Camping on Maui

Camping on Maui with Kids

Maui is an amazing destination to visit, but it can make for a very expensive trip. A great way to cut the cost is to turn it into a camping trip! Camping on Maui lessens the cost of your vacation and brings you closer to all the beauty the island has to offer!

Why Hawaii? Why Maui?

Hawaii is not just a beach destination. There are many different environments and the mountains/volcanos have just as much, if not more, to offer than the tropical side. Of course the beaches are pretty stunning as well, and you can find sand of nearly every color on Maui.

Three children in tie-dye shirts hold fruit, a tent is visible on the left and picnic tables throughout the foreground. Mountains and trees are in the background.
Tent Camping at Camp Olowalu on Maui

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A map of Maui showing terrain and highways, with cities and towns labeled
Map of Maui, Courtesy of Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

Haleakalā National Park is definitely a highlight of Maui, and you should plan to spend at least a couple of days there. If you can make your trip longer, a full week in the Park will allow you to really get a feel for it, but you’ll want to give yourself at least 3 days if you only have a week to spend on the island in total.

Image of three white children with blonde hair and sun hats standing on rocks above the clouds. The sun is shining on their faces.
Above the clouds in Haleakalā National Park

We spent over a week in the park, doing 5 days up in the crater of the dormant volcano, and then a few days on the Kipahulu side of the park at the end of the trip (these areas are not connected and you don’t want to do them in the same day, it will take you about two hours to drive down from the summit, and then 2-3 more hours to do the Road to Hana).

Make sure you get Junior Ranger booklets at the National Park visitors centers, the Haleakalā booklets are really long and fun!

Three kids at the ranger center with their Junior Ranger booklets and badges

Camping Maui

Maui Camping Cost Comparison

National Park campgrounds on Maui will cost you around $5/night. Many have stay limits of a few days to a week, but you could camp on Maui for 2 weeks and pay just $70.

A hotel on Maui is going to cost you $250-$1,000+ per night. That’s right, you can camp for two weeks for far less than what you will spend for one night in a hotel. There are some homestay and AirB&B options, but you aren’t likely to find anything under $250 (sometimes even when hotels look cheaper they have hefty resort fees, I saw one for $150/night plus $300/day resort fee).

A middle of the road cost would be an RV rental, though those will run in the $150/night range and will still add significant expense, but it will also cover your rental car (which if you’re camping is going to be your primary expense for the trip aside from the airfare).

Another middle of the road and super fun option is the Tentalows at Camp Olowalu (described in greater detail later on). There are tent sites ($10/night), single Tentalows ($150/night for 2p), and Family Tentalows ($200/night for 4p). We did a mix of these options, staying at a tent site for 2 nights, a Family Tentalow for 2 nights, and a single Tentalow for 1 night.

A canvas tent structure is shown on a grassy lawn, with trees and a sunset in the background.
Family Tentalow at Camp Olowalu

Maui Camping Benefits

The lower cost isn’t the only benefit to camping on Maui, but it’s a big one. As discussed above, you can take so much more time with a camping trip, allowing you to slow down and really spend time getting to know each place. Also being out in the elements helps you get to know a place better too!

Scenic Locations on Maui

Location is another major bonus of camping. I’ve taken camping trips on Maui several times in the past, and I’ve always been surprised that so many people would go to Maui any other way. Many campgrounds are on the most scenic parts of the island, and you get views you’d have to pay $500+ a night for otherwise, and some of the locations can only really be experienced with a tent.

Three children stand in front of a tent surrounded by lava rocks, the rim of a dormant volcano in the background while camping on Maui.
Hōlua campground in Haleakalā National Park’s backcountry

The campgrounds are all relatively isolated so you won’t feel like a tourist, and you’ll have lots of space for kids to run around and play (there are some exceptions to this in the National Park, more about that later).

Sunrise and Sunset at Haleakalā

Camping in Haleakalā allows for a drastically (by many hours!) reduced commute time for sunrise or sunset, and if you’re going to Maui you really should see at least a sunrise or sunset from 10,000 feet.

