Papohaku Beach Park, Molokai

Where to go camping on Molokai

Roughing it on the Friendly Isle is about really getting away from it all.

Where Molokai lacks in the number of permitted camping options, it more than makes up in the quality of camping it offers. The landscapes are incredible and, as with many Molokai places, it often feels like you’re the only one there—that’s a good thing.

One Alii Beach Park

One Alii Beach Park
One Alii Beach Park, Molokai
Photo: Forest and Kim Star/Flickr

There’s a lot to like about camping at One Alii Beach Park, not least of which is its close proximity to downtown Kaunakakai. No toilet paper? No problem—Friendly Supermarket is a short drive away. And when you’re on an island that already has fewer of the creature comforts you may take for granted, it’s nice to be close to the island’s biggest town. Beach access is nearby, but the shallow water is best for wading and relaxing. The park offers lots of open space for outdoor games and activities. Also in the vicinity is a fish pond.

Facilities: restrooms, showers, pavilion
Amenities: picnic tables, parking, drinking water, beach access, fish pond
Permit cost: $3 per adult and 50 cents for children under 18. Camping permits can be purchased at the Parks and Recreation Office, which is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (808) 553-3204, Kaunakakai. For more information, visit Maui County Parks and Recreation.

 

Papohaku Beach Park

Papohaku Beach
Papohaku Beach Park, Molokai
Photo: Patrick McNally/Flickr

Located 20 miles west of Kaunakakai, Papohaku Beach Park is a great spot to pitch a tent if you want to feel like you’re camping at the edge of the world. Its 3-mile, white sand beach—one of the longest in Hawaii—will put you in the front row for some of the most gorgeous sunsets. If you enjoy an early morning walk or jog, there may not be a better beach in the Islands to get the blood going. However, it’s best not to get in the water, as the current tends to be strong and the waves big. The campground is set back from the beach in the shade of kiawe trees, which also helps block the wind. Covered restrooms and showers are available but they aren’t lit after sunset. If you need to buy something, there’s a small convenience store near the condos at Ke Nani Kai.  

Facilities: restrooms, showers (indoor and outdoor)
Amenities: picnic tables, barbecue pits, parking, drinking water, beach access
Permit cost: $3 per adult and 50 cents for children under 18. Camping permits can be purchased at the Parks and Recreation Office, which is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 pm, (808) 553-3204. For more information, visit Maui County Parks and Recreation.

 

Palaau State Park

Kalaupapa Lookout
The Kalaupapa Lookout is a short walk from the campgrounds.
Photo: Chris Crawford/Flickr

If you enjoy being in the mountains more than being by the ocean, Palaau State Park is for you. The park is located on the northern side of the island, in a grove of ironwoods, at the top of some of the tallest ocean cliffs in the world. Much cooler than One Alii Beach Park and Papohaku Beach Park, Palaau also gets a lot more moisture, so keep that in mind when making preparations—bring a jacket and waterproof tent. There are several smaller hikes in the vicinity, including a short hike to the Kalaupapa Leper Colony overlook. For more daring hikers, the switchback trailhead down to Kalaupapa is a short walk away, but to enter the settlement you need to book a tour with Damien Tours. You can also get to Kalaupapa by way of mule or chartered flight with Mokulele Airlines and Makani Kai Air, but a tour booking is still required to enter the settlement. One of the downsides to camping at Palaau is there’s no drinking water available, so bring enough with you.

Facilities: restrooms, pavilion
Amenities: picnic tables, phallic stone, hiking trails, Kalaupapa overlook, Kalaupapa trailhead
Permit cost: Camping permit applications can be made through the Hawaii State Parks website at $18 per campsite, per night, for up to six people. Permit applications must be received at least seven days before arrival. For more information, visit the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks.

 

Molokai State Forest Reserve

Waikolu Lookout
Waikolu Valley
Photo: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner/Flickr

The Molokai State Forest Reserve is likely the most difficult spot to reach, and a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended for climbing the 10-mile dirt road to the Waikolu Valley lookout. But once up there—around 3,500 feet in elevation—campers are rewarded with spectacular views of the valley and the ocean, all of it just a few steps from the campground. This is ideal, as morning views tend to be fog and mist free. Waikolu Valley is especially pretty after it rains and waterfalls stream down the valley walls. For those looking to explore the trails in the reserve, the site is perfect as a base camp. The camping area is grassy and comfy but you should pack for cold and wet weather. There is a pavilion available but no drinking water, so make sure you’ve got more than enough.

Facilities: restrooms, pavilion
Amenities: picnic tables, hiking trails, Waikolu Valley Lookout
Permit cost: Camping permit applications can be made through the Hawaii State Parks website at $18 per campsite, per night, for up to six people. Permit applications must be received at least seven days before arrival. For more information, visit the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks.