Not sure what to do on North Shore Oahu? Worry not.
Oahu is known for the ever-popular Waikiki Beach, a playground of water sports during the day and beachfront cocktails and eateries as the sun comes down. But you’ll be rewarded with so much more if you brave the traffic leaving Honolulu to head up to the North Shore, Oahu’s softer, gentler side.
Here are the 13 best things to do on North Shore Oahu, with everything from delicious food trucks to scenic hikes featuring Oahu’s wildlife to some of the best beaches in the Hawaiian islands.
Things to Do on North Shore Oahu Map
It is much easier to plan your Oahu North Shore itinerary when you can see the locations of these activities. Above is an interactive map with the things we will be recommending.
The toggle on the top left will allow you to see more details about the attractions you decide to inquire about!
What to Do in North Shore Oahu: 13 Best Attractions!
1. Visit Ka’ena Point State Park
Kaena Point State Park is the perfect introduction to the North Shore, as it wraps its way from the westernmost point of the island on its way north.
Its two sections boast miles of rugged seashore, tide pools against the crashing waves, and one of the best hiking trails on North Shore Oahu if you’re willing to put in the work to see some of the island’s fantastic wildlife.
The hike to Kaena Point, just a little over 5 miles, will take you past an albatross sanctuary along the shoreline and an old railway.
Past the nesting seabirds, you’ll reach Kaena Point, home to the island’s protected population of monk seals. Park staff there help you look for the animals in the waves, as their sleek bodies make for the perfect camouflage. It’s one of the most extraordinary experiences in Oahu North Shore.
2. Go For A Scenic Drive!
Another popular activity on North Shore Oahu is to go for a scenic drive!
The North Shore begs for slow drives through some of the most scenic landscapes you’ll find on the island. A popular route is starting in Haleiwa town and driving along the curving road up to Kuilima Cove, a popular snorkeling spot.
Along the way, you’ll want to pull off where the mood strikes, or where you just need to stop and take a photo. Lines of cars and traffic jams may mean wildlife up ahead – you’ll pass by Laniakea Beach on this route, home to a group of sunbathing sea turtles – or that you’ve just hit the road on a weekend afternoon.
Be patient. The North Shore is the epitome of slow living.
3. Try One Of The Native Oahu North Shore Shrimp Trucks
No trip to North Shore of Oahu is complete without sampling some of the best casual eats on this side of the island.
Up here, that means Oahu shrimp trucks.
If you want the best of the best, try Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. They’ve been selling their platters of messy, delicious scampi to hungry customers since 1993. Expect a line once you’re there, and some maneuvering in the small parking lot. It’ll all be worth it once you bite into your first shrimp.
Follow it up with dessert from the shave ice truck next door!
If the crowds are just too much for you, though, you have options, as the North Shore is a shrimp truck paradise. Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp is another local favorite, found on the northern tip of the island.
4. Explore Haleiwa Town
If you won’t be partaking in the shrimp trucks, Haleiwa is where you can find a variety of food options to satisfy even the pickiest eaters, including some of the most delicious sushi and poke bowls you’ll eat this side of Japan at Banzai Sushi Bar.
Haleiwa is home to some of the best restaurants in North Shore Oahu.
Haleiwa Town is also a hub for shopping, in case you’re looking for souvenirs to bring back home or just want to browse the surf shop culture here. The community is perfect for window shopping, and peaking into the art galleries that show off the local artistic talent.
Much more laidback than Honolulu, Haleiwa is the perfect place to while away an afternoon, popping into shops and taking a rest at any of the local eateries.
5. Go For Some Shave Ice!
If you have a sweet tooth, one of the best things to do at North Shore Oahu is to go for some shave ice.
This popular Hawaiian dessert just seems more authentic on the North Shore, away from the heavily-trafficked tourist spots near Waikiki.
Shave ice – do NOT call it shaved ice – is often described as a type of snow cone, but the ice here is shaved, not crushed, hence the name. The ice is then coated in the sugary sweet fruit juices of your choosing.
On the North Shore, your best bets will be the truck in the same parking lot as Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, or local favorite Matsumoto Shave Ice. If you find lines at both, you’ll see plenty of other options along Kamehameha Highway.
If you’re not sure what to order, the orange creams are where it’s at.
6. Check Out The Waimea Valley
The Waimea Valley is a popular day-use area on the island’s North Shore that includes not only spectacular natural features, but areas of cultural significance.
Walk through the botanical gardens on a paved path to the beautiful Waimea Falls, also known as Waihi Falls, a 45-foot tall cascade. When lifeguards are on duty, you can even take a dip at the falls, a bucket list experience for most.
There is a fee to enter the valley, but much of the proceeds go toward the upkeep of the area, and you’ll find enough to do to fill an afternoon. Outside of the falls, you’ll have access to a number of historical and religious structures important to the Hawaiian people.
7. Ehukai Pillbox Hike
This Oahu North Shore hike takes hikers up to beautiful views of the shores below from pillboxes, essentially concrete bunkers or guard posts, at the vista point above. You’ll even be able to see the Banzai Pipeline from your resting point at the top.
There are two World War II-era pillboxes, decorated with colorful peace signs, on this relatively easy 2-mile hike. Just be careful after heavy rain on this one, as the ground can get muddy and more difficult to manage.
There are several pillbox hikes on Oahu that you can explore if you enjoy this one. The Lanikai pillbox hike, or Kaiwa Ridge Trail, in Kailua is the most popular, offering expansive views of both Lanikai and the surrounding towns.
