I recieved an email notification from BPL about a 'pm' question from a JKrew. Only problem was I have been off this site for over a year due to personal issues. Hence, my account was 'cleaned out', and I could not access it to reply to the inquiry. Hopefully my feet are not held to the fire here as I try to reply to the question in public.
The question concerned overnight camping on the NaPali Coast in Nov, and possible places to camp. Here's my take, and by no way does this reflect upon the majority of folks on any of the Hawaiian Islands...
Due to the strain of the economic situation on the US Mainland, the 'golden egg' (tourism) on the Islands is off considerably. In that tourist spending (lack thereof)is effecting local economies drastically the job market is bleak at best Islands-wide. There is a commensurate rise in 'petty crime' especially against tourists 'who won't spend the money to return to go to court if robbed'. The rise of meth' and increase in users; has lead to increased police pressure on the makers to find 'out of the way places' to concoct this poison. You guessed it, the meth labs are starting to sprout up in all the backcountry locations where folks would go camping and backpacking for the same reasons. The locations are secluded, their are few to no visitors, and no one can see what is taking place. As such 'backpacking' or 'backcountry camping' takes on a much greater risk in Hawaii than one coming from the Mainland would expect, what with the Island image of 'paradise' and all.
Everything boils down to how safe YOU feel in a certain area on any given Island at a specific date and time. I lived on Kauai for a few years, and their were definitely times when I felt 'endangered' in the backcountry 'happening upon' less than savory folks working a meth lab in the Bush. For as much as one would think that the NaPali Coast being on National Geographics list of the '10 most beautiful hiking trails' or some such, that it would be better policed. Not so sadly, once a year or so the police stage a 'raid' along the NaPali Coast and 'flush out' (literally) all the 'chronics'/meth users, and illegal campers living back along the Trail. I went along a few years ago and there were more blue tarps and garbage hauled out in 3 days from there than I've ever seen in a State Park on the Mainland....talk about 'Deliverence', they could make the next movie there!
The 'State' campground right at the begining of the Trailhead is full of locals, who, displaced due to poverty, are 'living' in the campground, even though a park ranger comes by to collect fees nightly. Most folks who enjoy backpacking have not been exposed to these type of drug and alchohol campers by choice. So I do not recommend camping at the trailhead campground for the NaPali Trail.
Neither do I recommend even an overnight stay on the Trail itself. I would recommend that one pack a day pack and do a partial hike in and then head back out same day. I've done 5 miles in and 5 miles out and that's doable. You will not look like a 'valuable target' to the methheads you may come across, unlike the heavily laden European backpackers with the large 'overnight packs'. You get to go in, take some pictures, get a feel for the Trail, enjoy some vistas, and come home safe. I was invloved in a search and rescue, and later just an all out search for a healthy, fit, large single male backpacker who as far as I know is still unaccounted for after 3 years. He hiked in and was never seen again, and he was not of the 'gone missing type', according to family and friends. His poster is probably still at the Trailhead, in case you'd like to verify my story, sad as it is. It could be any one of us who enjoy backpacking alone.
I'd stay in Princeville, or Ka'Paa; rent a car, a beater, and drive up for the day. You can always supplement the day hike with either a Zodiac boat tour of the Coast on another day, or take a Heli from one of the many operators who provide a tour.
Yes, sounds bleak, but if you go forewarned you stand a better chance of not becoming a victim of petty crime. The road literally ends at the NaPali Trailhead. If that does'nt freak you out nothing will. I say this because a police car ONLY comes out there if they are called, and that normally takes 1 hour. No services at the campground, only store is about halfway there before the bridge on the left heading North.
Treat the Hawaiian Islands as day hiking venues and you will enjoy them more. You'll hike with less hassle, lighter pack, and be more agile on sometimes slippery, steep trails.
I visited 6 of the Islands, lived on Oahu and Kauai both for a few years each. I hiked the majority of trails on both of those Islands, frequently enough to be able to go back 3 years later(now) and confidently hike any of them without guidebooks. Most trails are designed for day hiking as backcountry Hawaii has it's own perils of the stinging and pricking kind.
If you have specific questions regarding Kauai or Oahu I'd be glad to answer them to the best of my knowledge. My 'prejudice' comes from having been a victim, and going through the motions of trying to recover my stolen gear, to no avail.