Ho‘okena Beach Park Camping – Here’s What You Need to Know

Camping at Ho’okena Beach Park is perfect for adventure-seekers that want to have convenient access to the ocean for snorkeling and swimming.

Tent camping at Ho'okena Beach Park

On our recent Big Island snorkeling trip, we decided that camping for one night at Ho‘okena would not only be a budget-friendly choice but also would give us first access to the beach for snorkeling at 7 am.

We’re no strangers to camping in Hawaii – we’ve camped on all 4 main islands, especially on Oahu where we’re from.

So when we booked our camping reservations at Ho‘okena, we figured that there would be no surprises!

However, there were a few things that we wish we knew before camping at Ho‘okena.

So pack up your bags and get ready to pitch a tent – we’re going camping!

Camping at Ho‘okena Beach Park – Our Experience

Trey waving hello at Ho‘okena Beach Park

If you’re the type of traveler that doesn’t mind sleeping outside and getting a little dirty, then camping at Ho‘okena Beach Park will be loads of fun!

However, if you’ve never camped before or are traveling with a large group, Ho‘okena has a “rustic” feel to it so it’s not the best place for first-timers.

The camping area at Ho‘okena is quite small – it’s a sandy area underneath a grove of tropical almond trees.

The tropical almond trees provide shade from the sun but are quite messy – they fruit all year long and drop large seeds and leaves all over the ground.

If you’re fortunate enough to get to the beach before other campers, do yourself a favor and snag a spot as close to the beach as possible for one reason – FEWER MOSQUITOES.

We were not so fortunate – we arrived late in the day, and all the nice spots near the beach were taken.

So we set up our camp in the shady area furthest away from the beach but quickly found out why it was the last spot to be taken.

Our camping tent at Ho‘okena Beach Park
Our humble campsite at Ho‘okena Beach Park was located near some vegetation and full of mosquitoes… yikes!

The mosquitoes turned out not to be a huge problem for us since we were planning on spending most of our time away from our campsite, anyway – venturing around the park and exploring the area up and down the coastline.

We also ate our food at a park bench near the beach which was 100% mosquito free.

We were on a budget so we opted for grocery store food for dinner

Ho‘okena Beach Park definitely feels like a “locals beach” – we found lots of uncles hanging out on the benches, fishing, and throwing nets.

To tell you the truth, the uncles were the best people in the park – they were friendly and minding their own business – just relaxing and having a good time.

On the other hand, the other campers turned out to be very disruptive.

One thing that you don’t realize until you get to the camping area is how close you’ll be to your neighbors.

Main camping area at Ho‘okena Beach with tents
The camping area at Ho‘okena is pretty tight, so you’ll get to know your neighbors!

We were not so fortunate in who our neighbors were – one of them was a loud woman who insisted on screaming and arguing with her partner for about an hour right around bedtime.

Another neighbor was a family that had two kids… each kid threw a tantrum while we were sleeping.

To top that off, seeds from the tree canopy above fell on our tent several times during the night, making loud slapping noises on our tent and waking us up.

So we didn’t get the best sleep, to say the least. But that was okay!

We are no strangers to difficult sleeping environments, having done quite a bit of backpacking. Waking up to watch the sunrise right on the beach made it all worth it and we did not regret camping at Ho‘okena one bit.

Hiking the Ho‘okena Shoreline

Ho‘okena Aloha sign at Ho‘okena Beach
The Ho‘okena-Aloha sign is one of the first things we found on the rocky coastline!

The rocky shoreline at Ho‘okena Beach is an adventure in itself.

There are all sorts of tidepools and scenic points all along the shoreline. We spent about an hour exploring the coast during sunset and it was our favorite thing that we did while camping at Ho‘okena.

Hole in the rocks at Ho‘okena Beach
Hole in the rocks that leads directly to the ocean… don’t fall in!

We also came across the remains of an old church on the Ho‘okena shoreline. After doing some research, we discovered that the church is the Old Puka‘ana Church.

Remains of the Old Puka‘ana Church at Ho‘okena Beach
The remains of the Old Puka‘ana Church are at Ho‘okena Beach

The church was originally built in 1849, however by the 1930’s the town of Ho‘okena was mostly abandoned, including the church.

In 1949, an earthquake shook the area and destroyed most of the church, leaving the structure that still stands today.

When the sun finally started to dip beyond the horizon, we were treated to the best sunset we saw while on the Big Island.

Sunset at Ho‘okena Beach
Ho‘okena Beach provides a front-row seat to absolutely epic sunsets.

Snorkeling at Ho‘okena Beach Park

The underwater reef at Ho‘okena Beach Park

Besides being an awesome swim spot, the reef at Ho‘okena Beach offers excellent snorkeling opportunities!

After watching the sunrise, we put on our snorkels and jumped in the ocean for a morning swim and reef exploration.

The first thing that we noticed was that the visibility at Ho‘okena wasn’t as good as other snorkeling spots in South Kona.

Ho‘okena is a sandy beach, not a rocky beach – so there are sand particles floating around in the water that slightly impede visibility.