If you camp in Hosmer Grove, you’re already at nearly 7,000 feet elevation, and have just a short drive in the morning – this is the difference between leaving Lahaina at 2:30am (which probably means waking up at least by 2am) and just rolling out of bed at 5:30am at Hosmer Grove.

Image of three kids holding lanterns wearing down jackets and standing on a curb, they're above the clouds which show sunset in the baackground.
Just after sunset at Haleakalā, watched from Kalahaku

I find it’s easier to get kids moving from a tent than from a bed too, so we really just rolled out of bed and hopped in the car and were on our way in less than 10 minutes. We watched sunrises and sunsets from Kalahaku, which is a beautiful spot and way less crowded than watching from the summit.

Image of a whiteboard with text about Sunset Viewing options. Lists trails, elevations, and notes.

Stars

When you’re camping you pay more attention to the stars because you’re already outside, and Hawaii has some amazing stars! The night sky from Haleakalā is truly incredible, but even in areas with some light pollution the stars are still fantastic.

Kids sit on a picnic table in a lighted gazebo in the dark
Stars starting to come out at Camp Olowalu

Downsides to Camping on Maui

Packing will be a lot trickier. Packing for camping with a plane trip is always going to take a bit more planning. Even if you’re a fairly minimalist camper, it’s difficult to pack everything for a plane trip. Whether you’re backpacking or not, you’ll want to pack like you are!

Additionally, because of the different environments you’ll likely be in, you’ll be packing for beach, desert, mountain, rainforest. You pretty much need all the things.

Three wet kids stand under a double rainbow with palm trees in the background

Showers can be tricky, but most beaches have showers you can use after swimming. There are no showers in the summit district of Haleakala, and after our 5 days there we were pretty dirty. I knew this would happen and made our next stop Camp Olowalu, where there are showers!

Three kids in bathing suits holding towels use an outdoor shower on a wooden platform. The sun is shining on the mountains in the background.
An outdoor shower at Camp Olowalu. There are also lots of more private shower options.

If you camp there aren’t any pools, and there are some amazing pools at some of the luxury resorts on Maui. The resorts themselves have so much to do and are so beautiful that some people end up spending most of their time there and never see the incredible natural landscapes Hawaii has to offer – no judgement here, I’m sure it would be a really fun and relaxing vacation… but it’s also just out of most people’s price range.

Laundry is more difficult. We stayed for 2 weeks and got pretty dirty, were able to handwash items when we stayed at Camp Olowalu and hang them to dry. Our first few days at Olowalu were hot and sunny and things dried very fast, then rains came and things were not drying out. Since we spent almost all our time outdoors, being totally fresh and clean wasn’t a huge priority; I made sure everyone had clean underwear and then rotated through their clothes, saving a fresh set for the day we spent at the aquarium.

A bed with three kids in it inside a canvas Tent, with laundry hung up in the background.
Drying some laundry on a clothesline inside a Tentalow

Backpacking on Maui

Why Backpack Maui?

Many parts of the crater are too far for a day hike for younger kids, but if you take your time backpacking in one day and then out a different day, you can see most of it with only 4-6 mile days! And by spending a night or two in the crater you get to really experience the environment up close.

Three children in down jackets and backpacks touch hands in front of a sunrise.
Backpacking out of Haleakalā crater at sunrise

I always feel like I really get to know a place most at sunset, nighttime, and sunrise. Everything is more still, and you can be more still to just observe the landscape around you.

Sunset in a dormant volcano, last rays of sun on the cliffs in the background, a tent located in the brushy foreground with a child walking out from it.
Sunset at Hōlua backcountry campground in Haleakalā National Park

It also gives you the opportunity for better weather if you spend several days camping in the park (flip side, you have a little less flexibility in when you go since you have to get your permits ahead of time, so can’t choose a better weather window like you probably could for a day hike).

