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Kaui - Off the Beaten Path

My husband and I are going to Kaui April 15-22, 2020.

We want to stay in an off the beaten path cottage, tiny home, glamping tent or best yet a treehouse - something in nature. Def do not want to stay in a condo or a big complex.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a truly unique island accommodation?

We will have a car and intend to spend a lot of time exploring.

It is our first trip so any other recommendations for locals experiences / destinations would be appreciated.

Posted by
2385 posts

Consider the cabins up at Kokee Park on the west side of the island.
The cabins themselves are pretty rustic but they do have all of the housekeeping items needed to self-cater. They're located at an altitude of 4,000 ft so it'll be cool and maybe a little damp if you get unlucky with the weather. Some of the prettiest hikes on the island start literally from your front door, and Waimea Canyon is just down the road.
Polihale State Park might be the most beautiful beach in Hawaii - hard to get to via a sporadically graded dirt track but definitely worth the trip.

Thanks so much for the scoop Robert! We are hoping to be in warmer climate but this might be a nice option for 2 of our nights in Kaui.

Is there an area that is warm, tropical and jungly? Haha just made up that word! We are hoping for that climate. We do not mind rain at all - love Costa Rica in rainy season but def dislike cold.

Posted by
5818 posts

Yes, if you are not locked into the Garden Isle, Maui and the Big Island have off the beaten path unique island lodging.

Haleakala has three wilderness cabin accessed by a downhill hike. They are bunkhouses with no plumbing but the scenery is unique.

Historic Cabins

It wasn’t until 1937 that the cabins were built by contracted
carpenters with Civilian Conservation Corps workers bringing in the
materials using mules and horses, as well as hauling supplies on their
back. Today, the Hōlua, Kapalaoa and Palikū cabins are still being
used as originally intended--to provide accommodation to visitors
hiking in the crater. Haleakalā Crater was designated as wilderness in

The three cabins are maintained by the National Park Service for
visitor use by advanced reservation. The Wilderness cabins are
accessible only by trail. To reach the cabins, you must hike a minimum
of 3.7 miles (5.9km) to Hōlua, 5.5 miles (8.9km) to Kapalaoa, and 9.3
miles (15km) to Palikū.

Requesting a Cabin: Reservations can be made up to 180 days in
advance at 7:00 AM HST. Reservations can be made on's call center phone number is

Big Island Volcano National Park has some camping shelters but I haven't experienced them:

Hawai'i Volcanoes Lodge Company also operates rustic camper cabins and
the campsites at the Nāmakanipaio campground.

The cabins sleep 4 (1 double bed and 2 bunk-style twin beds). Each
cabin has a picnic table, an outdoor barbecue grill and an outdoor
firepit. Reservations are required.

For more information please visit:

Posted by
2385 posts

If you're looking warm temps and plenty of sunshine all you have to do is drive down the hill from Kokee to the beaches below - it'll be 10-12 deg. warmer down there, ie ideal beach weather along one of the most underrated stretches of beach on the island at Kekaha.
Thanks to the effect of the prevailing northeast trade winds, the west side of the island sits in the rain shadow of Mt Waialeale and so is basically a desert. It's not unusual for the north and east shores to be socked in and for the west side to be sunny.
Kokee is basically a lush rainforest - lots of wild ginger and other flowers blooming along the roads and hiking paths, along with lots of songbirds ... many of them threatened or endangered species.
The North shore of Kauai is picture postcard beautiful but is still recovering from the flood damage of a few years ago. Believe they've instituted a park and shuttle service to minimize traffic beyond the one-lane bridge at Hanalei. The East side is a congested mess, with traffic approaching Oahu levels at certain times of day, which is why I think the west side is your best bet if you're looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience with a little jungle thrown in.

Yes we are locked and loaded for Kauai - I truly appreciate the scoop on sides of island and temperature variations.

Next question - we decided to rent a Westie camper van and tour around.

Does anyone have recommended campgrounds or travel agendas so that we can see the whole island?

We are starting at LIH on a Thursday morning and think we wil go south to get to the art market in Hanapepe on Friday.

After that we are still planning.

Any itinerary suggestions are welcome!

Posted by
5818 posts

Camping? You can reserve state park camping sites but note that state park campsites are not set up for camping vehicles:

Hawaiʻi’s State Park campgrounds are not set up for camping in
vehicles, including campers, vans and trailers. Sleeping in vehicles
in our campground parking lots is therefore not allowed. The single
exception to this rule is at Waiʻānapanapa State Park on Maui, which
has a small area designated for camper vans.

