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Camping in Hawaii

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Camping on Oahu?

Jan 2009

This summer, we want to go camping on Oahu with our two kids (5 and almost 2yrs). Any recommendations concerning campsites? Malaekahana Beach Park seems to be good from what we've found on the internet. Has anybody been there? Does anybody have recommendations for other sites? Thanks and aloha


I grew up on Oahu and the only camping we did was at Bellows beach park (military beach, need permission/pass to get on). It's my impression that there is not a lot of camping spots on Oahu (as opposed to outer islands) and that what camping you see is very local (large families camping for several days at beach parks, questionable as to how welcome you would be). I stayed at a house next to Malaekahana Beach park a few years ago, and there were campers at the park. I highly doubt there were any tourists/non-locals in the mix. Check out the books about it, but I'd steer clear of Oahu camping. Not sure about outer isles as much (Anini Beach on Kauai had the same vibe - great rental houses nearby, locals camping for weeks at a time at the beach park). loves to camp, just not there
A few summers ago I took my daughter to Oahu for vacation. We have been to all the islands of Hawaii and like to go off the beaten path to find areas tourists don't normally go. We were warned by a lifeguard near Waikiki not to go anywhere on the west side of the island due to extreme dangers of locals involved in the ''ICE'' market. ICE is a drug like Crack cocaine on the rise on Oahu. Lots of snorkel spots we wanted to visit were on the west side and I ignored the local's warning and we ventured up there. Once past Ko Olina we knew we were in trouble as hostility against ''howlies'' was very evident. We were scared just walking in a local market as all eyes glared angrily at us. We stopped at a couple beach parks (some for camping) and saw broken glass everywhere from vehicle thefts and robberies. We ended up getting into an altercation with a local in a monster truck that thought we were police videotaping a drug sale. He tried to run our car over-seriously and then chased us down the highway where he cornered us in another beach park! I was merely taping the dangers of the beach parks up there, broken glass all over the parking lot, and the homeless folks camping in the bushes. One woman was taking a shower next to the picnic table along the highway. Doesn't sound like Oahu does it?

I would advise extreme caution going anywhere on Oahu away from the tourists-especially on the west side. If you must go camping do so only in places where there are numbers of other campers around you. I feel safer in Mexico and Thailand than I do on Oahu traveling with a child. Be very aware of your surroundings. Cars are stolen and scrapped for parts. There is alot of hostility in locals pushed out of the prime areas by developement and forced to live their lives on low incomes in less desireable parts of the island. We found the north shore more welcoming but never got fully comfortable anywhere on Oahu after our experience on the west side. Never leave your car with valuables inside. Never go to places where you are isolated far from help. The lifeguard described the west side as the wild wild west-completely out of control where even the police are afraid to venture. We have had similar experiences on Maui and other islands but not to the extreme we found on Oahu. Be very careful if you must venture out of the tourist areas and perhaps you might consider another island. We saw a family like yours parking their rental van in the lot where the monster truck was oblivious to the dangers all around them and a van full of valuables preparing to walk down the hill to the beach where they would be all alone and vulnerable as they left their van for the thieves above. I was blown away by their lack of common sense and oblivian to the world around them. Don't make their mistake! been there


I've been to Hawaii many times, though I've never camped there, and I readily admit that. As a Hauli (caucasian), I have educated myself to the history and plight of the Hawaiian people and am particularly aware not to intrude as much as possible in their spaces. They have so few left that are not over-run by tourists, I completely understand. I have not, however, spent any time on Oahu, though I understand there is a serious problem with Ice (a long-acting, extremely addictive version of meth). I tend to stay on the Kauai or Maui, where I've met many Locals and Hawaiians who have been nothing but friendly and welcoming. But I don't overstep my bounds; I respect them and the fact that they have so few spaces on the Islands to call their own.

I've stayed in Local neighborhoods without any incident -- of course, I don't stray on the Local's beaches when they're having their fun (bon fires and parties), and I don't try to take stray pictures in places where I might be violating others' privacy -- but that's not to say one will not experience some modicum of hostility or even violence. I've met with some hostility, but for the most part, stand-offish is the worst I've gotten and downright friendly and inviting by several people I've met in my travels (I've even been invited to private luau's and other bbq's by Locals).

Read some history of the islands before you go, read the guide books, ask the Locals in the tourist industry -- they will tell you where you are not welcome, and given my experiences, they are the knowledgable people as to what/where is safe and what/where is not. They don't want you where you don't belong, and don't really want you get into trouble.

I guess in the end result, it's best not to try camping out anywhere that isn't for the tourist trade (i.e. will be by the lottery system, probably), and I would be culturally very sensitive. Hawaii is a State that really is it's own world; they need tourism, but they don't really want it. We are welcome as long as we keep to their rules, not intrude on their private worlds and respect them for their rich ethnic and cultural heritage.

At the very least, learn to say aloha (hello and goodbye)and mahalo (thank you!) when appropriate. It's the least you can do. Oh, and don't camp out where you're told not to. Given another posters experience, clearly that's a bad idea. -- A respectful hauli


I know there are some places you can camp, but in general, camping is prohibited (and it is strictly enforced) on the beaches. So, I have no info really except that I know people who went over thinking, "weel, I can just camp and I won;t get a ticket" and this is not the fact of the matter. They do ticket and will arrest. Good luck! laura beth
From: Deborah
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