Waterfalls, WWII history, and world-class surf await on Hawaii’s most populated island.
With its sugary sands, surf beaches, tropical rainforest backdrop, and melting pot of Pacific culture, Oahu is Hawaii’s flagship vacation destination. Whether you want beachside adventures, panoramic-view hikes, or history, Oahu has everything in abundance, and you can take your pick of beachside villas and coastal campsites. Spring and fall are popular times to visit Oahu, with balmy temperatures and festivals such as the King Kamehameha Floral Parade and Aloha Festival taking place, but winter campers can still enjoy average daytime temperatures of 80°F (26°C), and this is prime time for surfing.
With more than 51 (count ‘em!) beaches and waves reaching up to 30 feet in the winter months, Oahu’s North Shore boasts some of Hawaii’s most legendary surf breaks. Check into the state campground at Malaekahana or snag an oceanside campsite at Hau'ula Beach, go surfing and snorkeling at Sunset Beach or Waimea Beach, or head inland to explore the Waimea Valley and cool off beneath Waimea Falls.
Hemmed in by the lush peaks of the Koʻolau Mountains, Oahu’s eastern shore offers a change of pace from the buzzing resort towns of the North Shore. Grab a kayak or paddleboard to paddle the coast at Kailua and Lanikai beaches, pitch your tent by the hiking trails of the Ahupua'a O Kahana State Park, or camp with a view of the mountains at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden.
The western Leeward or Wai’anae Coast is Oahu’s least developed, making it the ideal spot to escape the crowds. Set out on a scenic road trip, climbing through the Waianae Mountains and hopping between sleepy seaside towns and secluded beaches along the coast. Campers can take their pick of five public beachside campgrounds, but make sure you get a permit.
Most travelers pass through Honolulu, Hawaii’s fun-loving capital, where the only urban campsite is located at Sand Island, right on Honolulu Harbor. Once you’ve explored the city, head out to Waikiki Beach, famous for its white sands, surf schools, and nightlife, or continue east to the Hanauma Bay marine conservation area to snorkel amid schools of tropical fish and sea turtles.
Just west of Honolulu, the National Historic Landmark of Pearl Harbor is the site of one of the most pivotal World War II attacks, and it’s the main reason why travelers venture into central Oahu. Inland, there’s camping at Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area, known for its sacred Keaiwa Heiau temple.
No, you cannot camp anywhere in Oahu. Camping is only allowed in designated campgrounds and campsites in state parks, county parks, or private lands like at a Hipcamp site. Camping in public parks such as Malaekahana State Recreation Area, Bellows Field Beach Park, and Kualoa Regional Park requires a camping permit obtained in advance. Additionally, it is important to follow all rules and regulations in order to protect the natural environment and ensure a safe and enjoyable camping experience on the island. See more Oahu camping.
In Oahu, beach camping is legal only in designated campgrounds, and it is not allowed to camp directly on the beach in most locations. There are a few public parks and campgrounds where you can enjoy beach camping on Oahu, such as Bellows Field Beach Park, Malaekahana Beach Campground, and Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area. Keep in mind that you will need a permit to camp at these locations, and camping is usually allowed only from Friday through Wednesday, with parks closed on Thursdays for maintenance. It's important to respect local regulations and only camp in designated areas to help preserve the natural beauty of Oahu's beaches.
Camping costs in Oahu can vary depending on the type of campsite and amenities provided. On average, you can expect to pay around $10 to $20 per night for a basic campsite at a public park or campground. Prices may increase for private campgrounds or those with additional amenities. For more information on camping options in Oahu, check out Hipcamp.
No, you cannot legally camp in Oahu without a permit. Camping permits are required for all city and state parks on the island. Permits can be obtained online through the State of Hawaii's camping reservation system or in person at the respective park offices. However, if you're looking for a more hassle-free camping experience, you can book a private campsite on Hipcamp, where permits may not be required as the land is privately owned.