Backpacking Haleakala – Backcountry Campgrounds

There are two backcountry campgrounds, Hōlua and Palikū. On this trip we camped two nights at Hōlua and spent our middle day day-hiking into the crater. Palikū is a much longer hike; you could make this a loop with one night at each campground but then your last day you’d hike up the Keonehe’ehe’e Trail (Sliding Sands) which is 9 miles (or back the way you came on Halemau’u which is over 10 miles).

Three kids in backpacking gear stand by a sign telling mileage to backcountry locations.

There is more detail on the campgrounds in the Trip Itinerary later on.

You access Hōlua by the 3.9 mile Halemauʻu Trail. The trail starts at the Halemauʻu parking area at 8,000 feet elevation, drops to the bottom of the crater, and then gradually climbs back up for the last mile as you’re approaching the campground.

A green mountain with switchbacks going down it
Switchbacks down the Halemauʻu Trail

You will want to make sure you have plenty of water for this hike because of the heat and elevation, and also be prepared to hike in clouds. Weather can change very fast. Also have sun and rain protection, and a puffy jacket.

Three kids with backpacks standing in front of a mountain with switchbacks going down it
Successful backpackers finishing the Halemau’u Trail

Backcountry Cabins

One way to cut the amount of gear you need to backpack with is renting one of the three backcountry cabins. The cabins are nearby the two tent sites, with a third cabin at Kapalaoa Cabin located between the summit and Palikū on the Keonehe’ehe’e Trail. Renting each cabin one night would mean your hikes are 4-6 miles per day; cabins cost $75/night and can be rented 6 months in advance.

Downsides to Backpacking

We brought all of our backpacking gear rather than any car camping gear because of the Haleakala trip. I considered bringing two tents (our lightweight backpacking tent that packs down small [Tarptent Hogback], and our more comfortable car camping tent [Marmot Limelight 4p]), but I decided against it because of how much stuff we were already bringing.

On a longer trip taking a larger more comfortable tent might be the area I’d deviate from the “pack as if for backpacking” rationale. Our normal car camping tent is reasonably small, and is much better in the rain because it has usable vestibules. It is too heavy for backpacking at 8 pounds, but we would have been a lot more comfortable in Kipahulu in that tent.

Three kids stand in front of a pink jeep after dark, with tons of luggage in the foreground.
I carried the luggage cart with the kids’ two backpacking backpacks inside the green duffel, their rainbow clothes duffel, my pink clothes duffel, and my 85L backpacking pack.

Because we needed to bring three overnight backpacks, we couldn’t just pack all of our stuff in duffel bags or a large suitcase on the plane. Having two pieces of wheeled luggage would have been awesome and worked fine for car camping, having so many backpacks meant I just had straps all over the place as we walked from the airport to the rental car, but it’s a fairly short walk and we managed. It was also harder to organize within the vehicle with so many small bags (which backpack had the cooking stuff again?)

You can buy pack cover bags for your backpacks, but I wasn’t sure they’d be worth the expense (I’ve checked backpacks on planes a dozen times and never had issues, but when you NEED that pack for your backpacking trip it is a little nerve-wracking so the pack cover bags might be worth the piece of mind).

The two kids’ backpacks (38L and 40L) fit perfectly in a large army duffel bag I borrowed from a friend. This cut down on the number of smaller pieces of luggage to carry around, and also protected the packs! It also gave me some space for some small odds and ends.

Two kids walking away from the camera wearing backpacks, one red one blue; mountains in the background.
Kids backpacks for the trip. 7yo Osprey Ace 38L, 9yo REI Tarn 40L.

I found the transition between car camping and backpacking difficult. It’s one thing to repack your gear when you’re doing either car camping or backpacking, but doing both added some packing stress.

Packing for Camping on Maui via Plane

What to Bring

We have comprehensive packing lists HERE, and we brought all the usual camping supplies. We used our Tarptent Hogback 4p tent (see our review of this tent HERE), two double Big Agnes insulated Q-core sleeping pads, two kids REI down sleeping bags, and a double Sierra Designs backcountry bed down bag. You’ll want to have warm bags and insulated sleeping bags if you’re camping in the crater, temps can get down to freezing and we saw snow while we were there!