8. Go Snorkeling On North Shore Oahu At Shark’s Cove
For those looking to snorkel in North Shore Oahu in a protected cove rather than the open ocean, it doesn’t get much better than the crystal clear waters of Shark’s Cove.
Despite the name, you won’t find any sharks in these shallow pools. You will find a variety of fish, though, so keep your eyes peeled; they like to hide in the rocks and crevices just below the surface.
This area is a scenic spot even if you won’t be jumping in the water, with its rocky outcroppings lending themselves to tidepools and access to quite a bit of marine life from the shore.
The cove is just south of Pupukea Beach Park, a marine life conservation area with more excellent dive and snorkel spots if you’re wanting to explore more underwater.
Visit Some of The Best Beaches in North Shore Oahu
1. Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach
There are many beautiful beaches in North Shore Oahu, but Laniakea Beach is special thanks to its inhabitants that have made the beach home.
The beach, also affectionately known as Turtle Beach, is home to a population of sea turtles. They all have names, something you’ll see for yourself on the plaques that surround their protected space.
The beach is also a popular spot for snorkeling thanks to the sea turtle activity there. But if you don’t want to get in the water, you’re likely to find the turtles sunning on the beach. Mind posted signage, though, and keep them – and yourself! – safe by keeping a distance.
2. Relax At Malaekahana Beach
The Malaekahana Beach and recreation area are perfect for those looking for a day at the beach. The waters are calm enough for swimming as long as you’re avoiding the winter months, and if you’re looking to fish, shore fishing is also an option on this beach.
Surfers will want to visit in the winter, when the waves pick up steam making for excellent surf – including bodysurfing – conditions, even if you’re just in the beginner’s phase.
Permits are available for beach camping here, as well as cabin-style accommodations around the beach, making this tree-lined park an oasis away from the crowded beaches near Honolulu.
3. Admire the Surfers At Banzai Pipeline
Hawaii is a surfer’s paradise, and home to some of the most well-known surf spots in the world.
The Banzai Pipeline is one of those surf spots in Oahu North Shore, known around the world for not only its impressive break, but for the dangers that lurk just below the surface of the water as the “World’s Deadliest Waves.”
This is an expert-only territory, suitable for professional surfers who know how to avoid the treacherous reefs and caverns that hide underneath those killer waves.
Visitors wanting to experience the waters here – the Banzai Pipeline, or “The Pipe” is just off the popular Ehukai Beach Park – can do so in the summer months, when the waves have calmed.
4. Waimea Bay
Adjacent to the Waimea Valley lies a fantastic beach park. This spot is popular with surfers in the winter thanks to its 30-foot waves at that time of year and its proximity to the Banzai Pipeline just north of here.
Outside of those winter months, though, Waimea Bay is full of families and beachgoers looking to lay out in the sun, swim and snorkel in the turquoise waters.
This beach has all of the amenities you’d need to make a day of it, including picnic tables for a lunch near the shore and showers before you head back into town.
5. Catch A Sunset At Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach is the perfect way to round out a day on the North Shore, and the name certainly fits what this stretch of shore is best known for. The sunsets here are spectacular – oranges, pinks and yellows hues dancing in the sky with the waves gently lapping at the sand.
If you’re there in the daytime, you’ll find that this spot is also quite popular with surfers, and a great place to people-watch if you’re not ready for those big waves yourself.
In fact, it’s been the site of one of the biggest surf events in the country, the Triple Crown Surfing Contest.
Where to Stay in North Shore Oahu
(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)
This modern oceanfront beach house is one of the best places to stay in North Shore Oahu. Tucked into a serene atmosphere but with views of the stunning Shark’s Cove, guests will find nothing but comfort and convenience here.
The property is also located on a walking/cycling path that connects Shark’s Cove to Velzyland. Along the way, guests are blessed with some of the best things the Nort Shore of Oahu has to offer, such as Ke Iki Beach, Pipeline and Sunset Beach.
With 3 bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, 1.5 bathrooms, this Airbnb in North Shore Oahu is ready to provide you and your family with the perfect Oahu vacation!
Maximum Guests: 4 Guests
Click here for more info!
(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)
Located in Turtle Bay, this 1-bedroom 2-bathroom vacation rental in Oahu North Shore is ready for you to enjoy the serenity of the North Shore.
Only minutes away from Turtle Beach, guests can enjoy one of the best attractions of North Shore Oahu with ease. As part of a residential complex, guests will also have access to private community pools.
Besides the gorgeous beach, guests will also have access to the best things Turtle Bay has to offer. Top tier dining, two PGA golf courses, helicopter tours, surfing, snorkeling, hiking, and exploring await!
When you are not exploring Turtle Bay, cozy up on the sofa and watch Netflix on the 50-inch flat-screen TV. Better yet, take a nap in the dreamy king-size bed!
Maximum Guests: 5 Guests
Click here for more details!
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These are the 13 best things to do in North Shore of Oahu! We hope our Oahu guide has helped your plan your visit to North Shore Oahu!
Any questions? Let us know in the comments!
This post was brought to you by Agnes. Agnes is a regular person behind Travel on the Reg, a travel blog focused on sharing her collected wisdom and (hopefully) amusing truths about travel when it’s done in a regular way. Travel can be messy, awkward and amazing, sometimes all at the same time. She’s here for all of it. A Chicago native, Agnes moved to San Diego, America’s Finest City, in 2014, and has been enjoying the sunshine ever since.
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