For all of Maui’s luxurious beach resorts, there will always be something incomparably romantic about sleeping out under the stars. Falling asleep to the sound of the waves, waking up with the first rays of sun, or pulling a sleeping bag tight around your shoulders to stave off a mountainous chill—all are part of the outdoor experience of setting up camp in Maui. While the Valley Isle doesn’t have as many official campgrounds as you might expect of a tropical island, the few that it does have offer affordable accommodation and the transcendent beauty of nature. Fishermen, technically, can camp wherever they want, but if you aren’t fishing, it isn’t possible to just pitch a tent on the beach. To stay within the bounds of the law—as well as immerse yourself in nature and save on accommodations—here are some of Maui’s best campgrounds from the mountains on down towards the sea.
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You’ll need a strong set of lungs for these campgrounds: both of Haleakala Crater’s two backcountry camp sites require hiking above 7,000 feet. The lunar beauty of the crater, however, and the star-addled sky each night, make camping at Holua or Paliku an unforgettable island experience. Be sure to bring a warm sleeping bag and jacket.
Believe it or not, watching waves crash on the Kipahulu coastline isn’t the best part of this campground experience; it’s waking in the morning and having the Pools of Ohe‘o entirely to yourself. Start the day with sunrise over the water, colors bursting in the silence, and then enjoy the serenity of the seven pools before the midday visitor rush.
Not only can you snorkel from your campsite in this oceanfront West Maui hideout, but the privately owned campground is the perfect example of clean, coastal comfort. The facilities are better than at public campgrounds, and there are also cabins and standup paddle rentals just steps from one of Maui’s best reefs.
Polipoli Springs State Recreation Area
Visitors to Maui expect rainbows—not redwoods—but the towering trees are just a short stroll from this remote, mountainous campground. You can escape the heat here at 6,500 feet, and hike some of Maui’s best trails; ideally, though, you’ll have a 4WD vehicle to help you navigate the bumpy dirt roads.
Wai‘anapanapa State Park
Visiting the famous “Black Sand Beach” is a highlight of any Hana itinerary, and campers who stay at this state-run campground have it right in their backyard. You can cliff-jump from pinnacles into the cobalt ocean, explore freshwater caves, and walk on a footpath built for royalty before drifting to sleep with the waves.