County of Kauai campgrounds:
Check maintenance closure days and note that a number of campgrounds are reported closed because of storm damage including:



Check with the camper van rental agency for possible vehicle camper sites. For example:

The vans are allowed anyplace on island (except Polihale State Park
and other dirt roads, unless specified) but camping must be done in
campgrounds. There are 6 county campgrounds, with 1 allowing car
camping, 3 private campgrounds which all allow car camping and 1 State

These private campgrounds are some of the best Kauai has to offer and
are not well known. No permits required. Reservations can only be made
online for Kumu camp and should be gotten in advance, while the YWCA
does not take reservations but just needs a call a few weeks in
advance to check for availability. They are usually quieter, cleaner,
you can sleep in the vans and they have hot showers!

You need to camp in permitted areas (or private camp areas):

Laws prohibiting unpermitted camping are enforced by county park
rangers during frequent early morning raids at public spaces and
ignored by prosecuting attorneys, who refuse to pursue cases against
people whose only crime is not living in a house.

Kauai County codes require anyone who camps on any public park between
5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to get a permit from the Department of Parks and
Recreation, but the statute limits the number of days to 60 a year.

It is against the law to sleep in a car overnight anywhere on Kauai
other than the public parks....

Posted by
396 posts

Definitely look at some guidebooks so that you can good idea of what there is to see on Kauai and how to get around. In addition to this forum, you could also go on the TripAdvisor Kauai forum and pick the brains of locals and frequent visitors.

Kauai is a small island. You could just stay in one location and drive around to your sightseeing. In fact, you could drive around the whole island (or a far as the road goes) in a couple of hours. Personally, I see no need for a campervan. But you are really late in your planning and may not find much availability for those cute little places.

It is really good to hear that we can drive the island in a few hours.
I thought with so much talk about the bad traffic that it would take along time to go around the island.
Thanks for that tidbit!

Posted by
396 posts

Yes, traffic is bad. But consider that without traffic it's only an hour from Princeville to Poipu. I haven't been there in the last few years, but I don't recall taking hours and hours to get around. I suppose that if you don't like to fight traffic, then you may want to stay one place on the south side and one place on the north. Hanalei would be my choice for the north area.

Posted by
526 posts

Look at Waimea Plantation Cottages on the southwest coast of Kauai. It is really a hotel which is made up of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom cottages spread out over a large parcel of land and they were previously worker’s homes from old sugar plantations on the island. We’ve stayed there five times over the last four years in several configurations and loved it every time. The town of Waimea is quaint and charming and the road to the Waimea Canyon, which is a must see on Kauai, begins there. Waimea Plantation Cottages is owned by Coast Hotels, a Canadian company who operates hotels in Canada and the US West Coast.


Posted by
5926 posts

IME you can not really drive all the way around the island (as far as the roads go) in a couple hours. Maybe 3 to 4 hours if all goes well. The roads are mostly 2-lane, often twisty, there's more than a little traffic, and its slow-going much of the time.

Get a guide book. Get THE guide book linked above. It has good advice on where to stay and how to plan our time, the advantages and disadvantages of staying in each part of the island and suggestions for accommodations in each area. While it sounds like you're not a fan of condos, neither am I, but I LOVED the condos we stayed in (loved them enough to come back and stay in the same ones on subsequent trips, and hope to do so again some day). So keep an open mind.

It's a beautiful place. Expensive though.

Posted by
526 posts

Take the Blue Hawaiian Eco Star helicopter tour of the island. About 55 minutes in length and a bit pricey, but absolutely worth every penny. It departs from the Lihue Airport and you will see places from the air that are inaccessible in any other way. The Na Pali cost can be seen from a boat, but after a long voyage from the south coast of the island. In April the ocean on that side can be pretty rough and the boats may not go that far north. You can, and should drive up the Waimea Canyon Road, to see the canyon, but the helicopter takes you down into it, as well as into the crater of the volcano. By the way, as David said, the road does not go all the way around the island. It actually runs from the northwest corner east to the eastern side of Kauai and continues all the way to the extreme southwest corner. It is a beautiful island that will steal your heart.

Posted by
1678 posts

I don’t know what you might find in lodging this late date. Get on it right away. Have a great trip.