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Kalalau Camping

Camping in Kalalau, Kauai

Ah, the great outdoors.

The Kalalau camping area is where you can kick off your shoes and put on slippers …

… get some rest …

The Kalalau Series:
This is the third post in a five-part series on Kalalau. More from the series:

… and take a shower in a waterfall. (Clothing optional.)

We camped in Kalalau for 3 nights. I haven’t camped since I was a little kid so any type of camping would have been fun. Kalalau camping was on another level though. You have no cell phone signal, the only supplies you have are those you backpacked in with, and the only way to get out is to hike the 11 miles Kalalau Trail back to civilization. (In an emergency though, you could hitch a ride on a fishing or tour boat back to town.)

It’s all relative but for most of us, this was roughing it. We were grimy, living off of limited supplies, and pooping in the bushes. So why do it? Well what you get in return for giving up the comforts of home is seclusion. No contact with the outside world means no stress. You have adventure during the day and relaxation at night. Your only real concern is maintaining your water supply. Other than that, you can just cruise, talk story or sit quietly and listen to the chirping of birds and crashing of waves.

I know that what I’m writing here may sound silly to you, being that I live in Hawaii, but I live in Honolulu. Like, right next to Waikiki. I love the convenience of living in Town, but there’s tons of sirens and city noise around me and ice-heads occasionally roam the streets outside my building. Every night, someone randomly screams at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason. I run out to the lanai to see what’s going on and, silence. It’s weird.

So what I’m saying is, even though I live in Hawaii I still enjoy “getting away.” Camping was good times.


We had two two-person tents and one three-person tent for the seven of us. When we packed the two-person tents, one guy got the stakes, poles and tarp, the other got the tent and rain cover. I’m not sure how the girls split up the three-person tent. Splitting up the weight this way helped a lot.

The hardest thing for me to get used to was not having a chair to sit on. We either sat on rocks or a sleeping pad. It’s amazing how quickly you miss having a chair with a back to lean against and armrests. We saw a couple hiking out of the valley with chairs strapped to their packs and they said it made a huge difference. They was right. That said, if you can find the right rock and position it a certain way, it’s not too bad.

The camp areas are all in the forest. The trees provide welcome shade. There are caves along the beach that people camp in but I think they are typically already occupied.

Here’s Jen taking a break from the rocks. I was considering not bringing a sleeping pad at first. I thought I would be so tired at night that I could just fall asleep anywhere. But once the first night fell, I was so happy I brought the pad. It felt so good to lay on something soft. Definitely bring one is my advice.

Cory brought a bunch of big nails for hanging things. Keeping your pack off the ground will help keep it dry if it rains and keep some of the bugs off em. When you tap the nails into these trees (using a stone) red sap drips out and the tree looks like it’s crying blood like the trees in Game of Thrones. (If you got that reference then you rule and I’d like to give you a *nerd high-five*.)

I get destroyed by mosquitoes. People say it’s because I’m Asian and from the mainland. I brought a bunch of coils and surrounded our campsite with smoke. I like the smell of these things for some reason. When someone lights one on their porch or in the backyard it reminds me of camping when I was a kid. So in Kalalau, we were camping and when I smelled the smoke it reminded me of camping and … whoa … I just Inceptioned myself.


Water is plentiful. You only need to bring water to drink during the hike in. Once you arrive, you can walk to the waterfall and fill up your water bottles and jugs after the naked people finish showering. Those plastic pipes are there for you to direct water to your body or to a water jug.

I hear the water in Kalalau is pretty clean but we didn’t want to take any chances. For the water bottles we used a UV pen to kill any microbes swimming around.

For the jugs we used iodine tablets and chlorine tablets. Iodine tablets are better because they only require 30 minutes to work. Chlorine takes a good 4 hours.


We brought dehydrated food. Some of us had 8 meals each. As it turns out we didn’t need that much. What I would recommend for 3 nights is 4 meals each and a lot of snacks. Cereal bars or instant oatmeal would be good for breakfast. Instant ramen would be good for lunch. For dinner you can make a bunch of dehydrated meals and share. Each dehydrated meal is supposed to be 2 servings. We realized that variety in you meals is the key to happiness.


The crew also went out to grab opihi off the rocks. Opihi is a sea snail that’s a delicacy in Hawaii.

They were able to find some off the shore right in front of our camp site.

The day’s yield was good.

Firewood can be found in the Kalalau Valley (just a short walk from camp). You won’t find much around the camp sites. What you want in a good log is something short (so it’s easy to carry) a and thick (so it burns slow). But collect thin and medium thick branches too as you’ll need them to build up your fire. You can use toilet paper and leaves as kindling. Tossing a bunch of matches in the kindling will help you out a lot as well.

When the sun sets, you know what time it is.

(No, not that.) It’s time to make dinner.

Water for the dehydrated meals is boiled over our mini propane stoves and the seafood is cooked over the fire.

Nothing brings people together like a good meal.

And a good fire.

Tips for camping in Kalalau:

  • Snacks and treats: It’s worth the added weight on your pack. On the second and third day, candy tastes amazing. Some ideas: Sour Patch Kids, hot cocoa, marsh mellows, chips, dried fruit and nuts.
  • Caffeine: Instant coffee and 5hr Energy is good.
  • Sleeping: A sleeping pad is must. I didn’t need a pillow. Rolled up t-shirts were fine. I didn’t bring a blanket though. I wore long hiking pants and my windbreaker jacket to sleep. It got chilly from around 3am-5am and but I was nice and toasty in the tent.
  • Tent: Get a nice tent made for hikers. They are much lighter than the ones made for general camping.
  • Location: Try to find a camping area as close to the beach and waterfall shower as possible. It’ll just be more convenient.
  • String and Hooks: This will come in handy for hanging stuff on trees. You’ll want to keep things like your pack, water and rubbish bags off of the ground.
  • Clothesline: You’ll need one so bring some rope.
  • Fire: bring a lighter and matches.
  • Clothes: Pack light, you don’t need much. I thought I packed light and I still had extra clean clothes after the trip.
  • Slippers: Bring some. Good ones. You don’t want to be walking around camp in shoes or barefoot.
  • Showering: You shower in a waterfall and it’s awesome. Bring a camp towel so you’re not freezing as you walk back to camp. You’ll need soap because you’re gonna get dirty during the day. Face and body wipes will help you freshen up before you go to sleep. Your tent mate will probably appreciate it as well and vice versa.
  • Music: Cory had speakers and it was nice to have music here and there.
  • Booze: Bring plenty. It’ll be worth it after a long day of hiking.
  • Pooping: Dig a hole poop, wipe, burn the TP, bury. Then tell your buddies that you made a successful doodie because they always seem to want to know. Seriously.

The Kalalau Series

This is the third post in a 5-part series on Kalalau. See more from this series:

This story was last modified on July 20, 2015. (Originally published in July 2011.)

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