The inside of a tent shows green camp pads and red and purple sleeping bags
Home for two weeks

One thing you won’t want to skip will be a clothesline (or two, especially if you’ll be handwashing some clothes, but they’re great for hanging up rain gear and swimsuits too). You’ll also want sunhats, sandals, hiking boots, full rain gear, and down jackets. We used our down jackets as much if not more than our rain jackets, but both were essential to the trip.

Don’t skip rain pants if you’re going to Kipahulu as it’s very wet. Sometimes you’ll be happy to hike in the rain in shorts and sandals, but we had numerous times that we were really glad to have rain pants.

You’ll also want to bring sunscreen, and make sure it is Reef-Safe sunscreen.

Picture of a girl with sunscreen dotted all over her arm

What You Cannot Bring on a Plane

Fuel is the major thing you cannot bring on a plane (carry-on or checked luggage). If you are using a propane stove, you can get that just about anywhere. Our backpacking stove uses isobutane, which is quite a bit harder to find.

Cooking breakfast in the dark, an isobutane fuel canister and stove is shown with some backpacking meals spread out on the grass.
MSR Pocket Rocket stove with isobutane fuel, this was the only stove I brought

I bought my isobutane fuel at Marmac Ace Hardware (1 Laa St, Kahului, HI 96732). I have bought it there 3 trips in a row and they’ve always had it in stock, but I do always mean to call a week ahead just to check their stock.

If you have any questions about what camping supplies you can bring on a plane, make sure to check this TSA webpage or use the AskTSA service.

Maui Camping Rental Gear Options

I’m rather particular about my camping gear, and if you plan on backpacking with kids I don’t think renting is the best option. If you don’t have camping gear or just don’t want to deal with packing it on the plane and want to give it a try, there are several rental options, and it will save you a lot of hassle at the airport.

Maui Vacation Equipment rents a full array of camping gear, priced based on what options you choose. You can also rent coolers, beach chairs, hard frame packs, and can customize what stuff you need and what you don’t. They also have a camping stove bundle which would guarantee you have the fuel you need when you arrive.

Maui Camping Company has three kit options: “minimalist”, “not too shabby”, and “shameless glamper”; they range from $225-325/week.

Vehicle Rental

The one major expense of our trip was the vehicle rental. If you’re camping I suggest splurging a little bit on a large vehicle, don’t try to do it in a compact car if you’re bringing kids. We rented a Jeep from Turo, and it cost us $98/day, plus taxes and fees.

A minivan is a great option too, and while it’s less fun than a Jeep it will give you a lot more space to spread out. I went back and forth between a van and the Jeep and am glad I was a little less practical because I LOVE driving Jeeps.

Three children stand in front of a pink Jeep holding a sign that says "aloha"

Another consideration is carseats. If you have more than 2 kids, make sure that your rental vehicle can accommodate the number of carseats you have, or use another option (we used Ride Safer vests).

Three kids in a car wearing brightly colored car seat vests, in a Jeep with the roof folded back.
Enjoying a little Jeep top down time in their Ride Safer vests.

Food

After the flight and vehicle, your last big expense will be food. But you’ll be eating even if you’re home, and there is no reason this has to be an extraordinary expense.

I did pack all our backpacking meals, because I wanted to be sure we had favorites that everyone would like (current favorites are Peak Refuel Chicken Alfredo Pasta and Chicken Pesto Pasta, and Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy and Pasta Primavera).

I brought out a whole duffel bag filled with camp meals, and it really simplified the time at the backcountry sites and the dinners at Hosmer Grove. We spent the days hiking and having camp meals meant we could eat them quickly wherever we were. It is an added expense but it was worth it for the part of the trip in the summit district.

