If you’re planning a vacation in paradise, an RV is a wonderful way to explore.
There is, of course, the tricky challenge of getting an RV to Hawaii. If you live on the mainland, you can’t exactly drive there.
Fortunately, you can rent an RV in Hawaii and then use it to travel the island. RVshare has many rental options in Honolulu, as well as some rentals on other islands. If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, renting an RV and camping is a unique way of exploring that not many travelers experience.
Camping in Hawaii
Since RVing isn’t very common in the state, you do need to do some planning ahead of time. For the most part, you’ll need to camp in designated campgrounds – it isn’t legal to just pull up at a beach and set up camp. These ten campgrounds on Oahu are a great place to start. Be sure to reserve your space well ahead of time since options for camping are limited.
Also, keep in mind that many sights worth seeing in Hawaii aren’t accessible by large, well-paved freeways and highways. You’ll likely be driving on many narrow roads, sometimes even dirt roads. When you are in cities, you may hit traffic. Try to relax, don’t plan on rushing, and just enjoy the vibe of Island Time. You’ll get there when you get there.
When you are in a big city, be sure to stock up on any RV supplies you’ll need. Once you’re out on the road, you’re not likely to find a big RV outfitter anywhere. Check Walmart or Home Depot in the bigger cities for things like propane before you begin your trip. Finally, be sure to budget for gas, campground fees, rentals, groceries, and other necessities. Many commodities like gas and food are more expensive in Hawaii than in many places on the mainland. Make sure you know what to budget so you don’t have some serious sticker shock when you get there.
Top 12 Places To See In Hawaii In Your RV
You really can’t go wrong in Hawaii. Just about anywhere you drive, you’ll encounter stunning views, or learn about the culture on the islands, or find fragrant flowers and trees you may never have seen before. Also, each island in the chain has its own unique feel, and landscape, and features. The volcanic Big Island of Hawaii is very different from the verdant Kauai, which feels different from Oahu where the largest city is located. If you are able to visit several islands, you can see the contrast for yourself.
While there are eight major islands that make up Hawaii, we concentrated on the most populated ones for this guide since those are the ones where you are most likely going to be able to rent an RV. On every one of these islands, you can also participate in a variety of water sports including snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, or simply relaxing on the beach.
While these are just a few suggestions for places to visit in Hawaii, there are so many more!
Oahu is the most populated island and home to the state’s capital in Honolulu. It has the biggest airport, and is the military command center of the Pacific.
1.) USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
The memorial is the most-visited destination in the Hawaiian Islands. More than two million people visit the memorial each year to remember the attack that spurred America to enter World War II. There is no entry fee to visit the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center or see the museums. There is a USS Arizona Memorial program that requires a ticket, but the tickets are free.
Two exhibit galleries share the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and show the aftermath. Visitors can see photographs, battle artifacts, memorabilia and more. The Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater shows a 23-minute documentary on the attack.
An interpretive exhibit just next to the water guides visitors as they imagine the day of the attack, and shows how that same vantage point looked during the attack. There is also a nighttime memorial program that begins with the documentary, continues with a shuttle boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, and then allows time for visitors to experience the memorial.
Visitors can also see the USS Missouri Battleship, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
2.) Waikiki Beach
On the south shore of Honolulu, Waikiki means “spouting waters” in Hawaiian. The first hotel was built on the shore of Waikiki in 1901, and now it’s within walking distance of numerous Honolulu hotels and resorts. Waikiki is considered a great place to learn to surf as the water is calm.
Nearby, Kalakaua Avenue has world-class dining, shopping, and entertainment. The Honolulu Zoo is also in the area, as well as the Waikiki Aquarium. The Waikiki Historical Trail tells the story of the area in surfboard markers.
The Dole Pineapple Plantation is 27 miles north of Waikiki. The Pineapple Express Train takes guests through two miles of North Shore scenery, while they learn about the state’s role in growing and harvesting the delicious fruit. The plantation also has eight different gardens, and a Pineapple Garden Maze that is the world’s largest maze of Hawaiian plants.
