There are so many North Shore beaches on the island of Oahu, but most tourists tend to go to the same handful of beaches. As a matter of fact, even in my Ultimate Guide to the North Shore of Oahu, I limited myself to only eight of the many North Store beaches. So, without further ado, here is a full list of all of the beaches on the North Shore of Oahu (that I, a local, know of) listed from East to West.
What Should I Bring to These North Shore Beaches?
If you plan on getting in the water – which you definitely should be if the conditions are safe – you’ll need some swimwear. And if you want to support a sustainable local business while you’re at it, I recommend purchasing your swimwear from Sundaze Bikinis.
Use the code BORDERS15 on the Sundaze Bikinis website to get 15% off your order!
You need something to carry all of your beach stuff in – and don’t let that be a paper grocery bag! Remember to add a beach bag to your packing list! This hibiscus print tote from Lauren Roth art is one of my favorites.
Beach towels are multi-functional at the beach. It’s something to lay on, something to dry off with, and, if you can’t stand the cold like me, something to keep you warm. My personal favorite is one by local artist, Nick Kuchar.
Hawaii’s waters are quite a bit saltier than most places across the globe. That means that your eyes can get a little more irritated that usual, so a pair of goggles can definitely come in handy!
Hoping to go snorkeling at some of these North Shore Beaches? You might need some snorkel gear, as there are rarely places to rent gear on the North Shore.
Thinking about swimming far out? Flippers might be a good call.
Recently, Hawaii become the first state to ban sunscreens with ingredients that harm ocean and reef life. While the laws don’t go into effect until 2021, why not start helping the oceans now? Steam2Sea, Raw Elements, and Kokua Sun Care Hawaii are all fantastic reef-safe sunscreen options.
Flip-Flops (locally known as “slippers”)
The only appropriate footwear at a beach is flip-flops – locally known as slippers – or barefoot, of course. And if you happen to need a new pair, the local company, Olukai, makes some of the best slippers around.
Stay hydrated! Consider buying a reusable water bottle to store your water and keep it nice and cool.
I don’t know about you, but all that exercise from swimming in the ocean makes me hungry! Think about taking a snack with you to these North Shore beaches – like something from the Hawaii Food Bucket List!
Want to know exactly what to bring on your trip to Hawaii? Here’s a Hawaii Packing List for you!
Just A Couple of Warnings
The North Shore is known for its large waves – especially during the winter months. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, most North Shore beaches are only swimmable in the summer. However, there may be a few days during the typically wavy season wehn the water could be swimmable (rather than surf-able). Want to check if the waves will be relatively calm on the day you want to visit the North Shore? This website gives constant updates!
Please note that in Hawaii, we measure waves as half of the size that most people measure waves. In other words, if the website says that the waves are three feet, they are actually six feet. For swimmable waters, we are looking for zero feet to one foot.
While wave size is more of an easy-to-see danger, the current is a little more under the radar. The current may pull you pretty far before you even realize that you’ve been moved. Any easy way to keep track of the current is to triangulate yourself. Basically, find two points on the shore to align yourself with (with you as the third point in the triangle). That way, if you want to check your position later on, you can see how much you’ve shifted based on how much your triangle has moved.
Ok, I’m All Set! Tell Me About All of these North Shore Beaches on Oahu!
Laie Beach Park
Have you ever seen those pictures of a trampoline in the water? Those were taken at Laie Beach Park! If you’re hoping to get a picture on that one-of-a-kind trampoline experience, have your fingers crossed! The trampoline has been taken down or torn quite a few times, making it unusable. But someone always manages to rebuild it or fix it. However, within the past couple of years, there hasn’t been any sign of a good-as-new ocean trampoline.
Also, if you’re looking for a place to do your part for the environment, Laie Beach Park is a great place to do so. It is situated at a point where the currents bring in large chunks of ocean plastic from across the Pacific, so there will always be something that needs to be picked up.
Hukilau Beach Park
Sometimes, you’ll get to the North Shore of Oahu and all of the beaches will seem to have HUGE waves. While that might be ideal for surfing, it’s not great for swimming. If that’s the case, head to Hukilau Beach Park. With some of the calmest waters on the North Shore, this beach will be your best bet to find some wave-free waters.
Malaekahana Beach Park
With its tall trees and grassy land, Malaekahana Beach Park is known more for its camping than for its surfing or swimming – and at only $12 a night per campsite it’s pretty affordable too!
Kuilima Cove (Turtle Bay)
Despite its name, Kuilima Cove at Turtle Bay does not actually have turtles. But it does over a relaxing local resort setting. Turtle Bay is actually the hotel that locals go to for a vacation. So if you go to Kuilima Cove, you’ll be a tourist acting like a local acting like a tourist. There’s some crazy inception going on there!
