by Gabrielle Antonette and Carrie Nusbaum
One day we ambitiously decided to do an extended backpacking trip on Vancouver Island, in Canada. We got pumped and researched pretty obsessively, but somewhere along the line re-worked that plan, and ended up spending two weeks on Kauai instead. We hadn't really considered camping on Hawaii before, but it turns out that it's definitely possible, and cheap, and all-in-all a pretty excellent way to extend your vacation without spending all of your money.
There are a few campgrounds on Kauai that you can only get to by hiking or by boat--we didn't camp at those (maybe some day, sigh). There are two state parks that have campsites you can drive to: Koke'e State Park, and Polihale State Park. Both are located on the west side of the island, but are pretty different in terms of climate and scenery.
Koke'e is high up on a ridge between the Na Pali coast, and Waimea canyon. Because of the altitude, it was actually pretty chilly there in August, getting into the 40s or 50s at night. Rumor has it that it even snowed there once (we trust Hawaiians to remember that kind of thing). We made it work with the few items of warm weather-wear we had with us, but we'd probably bring a bit more if we were to do it again. It was a neat place to stay though because of it's proximity to the canyon and the coast--we did a couple of short days hikes in both directions to check out the very beautiful scenery. The best (and not exactly secret) lookout over Kalalau valley is also just a few minutes up the road. There was no cell service at all, which was, you know, probably good for us. But we definitely drove down into town a few times to check our email and get some beach time in. The Lodge at Koke'e was also a highlight, and was conveniently just across a field from the campground. It's sort of like Hawaii's twist on the ski lodge, serving simple and (honestly pretty mediocre) comfort food to hungry (and cold) visitors like us.
Polihale was so different! Again on the west side, the campsites at Polihale are right on the beach. And by the beach, I mean the insanely long, white, often listed as "most beautiful beach in the world," Polihale state beach. A pretty special place, if you ask us...or pretty much anyone else. You actually need 4-wheel drive to get to the sandy campsites (it's strongly recommended, anyway, and we were happy to have it). It was pretty hot here during the day, but luckily our campsite had some shade--the waves were pretty big and breaking right on shore when we were there (right after a hurricane)--so the majority of the beach wasn't great for swimming. There is a shallow protected area called the Queen's Pond (not to be confused with Queen's Bath in Princeville), but it honestly didn't make for very enjoyable swimming. We were also lucky enough to camp near some friendly dudes who ended up sharing their beer on a hot afternoon, which was a welcome treat. The best part, though, was when some local friends we met earlier in the week came to stay for a night, bringing with them the freshest and most delicious fish and fruit. That is really the way to go, if you can arrange it.