4.) The North Shore
Anyone who knows much about surf culture knows the North Shore is legendary for its huge waves at Banzai Pipeline. The nearby town has artsy boutiques, souvenir shops, restaurants, and other shopping.
The hike to the top of iconic Diamond Head volcano is just 0.8 miles, but it’s steep with switchbacks and stairs…and a few tunnels just to keep you from getting bored. The view from the summit, however, can’t be beat and you’ll forget about the struggle to get up there. Be sure to bring plenty of water, good walking shoes or hiking boots, and a hat.
Hawaii (The Big Island)
The “Big Island” is a study in contrasts – from the towering Kilauea volcano to impressive waterfalls, to the lush Puna Fern Forest. There’s a lot to explore!
6.) Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to the Kilauea Volcano, which erupted in 2018. Lava from the eruption burned more than 700 homes in the area and it wasn’t until September 2018 that the park reopened. Guests can learn about the history of people who lived in the area, and about the rock formations and volcanoes that make up the park. There’s lots to do at the park, including visitor centers to see, trails to hike, and stargazing at night. The park is near towns including Hilo and the aptly named town of Volcano.
7.) Punalu’u County Beach Park
The Punalu’u beach is the most famous of Hawaii’s black sand beaches, and a must-see if you’ve never experienced a black sand beach! It’s easy to reach, between Kona and Hilo. People often spot endangered Hawksbill and green turtles sunning themselves on the beach.
8.) Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Exhibits in this park are designed to take you through the history of the Hawaiian culture. A self-guided tour winds you through the ancient Royal Grounds, which were reserved for the chiefdom of Kona. You will also pass an area where people took refuge after war or after breaking one of the religious laws. It takes about an hour to walk through the exhibits in the park.
The “Garden Island” has gorgeous, lush vegetation and scenery. Waterfalls abound and you can find all manner of colorful fish and other aquatic life while snorkeling or SCUBA diving.
Waimea is commonly known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and is just as impressive a canyon although much greener. The canyon was formed when the Waimea river wore down lava and basalt formations, and the central volcano on the canyon collapsed ten million years ago. There are several lookouts around the rim of the canyon, so set aside some time to stop and see the canyon from many different vantage points. There are many hikes at Waimea, so whether you’re looking for a short stroll or a strenuous canyon hike, you’ll find something to suit you.
10.) See the Nā Pali Coast
The pristine beauty of the Nā Pali Coast is, in part, because there are no roads. The only way to see the area is by hiking eleven miles, or by booking a boat tour to see the coast from the water. The views of the island are breathtaking, and the boats sail by waterfalls, coastal caves, and natural arches visitors can’t see any way except by boat. Tour guides also share information on archeological finds, point out movie locations, and recount Hawaiian history, along with a host of other facts.
Maui is home to the 10,023-foot Haleakalā, the largest dormant volcano crater in the world. Maui was also once home to Hawaii’s capital, and Lahaina still feels in many ways like an old whaling town.
This park covers over 30,000 acres of land and encompasses everything from red rock deserts near the peak of the volcano to waterfalls and streams by the coast near Hana. There is plenty of hiking at the park, as well as horseback riding, stargazing, and more. One popular activity is to book a bike tour where a guide will drive your bike (and you!) to the top of the volcano, and you then coast all the way down the steep road to the bottom. You may also want to time your trip so you can watch a sunrise or sunset from the top of the crater – an experience you won’t soon forget.
12.) Road to Hana
When you embark on the road to Hana, you’re not focused on the destination. It’s quite a long drive, and the journey itself is the attraction rather than the final end point. The road to Hana has green jutting cliffs, numerous waterfalls, and exhilarating curves that offer spectacular views of the coast. You can also stop at black, red, and white sand beaches, or stretch your legs by hiking a trail or exploring a garden along the way.
There are so many more places in Hawaii to experience as well, but hopefully, these twelve suggestions provide a good jumping-off point as you plan your Hawaii vacation!