Dirt Bag Camping on Hawaii’s Big Island

King Kamehameha
King Kamehameha

In the last post I discussed how we decided to come to the Big Island (to add a free segment onto a transatlantic ticket) and how we got there on a standby nonrev ticket. We had no hotel reservations because we were flying standby, and we weren’t sure where we going to be when.  Since we had a confirmed ticket to return from Kona, we booked two free nights at the Sheraton Kona using Starwood points for 10K points per night for our last two nights.

Sheraton Kona
Sheraton Kona

After we had decided to visit the Big Island, we searched online for the best guidebook to use.  When we went to the Hawaii forum on TripAdvisor, we saw many reviews for guidebooks. I noticed that there were many posts bashing the Hawaii Revealed series.  They said that the author included places to visit that government agencies didn’t want you to visit (horrors), and that he encouraged you to trespass on private property.  Immediately I knew this guide book was right up my alley and we bought it.  It was one of the best decisions we made.  Author Doughty has also written guidebooks on Oahu, Maui and Kauai, but we purchased Hawaii The Big Island Revealed , available on his website and at Amazon, etc.  Doughty really does tell you all the best places to visit.  The reviews of his book on TripAdvisor were all hyperbole, as he doesn’t encourage trespassing at all.

A couple of weeks before we left for the trip, a couple of our friends, David and Sarah, decided to join us, and they booked free tickets to Kona from California with AA miles.  They had been camping and climbing in Yosemite, and decided to bring camping gear with them.  At the last minute, Sarah’s father decided to join us.  He had just sold his sailboat and had been hanging around the island of Oahu.  As it turned out, all five of us landed at the Kona airport within two hours of each other.  David and Sarah had reserved a rental car, but with five of us he decided to trade it in for a van.

At this point it was about 10 pm and we had to decide where we were going to stay that night.  We are all crazy and are bad influences on each other, so we decided we would see if we could just find a place to pull off the road that night instead of trying to find a last minute hotel for 5.  We stopped at WalMart and bought a cheap tent and ice chest, coffee cups, and sleeping pads (we had packed our sleeping bags “just in case”),  David and Sarah already had a camping stove and their gear.  We left Kona about midnight and headed north on the upper road out of Kona.

After about 30 minutes of driving, we found a place to pull off the road and sleep.  Two of us slept in the van, and the others just spread their bags out on the ground.  We had a comfortable night and no one bothered us.  We decided that we would try this every night that we could.  Not only did we want to save money, but we wanted to stay outdoors.  There are campgrounds, but they have to be reserved ahead of time, and we weren’t able to do that.  We make fun of ourselves and call this “dirt bag camping,” because some people think we are dirt bags for wanting to camp “free.”

As it turned out we were able to do this every night for the two weeks that we were there until it was time for our award stay at the Sheraton.   We stayed on beaches, cliffs overlooking the ocean, and in Volcanoes National Park.  We bought food at little markets and cooked it over the camp stove.  We kept beer and wine in the cooler and had a party outdoors every night. I have very few pictures of this trip because I rarely had a chance to charge my phone. The Sheraton Kona was very nice, but staying there was sort of a let-down.  We were relegated to being indoors with air conditioning, being with a lot of people, and eating at expensive restaurants.

This was one of the best vacations I have ever had. I think it was a combination of the right mix of people and letting the Travel Gods take control of the trip.

The Wild North Coast of the Big Island
The Wild North Coast of the Big Island

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