Three white kids in charcoal shirts are eating chicken pesto pasta with sporks and smiling.
Enjoying one of our favorite backpacking meals after a long hike

I did bring a few new ones to try, but mostly concentrated on the staples for the time spent in the crater. I ended up trying a new egg dish in the backcountry and the kids would not eat it, and I couldn’t finish it. So I had to pack it out, and it was heavy!

We also brought some of our favorite snacks, like Heather’s Choice Packaroons and a variety of our favorite energy bars and jerky. But we bought a lot of that sort of stuff at the grocery store too, along with basics for making sandwiches and other quick meals.

We also ate out a few times. Most notably, at Kamala’s Kitchen, the pizza place right across the highway from Camp Olowalu. It was fantastic and we had it 3 times (they have lots of fun flavors but the Margherita is just perfection).

Three kids eating pizza and drinking juice, with mountains in the background.
Devouring pizza at Kamala’s Kitchen in Olowalu

Water

We stocked up on a few of the 2.5-gal water jugs at the grocery store, but we were able to find potable water many places. Hosmer Grove has a potable water spout at every campsite and a sink by the outhouses. Kipahulu has potable water at the Visitor’s Center (about half a mile walk). Camp Olowalu has potable water at many locations.

The backcountry campgrounds in Haleakalā National Park have water located next to the cabins (a short walk from the campground), dependent on season. In the summer it’s possible there is no water available, and that would change your packing enormously due to the quantity you need in the heat and elevation. All water in the backcountry needs to be filtered.

For water filtration I brought a LifeStraw Gravity filter (which I LOVE), and some iodine tablets as backup. The gravity filter was the perfect system for this trip. I always found a place to hang it (the livestock hitching post at Holua cabin was perfect), or I slung the strap over my shoulder or attached it to my pack.

A white child with a blue hat and pink balaclava drinks out of a hydration reservoir straw, black sand in the background
Drinking out of the LifeStraw Gravity filter hose while hiking

In addition to water, I needed to bring salts. My body needs a lot of salt and especially hiking at elevation in heat (coming from Alaska where I avoid hiking in heat pretty easily). I went through way more of the LMNT packets than I would normally, hiking at elevation has always been hard for me (but the kids seemed almost unaffected by the elevation!).

Water bottle with salt hydration packet pictured on lava rocks
LMNT salt in the best flavor, Mango Chili

Camping on Maui Trip Itinerary

We had two weeks on Maui, and it felt like a good amount of time. I could have pushed it longer but the kids were pretty ready to be home so I think 1.5-2 weeks is plenty of time to see everything but not get burnt out.

Yard Stay in Wailuku

  • $70/night, check in after 6pm, leave before 7am

The first night our flight arrived at 9:30pm. This meant that by the time we got our luggage and found our Turo rental, it was 10:30pm. I did not want to drive hours to the National Park to set up our tent that night, and needed to be able to buy food and fuel in the morning.

This meant staying somewhere around Kahului. I couldn’t find anywhere under $200, so I decided to book an AirB&B listing for a yard. You park your car in the fenced yard and have access to a port-a-potty. It cost $70 but was worth it to just know we were going somewhere safe with a bathroom on our first night.

There are showers, laundry, wifi, and pool access. We didn’t use any of those things, but this might make for a good stop if you’re in need of those amenities during a camping trip but don’t want to pay hotel prices.

We had a truly awful first night’s sleep in the Jeep. We had the option to set up a tent, but tents needed to be taken down by 6am (and checkout was at 7am) and I didn’t think it was worth it. At 2am though I was regretting that (and not getting a minivan) as kids kept waking up saying how uncomfortable they were!

That said, I would do this again. It was simple, and made it easy to get a really early start that next morning. We headed to Krispy Kreme, then got food and fuel, and headed up to Haleakalā.

Hosmer Grove: Haleakalā National Park Frontcountry

  • $5/night, max stay 3 nights
  • 6 sites

Located in a eucalyptus forest at 7,000 feet elevation, Hosmer Grove is a great place to start your exploration of the summit district of Haleakalā. As stated above, you’ll be a lot closer to places to watch sunset/sunrise. You also can make sure everyone has acclimated to the elevation a little before making your way up to 10,000 feet.