But don’t let that stop you! The visibility at Ho‘okena Beach is good enough to see as far as you need to. And if you swim a bit further away from shore, the water clears up to near-perfect clarity.

The reef at Ho‘okena Beach Park while snorkeling
The clarity of the water increases the further you go from shore. And if you dive down to the bottom, it’s even clearer!

After finishing our snorkel, we rinsed off at the freshwater showers in the park. The water from the showers was lukewarm, which was a nice treat since most public beach showers feel cold.

Public bathroom showers at Ho‘okena Beach Park
The public showers at Ho‘okena Beach Park have lukewarm water! It’s actually a nice treat since most public showers in Hawaii run a bit on the colder side.

Booking Process for Camp Ho‘okena Beach Park

Reserving a campsite at Camp Ho‘okena is a pretty straightforward process – however, there are a few things that you should keep in mind to make everything go as smoothly as possible:

  • Camp Ho‘okena does not accept walk-ins – you need to book a campsite in advance online at the Camp Ho‘okena Website.
  • Weekends are the most popular time for camping at Ho‘okena – so if you plan to camp on a weekend, book AT LEAST 2-3 months before your camp date.
  • Holidays are often booked out over 1 year in advance – so it might be best to plan on staying somewhere else on a holiday weekend unless you plan far in advance.
  • There are two rates for camping reservations: Hawaii Residents and Out of State Visitors. Hawaii Residents get a cheaper rate, but all adult campers must provide a valid Hawaii State Identification after booking.
  • After booking a campsite, you will receive an email from the camp with detailed instructions on how to move forward with the reservation.
  • All adult campers 18 years and older must email a picture of valid identification and sign the camping contract after booking a campsite. The camping contract is basically an acknowledgment of the camp’s rules.
  • After emailing the signed camping contract and IDs to the camp, your booking will be complete and you will receive two gate codes. The longer gate code is for the chain that goes into the camper-only parking area. The shorter gate code is for the main gate into the park – to be used in emergencies only (the main gate is open during the day).
  • Your booking ID number serves as your tent tag. So write your booking ID number on a piece of paper (the camp has cards available for that purpose) and attach it to each tent in your group.
  • Campsites are on a first-come-first-serve basis. So get there early if you want the best chance at selecting a good campsite.

Ho‘okena Beach Park Camping Details

  • Campsite Type: Unmarked tent sites in a sandy area on the beach underneath trees.
  • Price: $21/person (Out of state visitors), $6/person (Hawaii residents). Reduced prices for children.
  • Park Gates: Open from 7 am – 8 pm.
  • Quiet time: Camping area quiet time is from 9 pm – 6 am.
  • Parking: Public parking lot is almost always full. There is a separate chained-off area for campers only.
  • Water: All water from the spigots in the park is potable.
  • Showers: Multiple freshwater showers, near the beach and at the restrooms.
  • Sinks: Large sinks for dishwashing are available for use in the bathroom building.
  • Toilets: Public bathroom facility with running water.
  • Tables: One picnic table for each campsite. More picnic tables are scattered throughout the beach park for public use.
  • Campfires: There are a few circular concrete fire pits in the camping area. No open fires allowed. Bring your own firewood.
  • Grills: Charcoal grilling stations are available for use in the camping area.
  • Pets: No pets allowed.
  • Concession Stand: The park has a concession stand that’s open from 9 am – 2 pm. The concession stand sells ice, food, water, snacks, etc. The stand also rents out ocean gear such as kayaks and snorkels.
  • Website: https://www.hookena.org/

Ho‘okena Beach Park Camping – Our Verdict

Aerial view of Ho‘okena Beach Park

So would we camp at Ho‘okena again? Absolutely!

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path beach camping adventure, then it doesn’t get much better than Ho‘okena Beach Park!

We think that Ho‘okena has a good mix of camping facilities, such as showers, bathrooms, and tables – while also offering a rustic tent camping experience on the beach.

Our favorite thing about camping at Ho‘okena Beach Park is its access to the ocean – there are not a lot of places in Hawaii where you can (legally) camp on the beach.

And while Ho‘okena has a sandy beach that’s good for swimming, it also has a coral reef that’s good for snorkeling – the best of both worlds!

Our least favorite thing about camping at Ho‘okena Beach Park is the proximity to other campers. We did feel a bit close to the other groups, so much so that we could sometimes hear their conversations and were kept up at night by their yelling and headlamps.

Oh yeah, and how could we forget about the mosquitoes (get a campsite as close to the ocean as possible to avoid them).

One thing that we didn’t get to was the park’s concession stand.

We arrived late in the afternoon, after the stand’s 2 pm closing time so that was a bummer.

On the next morning, we were hanging out in the park until about 10 am, and never saw the concession stand open, despite it having an opening time of 9 am. So we’re not sure if the concession stand is still open, or if it’s on reduced hours.

Trey Lewis is an outdoor enthusiast. Whether its hiking knife-edge ridges or just fishing by the river, Trey isn't afraid to get dirty in search of the next adventure.

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