tree stump and headed back into Lihue before our flights returned to San Diego and Kansas City.
Aloha Roastery saw us last – we sipped on macadamia nut lattes, reminiscing over our best island camping trip yet.
If you have even the slightest inkling to book that camping trip around Kauai, this is your sign to do it! And may it be a trip of a lifetime.