Many RVers attempt to hit the ultimate camping bucket list: visiting all 50 U.S. states in a motorhome or travel trailer. What tends to elude them is the very last state. Because of its remote island location, Hawaii is not the easiest place to go RVing in…but it’s not impossible.
With a few adjustments to your expectations and some pre-planning, the 50th state can be just as fulfilling as the other 49.
However, you may not be able to head to the tropics in your own tried and true RV. Shipping a travel trailer or motorhome to the Hawaiian Islands costs about $3 to $5 per cubic foot. So a typical 19 to 20-foot motorhome could cost more than $6,000 to ship from the West Coast of the U.S. and it could take several weeks.
You can get a heck of a beachside condo rental for that price. Instead, some people opt to take a tent and rental car or rent a smaller camper van on the Big Island, Maui, or Oahu for much less.
1. Keep it simple with an RV rental
Both Oahu and the Big Island offer several campervan rentals. Keeping with the laid-back vibe of the islands, most of them are classic VW Westfalia vans with some fun colors, island-inspired decor, and amenities such as ice chests.
Hawaii Campers in Honolulu rents out their VW camper vans for about $155 per night—a deal in expensive Hawaii. North Shore Vans on Maui rents several Dodge and Chevy vans with interiors decorated with tropical prints and textures. These vans rent for about $130 per night and the company offers campground tips, linens, coolers, and beach chairs.
2. Prepare for country roads
Hawaii is not known for its wide and easily accessible highways and freeways like on the mainland. Many of the roads on each of the islands wind around the coast and the rugged inland, so most people tent camp or have a small van.
When planning your trip, make sure you have a good idea of where you want to go and keep an eye out for dirt roads—especially those that lead to beaches. The cities, like Honolulu, also tend to be congested, so plan your trip around rush hour. In addition, take a tip from the locals and don’t be in any hurry.
3. Choose your locations and get a permit
Hawaii is not a hotbed of RV parks. While it sounds romantic to pull up to a beach and sleep next to the sound of the waves, it’s illegal in the state to do this. Private campgrounds are the most prevalent option around and the islands do have state and county campgrounds.
A permit is required to camp at these government-run locations and can be obtained online. The two national parks in Hawaii: Haleakalā on Maui and Hawaii Volcanoes near Hilo on the Big Island both have two drive up campgrounds. Several of these campgrounds are first-come, first-served, and have limited resources and hookups.
4. Stock up on supplies
Hawaii is very limited when it comes to RV centers where you can fill up on propane or other supplies. If you need special care or supplies for your van or shipped motorhome, pick up what you need from super centers like Walmart or The Home Depot in the larger cities or bring them with you from home.
Smaller towns may not have the supplies you need, but they are usually full of local food and knowledge.
5. Save up the dough and take it easy
The high cost of fuel and food in Hawaii may be a shock to the frugal RVer. So, if you want to take this kind of trip, save up for the essentials but then just take it easy and enjoy the slower pace of life.
RV camping in Hawaii can be a totally unique experience as well as a top bucket list item. Where else can you enjoy ideal weather, sunsets, palm trees, surfing, and volcanoes all in one state?