A picnic table and stake marking the location of campsite number one on a grassy area, with clouds rolling in the background.
Campsite 1 at Hosmer Grove

A sunrise reservation (you can only drive past the entrance gate during the wee hours of the morning with a valid reservation) is automatically included the first morning of your trip, so you don’t need to bother with making that reservation separately.

Three kids stand on rocks overlooking a volcanic crater as the sun rises above the clouds in the background.
Sunrise above the clouds

Hosmer Grove also has a wonderful nature trail that winds its way through eucalyptus and other non-native trees (planted in an effort to stabilize the slope after years of ranching), which then leads you into the native shrubland. You’ll see and hear some amazing birds on this beautiful trail.

Kids at a nature trail overlook with interpretive signage and large binoculars, looking out over native Hawaiian plants.
Nature Trail overlook

We walked the trail 5 times while we were there (the kids couldn’t get enough of it!). There’s a bench at the top that is a nice spot to watch sunset; it’s not as great of a view as driving up a bit higher into the park but was perfect the night before going up for sunrise as we wanted to get to bed early.

Three kids sit on a bench in a native Hawaiian shrubland holding up dehydrated meals, the sun is setting in the background.
Sunset from Hosmer Grove

Camping here you’ll want to be prepared for cold and wet. It regularly gets to around freezing in the “winter” here, and clouds move in fast and bring moisture with them. You’ll probably be in the clouds at least part of the time you’re camped here, which is really fun.

A tent glowing from a lantern inside, shown in the dark with trees and some stars starting to appear
Tent at Hosmer Grove after sunset

This campground has potable water, grills, pit toilets, a covered area for cooking, and picnic tables at each site. The endangered Nēnē goose also frequents this campground!

Two nene geese are walking around the potable water on a grassy lawn
Nēnē around the potable water area at Hosmer Grove campground

Hōlua: Haleakala National Park backcountry

  • $8/trip (regardless of how many nights), max stay 3 nights
  • 5 sites

Hōlua is located inside the crater, at 7,000 feet elevation. My favorite site is #1, it has some shade and is surrounded by lava rocks. It’s also close to the bathroom but not too close!

View of a tent and backpacking gear at a campsite surrounded by lava rock and shrubs.
Campsite #1 at Hōlua

There are 5 sites total, #5 is the group site and has a nice grassy lawn area which is great for kids to burn off some energy.

Three kids hugging on a grassy area with sun setting in the background
Some hugs after wrestling to burn off energy before bed

One of the unexpectedly hardest parts of the backpacking trips was that the kids needed to run around after staying on a tiny narrow trail (funny because I was always exhausted and just wanted to sit and they had energy to burn after the hikes!), and the campground didn’t really provide much opportunity for that as it is a very fragile ecosystem and they can’t just run off anywhere. So we made use of the grassy area by #5 and a large flat slab of rock by #1.

Three children playing on a rock slab after sunset with a tent and some cliffs towering behind.
The rock slab that was our other hangout spot

We spent 2 nights camping in the crater so that our middle day we could hike off and explore and the kids didn’t need to wear packs. That middle day we took a 5 mile hike to see Pele’s Paint Pot and Kawilinau. This hike takes you past so many different colors of sand and lava rock, interesting formations and textures, and tons of Silverswords.

Three children standing on a reddish orange sandy trail in a volcanic crater, looking off into the distance
Day hiking into the middle of the crater

Camp Olowalu

  • Tent Camping: $10/night
  • Car Camping: $30/night/adult, $10/night/child
  • Single Tentalow (2p): $150/night
  • Family Tentalow (4p): $200/night
  • Cabins: $1,650/night for use of all 6 cabins (each sleeps 6p)

Camp Olowalu is an amazing place that offers tent camping and “glamping” in the form of Tentalows. We spent our first two nights here in a tent site, the next two nights in a Family Tentalow, and then the last night at the end of our trip in a Single Tentalow.

