So here’s the deal about our family and camping: we just don’t do it. The kids have enjoyed quite a few excursions around Indiana with the grandparents, but James and me? Not so much. It always rains when I go camping, and if I’m being honest, I only enjoy rain if I’m sitting inside watching it stream down the window panes. Plus, I don’t like bugs or dirt. (Spoiler alert: this adventure included all three.)

However, we’re in Hawai’i and it was time to give it a real shot. And I’m really happy we did!

We’re no longer affiliated with the military, but our good friends OB and Erica are and they invited us to go camping at Bellows Air Force Station.  This is one of those places we’ve heard about many times, but we’ve never been. Man, it totally lives up to the hype. It is GORGEOUS. And camping right next to the ocean? It’s so much different than camping in the midwest.

Last Monday, we loaded up the van and headed east to Waimanalo. Our friends sponsored us onto the base, where they had already set up their part of the camp ahead of our arrival.


Evening was approaching quickly, so we got right to work with our own tents. Shortly after Austin was born (nearly NINE years ago), my dad and stepmom purchased us a whole camping kit which included a tent, sleeping bags, chairs, a soft-sided cooler, and a small propane stove. I’m pretty sure we’ve only used it once previously – maybe twice – but that kit came in handy this go ’round.

IMG_0217 We made sure to pack Austin’s little 2-man child tent that he got for Christmas. He’s been waiting months to go camping somewhere other than our backyard.IMG_0334

We also brought a large canopy that was last used for Aidan’s first birthday party. (He’s now almost twelve for reference.) We weren’t even sure if it was still in one piece, but it ended up being such a sanity-saver during the week.

Unfortunately, because it’s not one of those new-fangled pop-up canopies, it took all four of us adults to put it together. Erica and James took the lead, and OB and I provided backup support. And I also had the very important task of taking pictures.

IMG_0232 The kids pitched in as well.IMG_0235 IMG_0242

Well, not the girls. The girls did this.


But eventually, we had the canopy up and the tables placed perfectly inside. It became a fantastic barrier against the wind and sporadic light showers we encountered. It did not, however, protect us against the cockroaches and ants that shared the campsites with us.IMG_0443

Once we got everything set up, I went off to explore a bit. This was the view from our site. Simply incredible.

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I won’t bore you with the play-by-play of our camping experience. You know how camping goes. But here’s the semi-quick rundown.

You spend what feels like an unreasonable amount of time preparing meals. (But you rope the children into assisting.)IMG_0252 This kid is amazingly helpful.IMG_0428 IMG_0297 IMG_0359 IMG_0431 IMG_0493 IMG_7126But you also spend a good deal of time actually eating too.IMG_0305 IMG_0362 IMG_0451e

IMG_0498Sometimes you get fancied up and sneak away for a dinner of savory crapes.

IMG_0862eIMG_0868 And you spend your evening thoroughly entertained by a toddler who refuses to share his fries. (Poor kid had just gotten whacked in the head during a cartwheel-gone-wrong.)IMG_0859 “Can I have one?” “No!” (The hand is for emphasis.)IMG_0855e

You do a lot of dishes. And man, there’s nothing finer than a bunch of men making the plates squeaky-clean.


But you also have to make coffee.

IMG_0308 It could have tasted worse!IMG_0331

And s’mores are a must – duh!

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Beyond that, you fit in lots of game-playing. Settlers of Catan, for example.

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Apples to Apples too.

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And Charades!


Also a little football if you have time.

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You also have to make sure you get in some activity to offset the less-than-healthy food and alcohol. Bellows has a great little trail that makes it a lot of fun.

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And you check out all of the scenery!

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You also have some downtime too.

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But you have to make sure to take advantage of the beach.

IMG_0399e His face is not in congruence with his shirt. Just saying.IMG_0403e Miss M couldn’t go in the water because of an issue with her arm, so she made the most of it by practicing her gymnastic moves in the sand.IMG_0412e I think her brother was running in to “help”. Mmhmm.
IMG_0425 This kid is a fish.IMG_0596e-Recovered IMG_0602e IMG_0613-Recovered The surf wasn’t super rough, but some of the waves gave us all a beating.IMG_0618-Recovered Aidan doesn’t generally dig the water, but I’m pretty persuasive. And he totally ended up having a good time. (What Momma wants, Momma gets. Right?)IMG_0628e-Recovered IMG_0633e All four adults ended up in the water at some point, but I only got a shot of OB. (I forgot my water camera at home and now we have to go back so I can capture the Ko’olaus from the ocean.)
IMG_0639 IMG_0647e Hot ladies. 😉IMG_0658ecrop Such concentration!IMG_0672

You also take advantage of the campground’s amenities.

We skipped the mini golf course and instead rented a pedal carriage. We shared the hour between the 10 of us. It’s a lot more work than you’d think!

IMG_0537e IMG_0558-Recovered Austin decided he could run faster than we were pedaling. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear he only lasted about 90 seconds before he was begging to be let back in.IMG_7132-Recovered The big kids.IMG_0593-Recovered

And if you’re a photographer, you make sure to fit in some portraits as well. But you have to make sure you bring coordinating outfits or it doesn’t count. (And Erica did just that!)

IMG_0732e I totally had a silhouette shot in mind for this spot, but the lighting did not work in my favor. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. The kids are all cute regardless.IMG_0760e IMG_0764e I love how James and I are fried in this shot, but the kids look perfectly normal. At least someone properly applied sunscreen!IMG_0830e

You know it kills me that I didn’t get a photo of all ten of us. The lighting and aforementioned cartwheel mishap worked against me, and it just didn’t happen. Sad face.

On Thursday morning – the last day of our trip, we got up early to catch the sunrise. It was a bit too cloudy to get a truly spectacular performance, but it was still pretty gorgeous.


Then we went back to bed of course because we’d stayed up ridiculously late playing Catan. We woke up a few hours later to the rain effectively communicating that we’d outstayed our welcome. We packed up quickly, and Erica grabbed this shot of us before we all headed out.


It was a really good time, although I still wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of camping. Despite the bugs and the dirt and the intermittent rain, I loved hanging with friends for a few days. I’m thinking I might just be more of a beach-house-rental kind of girl? Yeah, I think so.

Exploring the West Side
Moanalua Middle Ridge to Ha'ikū Stairs