Molokai campingEven though Molokai has condos, ranch homes, bed and breakfasts, and a hotel, there’s just something romantic about pitching a tent and sleeping beneath the stars. Camping is an excellent way to explore Molokai and connect with the beauty that surrounds the island’s campgrounds.

For a front row view to the island’s best sunsets, book a campsite at Papohaku Beach on the island’s far western coast. You can wake to the sound of crashing waves on the three-mile stretch of white sand, or stroll the beach in the inky black darkness beneath a blanket of stars. The beach park has restrooms and showers, and you’ll need to purchase a permit through the Department of Parks and Recreation. Non-resident rates are $10 per adult per night from Monday-Thursday, and $20 per adult per night from Friday through Sunday night. You can purchase the permit at the Parks and Recreation office in Kaunakakai, or pay by mail at least two weeks ahead of the date you plan to camp.

The same permits and rates apply for camping at One Ali’i Beach Park, which is four miles east of Kaunakakai along the southern coast. The ocean here is too shallow for swimming, but there are restrooms, showers, and drinking water available in the camping section of the park.

If you plan to hike down to Kalaupapa (and have arranged a hiking permit in advance), consider camping in the misty uplands of Palaau State Park. The park is within walking distance of the trail that leads down to the Kalaupapa Peninsula, and just minutes from Kalaupapa Lookout. This park has restrooms and showers in a shaded grove of Ironwood trees, but you’ll need to bring your own drinking water, and no alcoholic beverages are allowed. You’ll also want to pack a jacket, since the air up here at 1,600 feet can get a bit chilly at night.

Another camping option is Waikolu campground by the Molokai Forest Reserve. Because the road to the campground is ungraded dirt and can sometimes be in rough shape, a 4WD vehicle is required, but the reward is the chance to wake to waterfalls tumbling down cliffs in Waikolu Valley. You can also set out on foot from here to hike in the Molokai Forest Reserve, although you’ll want to bring some water filtration since the campground has non-potable water.

Reservations at Palaau State Park and Waikolu campground can be made online at https://camping.ehawaii.gov/camping/welcome.html. Rates are $18 per campsite per night for reservations up to six people.