Two girls stand on the deck of the wood bathroom building, with plants and grass surrounding them.
One of the shared bathrooms for the tent sites.

All areas have access to shared restrooms and showers (Tentalows have their own showers inside the unit). And the grounds are just beautiful!

Three kids sit on a grassy lawn with art supplies or run around, mountains and palm trees in the background
The lawn area by the Family Tentalows

Camp Olowalu Tent Camping

The tent sites are located closest to the water in a dirt area surrounded by lush vegetation (some of it very spiky!). It was dry the two days we camped there, but in the following days it got very wet and water pooled around the dirt areas (some sites more than others).

A tent campground with sand and dirt in the foreground, sunny blue skies in the background.
Part of Camp Olowalu’s tent area, picture taken from the beach

There were lots of showers and bathrooms (designated bathrooms for certain camping areas), and the bathrooms were really nice and had sinks with running water).

Camp Olowalu Car Camping

Car camping is off the main parking lot for tent camping, and each car gets a small area to park and a grill, access to showers and bathrooms. It looked like a really fun area if you have a camper van, or even for sleeping in your minivan (maybe not for sleeping in your Jeep with kids!).

This would be a good option for that first night if you’re arriving late, the reason we didn’t do this is because I didn’t want to do the beach first, but it would have been cheaper than the Yard Stay!

Camp Olowalu Tentalows

Staying in the Tentalows was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. They were SO FUN. Definitely a splurge compared with what we spent on the other nights, but amazing to have canvas over our heads, places to dry and organize our gear, and a private sink and shower.

Camp Olowalu’s site has lots of nice pictures of their Tentalows without occupants, but if you want to see what it will look like to stay there with kids after a backpacking trip… here you go!

Inside of a canvas tent, showing 4 beds and clothes hung on a clothesline and strewn about the room
Unpacking in the Family Tentalow

The shower is in the back of the Tentalow in an uncovered part. It felt amazing to take a private outdoor shower, and be able to have all our dry gear spread out on the beds so it was easy to change (unlike cramming 4 people into one of the regularly sized showers where there just doesn’t seem to be room to separate all the wet gear from dry gear and not make a mess of everything!).

An outdoor shower and sink area in the back of a canvas tent are shown, with a girl in a dress standing at the entrance to the tent.
Shower and sink areas in the back of the Family Tentalow

Bathrooms for Tentalows are shared, but very close by. I preferred the size of the Family Tentalows for us, but there are many more Single Tentalows and they are cheaper.

There were 4 single beds in the Family Tentalow, and 4 chairs on the large front porch that overlooked a grassy common area.

View of a grassy lawn area between 3 canvas tents, the foreground is shaded by trees.
Family Tentalow Common Area
View from a porch of a canvas tent of two chairs with a towel draped over them; two children play on the grassy lawn in the background.
View of lawn area from Family Tentalow Porch

There were 2 single beds in the Single Tentalows, but they actually worked just fine when pushed together to sleep the 4 of us comfortably. You can request extra cots but they’re $25/night and we like to snuggle.

Three kids in a bed inside a canvas tent holding up their stuffed animals

The Single Tentalows have a smaller front porch, and 2 chairs. It was a little crowded for the 4 of us up there, especially when it was pouring rain. There are covered pavilions around the grounds for additional shelter.

Three kids examining their coconut haul with the front porch of a canvas tent in the background
Examining our coconut haul with the front porch of the single Tentalow behind

The Single Tentalows are located closer together than the Family Tentalows, but I never heard our neighbors here even though every Tentalow was occupied.

View of neighboring canvas tents and picnic tables on a grassy lawn with palm trees.
Single Tentalows at Camp Olowalu

There is a small beach at Camp Olowalu. The water is very shallow and stays shallow until it gets out to the reef. It’s a great spot to see turtles and go snorkeling. Camp Olowalu doesn’t rent snorkeling gear but they do rent kayaks and paddleboards, and have tours available.

