#Vanlife is no longer limited to envy-inducing Instagram feeds. Now visitors to the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i can experience their own slice of nomadic freedom in a restored van.
Kaua‘i Camper Rental has a fleet of restored VW Westfalia campervans that travelers can take anywhere the road reaches. Fully equipped with two beds, a propane stove and a sink with running water, the campervans are a great way to try out #vanlife without giving up all your possessions and hitting the road full-time.
Owners Josh Tjarks and Sarah Piano-Tjarks operate Kaua‘i Camper Rental and its fleet of six restored vans. They got the idea after taking a road trip through California in their own camper rental. “We came back home and started looking on Craigslist for campers or vans to buy,” Josh recalls.
Instead of finding one van, they found several. A local rental business was up for sale. “The timing was kinda crazy, especially on a small island like this. We didn’t even know this business existed here.”
“They’re the iconic, original campervan,” Josh says. Related to the original, VW bus first popularized in the 1960s and ‘70s, the Vanagon have the same romanticism that surrounds the originals. “The Vanagon especially, the Volkswagen Westfalia, has really blown up in the last five to 10 years. It’s always been a cool thing, but they’re kinda getting more rare.”
Plus, they’re easier to maneuver than other recreational vehicles. “It’s not like some big, honking RV that you can only park in a really specific spot,” says Josh. “You can fit these vans in any normal parking spot.”
Sarah says many might be surprised to find that campervans are easier on the wallet than traditional accommodation and rental car. “Our vans fit three adults or two adults and two children, so it’s a great way to be able to experience a place because you have your car and accommodation in one.”
For anyone new to traveling by campervan, Josh has a few recommendations. “The big thing is to get permits and reservations in advance,” he says. Some Kaua‘i parks don’t allow campervans, but Kaua‘i Camper Rental can supply tents and sleeping pads.
Asked where Kaua‘i’s top campervan locations are, Josh had a few recommendations. The first is Camp Sloggett, located in Koke’e State Park in the island’s lush, mountainous interior. “It’s usually really quiet up there. Not a lot of people know about it. It’s one of the best stargazing spots on Kaua‘i. There’s little to no light pollution up there, and it’s pretty high up.”
Josh also recommends Kumu Camp on the east side in Anahola because it’s so close to the beach. “You’re basically parking on the sand,” he says. “People really like that one because it doesn’t get much more beachfront than that.”
Sarah says travelling in a campervan has a way of leaving an impression on people. “What’s super sweet about this business is that people come back after renting a camping van is that they’re like ‘We’re buying one. We’re buying one when we get home.’ They just can’t wait to get back in one.”