13 Things You Must Do on the North Shore, Oahu
Oahu’s North Shore is bursting with things to do. Whether enjoy the beach or trying tasty eats, these are the top things you must do when visiting the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
If you’re traveling to Oahu, you’ll most likely start your adventure in Honolulu. But to truly experience the laid-back culture of Hawaii, you must head to the North Shore!
A surfer’s paradise, the North Shore of Oahu runs roughly from Kuhuku in the east to Kaena Point in the west. This marvelous stretch of Oahu boasts endless sandy beaches, laid back food truck eats, and tons of adventure activities like hiking and ziplining.
Read on for the absolute best things to do on a trip to the North Shore of Oahu:
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Getting to the North Shore, Oahu
Flying into Honolulu, you’ll need to rent a car to get to the North Shore of Oahu on your own. There are buses that are cheap and do run around the island, but it will take you significantly longer to get around this way and is not recommended.
The quickest way to get to the North Shore is to head west on the H2 towards Hale’iwa. Without traffic it’s about a 45 minute drive from downtown Honolulu to Hale’iwa, the North Shore’s largest city.
If you decide to head around the windward side of Oahu first, you’ll want to add an extra day to explore things like the Byodo-In Temple, Kualoa Ranch, and the Polynesian Culture Center.
Where to Stay on the North Shore, Oahu
For the most part, hotel options are fairly limited on the North Shore. This is due in large part to push back from the locals against tourism development. It’s not such a bad thing though, because limiting hotel options has helped protect the uniqueness of this area.
Turtle Bay Resort | An upscale resort with two 18-hole golf courses, Turtle Bay Resort offers tons of outdoor activities for families. It also just so happens to have the perfect location on a peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean.
Compare prices at: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com
Courtyard by Marriott North Shore | One of the few traditional hotel options you’ll find near the North Shore, this Marriott is quite a ways from the rest of the North Shore in Laie. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend it for your full stay, but it would make a nice stopping point for a trip around the island.
Compare prices at: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com
Airbnb | For the budget-minded traveler or those simply looking for more local experience, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options on the North Shore ranging from private rooms to whole home rentals.
Top Things to do on the North Shore, Oahu
Chill Out in Hale’iwa Town | The largest town on the North Shore, a stop into Hale’iwa is a must. Check out the quaint main street shops (like The Growing Keiki), eat at a food truck park, or chill out at Hale’iwa Ali’i Beach.
Swim Under a Waterfall at Waimea Falls | Tucked inside the Waimea Valley, a cultural site and botanical garden with over 5000 varieties of tropical plants, stands Waimea Falls, one of the most accessible waterfalls on Oahu. It’s a 1.5 mile round-trip trek to the falls, which visitors can swim under or sunbathe near. A small fee is required to enter the Waimea Valley.
Stop for Chocolate Pie at Ted’s Bakery | While Ted’s Bakery serves up all sorts of delectable desserts, it’s their Chocolate Haupia Pie that’s the most famous. But with a full menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, there’s always a reason to stop.
Pro Tip: When’s the best time to visit Hawaii? We recommend the fall. Visiting Hawaii in September means you’ll get the best of both worlds: beautiful weather, but less crowds than the busy spring and summer seasons!
Go on a Pillbox Hike | Pillboxes are old WWII military bunkers, and you’ll find them scattered all thoroughout Oahu. Because these bunkers offer some pretty epic views, “pillbox hikes” have become quite a thing on Oahu.
The Ehukai pillbox hike is probably the most famous on the North Shore, and you can read all about how to conquer it here.
Want to skip the hike but still want the view? Head to the Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau religious site near Pupukea, a seemingly scattered pile of rocks was once believed to be used as a sacrificial temple. (eek!) Near the site you’ll find a paved path, and then dirt trail, leading out towards the ocean. After a short walk you’ll be greated by a pillbox bunker with 180 degree views of the North Shore.
Eat with the Chickens at Kahuku Grill | Stop into this casual Kahuku eatery on the old site of the Kahuku Sugar Mill for some tasty burgers and coconut shrimp. Just don’t mind the chicken friends that dine with you on the patio; they’ll stay away as long as you don’t share. 😉
Go Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove | Down the road in Pūpūkea, Shark’s Cove’s rocky shoreline is one of the best places to snorkel on Oahu. Rent your own snorkel gear at North Shore Surf Shop across the street, or join a guided tour like this one!
Relax on the Beach at Waimea Bay | No visit to the North Shore would be complete without a visit to one of it’s most popular beaches: Waimea Bay. Just over the highway from Waimea Valley, it’s wide sandy beach is perfect for picnicking on the beach with provisions from the nearby Foodland.
READ NEXT: Travel Guide: Honolulu
Ziplining at ClimbWorks Keana Farms | On our second trip to Oahu’s North Shore, we added in a ziplining experince at ClimbWorks Keana Farms. We zipped across 8 zip lines spanning over the working farm (even sampling some fruit along the way), and were impressed by just how smooth the lines were (let alone the awesome views!)
Ride the Pineapple Express at Dole Plantation | While not technically on the North Shore, there’s a good chance you’ll pass by the Dole Plantation on your way to or from it. Hop aboard the Pineapple Express for a 2 mile tour through the pineapple fields, learning about this juicy fruit’s history in Hawaii.
Get Messy at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck | Just east of Turtle Bay in Kahuku, stop at the food truck park for some seriously local eats. Shrimping is big business on the North Shore, and Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is one of the most famous places to try this garlic-buttery favorite.
Learn to Surf at Sunset Beach | Oahu’s North Shore is referred to as the Surfing Capital of the World, so it’s no surprise that Sunset Beach, home of the Banzai Pipeline, offers some of the best waves on Oahu.
Visitors will find plenty of surf schools and private instructors here, like Hawaii Waves Surf School, where you can join private or group lessons and later rent your own surf gear to practice your skills!
See the Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach | Laniakea Beach is famous on the North Shore for its sea turtle friends that love to hang out on the sandy beach. But keep a safe distance: it’s illegal to touch these endangered beauties.
If you want to have a chance at spotting some sea turtles without hoards of people around, try this quieter spot our Airbnb host tipped us off to: take Papailoa Road off Kamehameha Highway just south of Laniakea Beach. Towards the end of the road, you’ll find a few parking spots and an access path to the beach. Even if you don’t spot any sea turtles, it’s a lovely, quiet place to spend the day on the beach.
Cool off with Matsumoto Shave Ice | You truly can’t visit the North Shore of Oahu without getting some shave ice, right? Stop at Matsumoto in Hale’iwa for the most iconic treat, and then have it again at another roadside shop every day thereafter!
Know of a North Shore hidden gem? Drop it in the comments below!
planning a trip to oahu?
Here’s a few final tips…
- Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights to receive cheap flight deals to Hawaii.
- Find family-friendly Airbnbs in Hale’iwa , Pūpūkea, or Kahuku.
- Get the lowest car rental rates with RentalCars.com
- Book top-rated North Shore tours and activities with Viator.
- Be prepared for anything with travel insurance from World Nomads.