Over/under the water picture out from shore at Camp Olowalu

Kipahulu: Haleakala National Park Frontcountry

  • $8/reservation (max 3 nights)
  • 20 sites

Kipahulu is located on the east side of the island (south of Hana), where it is very wet. This part of the island is very remote, with limited services for hours and only one gas station (located in Hana). There is no ocean access from this area, but you can walk out to the rocky cliffs and watch the waves crashing beneath you.

A tent and picnic table shown during a rainstorm, with palm trees in the background
The rain was torrential at Kipahulu and this is not uncommon, though this was a very sizeable storm

The sites along the water are beautiful and located under trees, but are very exposed to the wind. Our site (#12) was also really wind-exposed, the sites further from the ocean were much more protected.

You should plan for rain and bring full rain gear (jackets, pants, waterproof boots). Even with all the right things, you may still end up soaked at the end of your stay if you’re out hiking.

Three kids in bright rain jackets walking up a stone stairway in the pouring rain
Hiking trail by Kipahulu Campground

The campground is located close to the Pipiwai Trail and ‘Ohe’o Gulch. All areas of the Kipahulu district are closed to swimming and have been for years, and if I’d realized that I would have made this a shorter part of the trip; instead of booking 3 nights out here I think 2 nights is plenty.

Other Campground Options

Pride of Maui does a beautiful job laying out these campground options on a map and giving details about each.

  • Palikū (Wilderness site in Haleakala)
  • Wai’anapanapa State Park 
  • Papalau Wayside Park
  • Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area (cabin through Maui State Parks, $100/night)
  • Camp Keanae

Other Notes

Entrance fees to enter the Haleakala National Park are $30 for a 3-day pass. If you might go to other US National Parks or are spending more than 3 days, just buy the Annual Parks pass for $80.

If you make a reservation at a National Park campground and don’t show up, you will be charged a fee. Make sure you fill out an arrival card and drop it in the box at Hosmer Grove or Kipahulu.

Lessons Learned

What would I do differently next trip?

I think the trip worked out really well, but one thing that was probably not wise is having our last 3 nights be in the wettest part of the island (Kipahulu). A huge storm front rolled in with flash flooding and road closures, and we ended up leaving Kipahulu a day early to try to dry out our gear before packing for the plane (and because the lightning storms were pretty terrifying). Even with the extra day in a Tentalow at the end I ended up packing a lot of wet gear up in dry bags and trash bags.

Looking inside a canvas tent to see children tumbling on the bed
Single Tentalow with two beds pushed together.

I had booked the trip in this order because I wanted to give us a beach break after the backpacking trip, and make sure that we could really relax and have showers. I should have known that Kipahulu is pretty much always wet, and with the amount of hiking we’d planned to do there we’d be having issues with wet gear.

Planning the last night in a Tentalow or at the Yard stay in Wailuku with access to laundry would have helped. I’ll also pack even more dry bags next time!

What went well?

Most of the trip was really great, and we had enough days in each place that we never felt rushed and really got to know each place. We packed our tent up a lot of times but always had at least 2 nights in each location.

I’m glad I brought all of our backpacking meals, and kept it simple for cooking. We used a small cooler and stopped for groceries every 4-5 days.

Three children in rain jackets walk down a paved, palm-tree lined path
The road to Camp Olowalu

Camp on Maui

If you’ve ever thought you’d like to take a trip to Maui but are put off by the prices, know that there is another way! And it will make for a really memorable and reasonably priced vacation.

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Camping on Maui with Kids

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  • Kristin grew up in Western Massachusetts but moved north to Alaska in 2008 in search of more snow and bigger mountains. She homeschools her three children and tries to spend as much time as possible learning outside. Kristin loves hiking, camping, puddle stomping, laughing, igloo building, reading, science, baking, photography, and watching the sun go down from on top of a mountain; and is passionate about sharing her enthusiasm for the natural world and her knowledge of the gear that can get you out there in every kind of weather. She works part-time from home as an Environmental Scientist and technical editor.

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