Kawela Bay Beach Park
Hoping to pretend like you’re in the TV show, Lost? Head to Kawela Bay Beach Park! Many of the scenes from Lost were filmed at Kawela Bay Beach Park or on the path to get there. In order to get this North Shore beach, park near or at the Kahuku Land Farms stand. Then, across the street, you’ll see a dusty trail. Follow it. You’ll know you’re on the right track if you pass by a huge banyan tree. Soon enough, you’ll reach the ocean!
Velzyland is one of the busiest surfing beaches on the North Shore. With surf breaks on both the left and right sides of the beach, surfers – both local and from across the globe – come here all the time. Do note that the reef around the breaks at Velzyland is very sharp, so you might end up with a few cuts and scrapes after your surf session.
Sunset Beach is another one of those iconic North Shore beaches. It’s got a large chunk of golden sand to relax on, and if you head towards the right side of the beach, there’s a pretty good current too! Not enough for surfing, but if you want to try your hand at body boarding, it’s a pretty good spot for that!
In the winter, Rocky Point makes for another amazing surf spot. In the summer, it actually has quite a few tidepools that small children have a lot of fun checking out. It’s the best of both worlds!
Indisputably the most popular beach on the North Shore of Oahu is Banzai Pipeline. Known for its HUGE waves, Pipeline holds some of the world’s greatest surf competitions, including the Billabong Pipe Masters.
Log Cabins is right between Banzai Pipeline and Ke Iki Beach – and that means, just like it’s neighbors, it’s bound to have some awesome waves for surfing. On the whole, this area isn’t the place for swimming.
Ke Iki Beach
Ke Iki beach is a special one on the North Shore that no one really knows about. Why is it special, you ask? Because Ke Iki beach is one of two places on the island of Oahu where you can see ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs (the pictorial language of the native Hawaiian people). However, the petroglyphs at Ke Iki are a little bit difficult to find, as they only appear when the waves are larger than usual (so in the winter months). The huge waves move feet of sand off of Ke Iki’s shores and into the ocean, revealing the Hawaiian petroglyphs. Pretty cool, right?
Have some little ones with you on your trip to the North Shore? Shark’s Cove is the North Shore beach for you! This shallow area is protected from the waves by large rocks and the water rarely gets above a few feet deep, making it perfect for small children. Plus, somehow in these shallow waters, there are quite a few colorful fish swimming around!
Three Tables is arguably the best advanced snorkeling beach on the North Shore – or even on the entire island of Oahu. With schools of colorful fish and if you’re lucky, a few turtles, Three Tables is definitely the place to snorkel! Watch out for that strong current though!
The iconic Waimea Bay. Famous for its cliff diving spot. If you’re not into cliff diving, Waimea Bay is also one of the calmer North Shore beaches for swimming. So if your goal is to spend an hour or so in the water, Waimea Bay should be your destination.
I will say if Waimea Bay is the beach that you want to go to, get there early! Parking fills up fast, and it might take a while for a new spot to open up. If you are really desperate, you can head across the street to Waimea Valley and pay for a parking spot there.
Uppers Beach Park
You only really visit Uppers Beach Park if you’re a surfer. Why? Because if you’re not the waves are too large for swimming and there is no sand to relax on. Even if you are a surfer, there’s a lot of lava rock-climbing required to get to a decent surf break. But, I mean, if you’re looking for a place to surf with no one else, this might be the spot for you!
Alligator Rock Beach
Alligator Rock Beach is named after, well, a rock that sort of looks like an alligator from the perfect angle. This beach is a pretty great summer beach. It gets pretty calm in the summer, so there aren’t a lot of waves to push you around. Plus, with Alligator Rock perched in the perfect place, it can make some pretty good snorkeling.
Chun’s Reef is one of those locally-known, yet tourist-hidden beaches. But this beach isn’t for swimming – it’s for surfing some amazing waves!
Hoping to spot some turtles on your trip to Oahu? Laniakea Beach is the beach for you! Nearly every single time that I’ve been to Laniakea Beach, there have been turtles lounging on the shore (with the exception of when there are very large waves – they don’t like the large waves crashing into them on shore).
Want more details on how to swim with turtles on Oahu? Here’s a whole guide for it!
Have you ever heard of Puanena Point? I’m assuming no. Want to know why? It’s one of the hidden local surf spots. Sorry for spilling the secret!
Honestly, to get to Police Beach it requires more effort than I think anyone should put in to get there. In order to get to Police Beach, you have to start at either Puaena Point or Papailoa Beach and walk there. But I mean, Puaena and Papailoa are already stunning beaches on their own, so I’ve never found it necessary to head over to Police Beach. I guess the only reason you would is if you were a Lost super fan, because they filmed quite a few episodes here.
Papailoa is one of the most hidden beaches on the North Shore of Oahu. At the same time, it is one of the largest. With a huge lot of golden sand dotted with white shells, Papailoa looks like it’s out of a Hawaii postcard! (Honestly, Hawaii postcards could actually be taken here for all I know.) The one downside to this beach is that there is no shade at all, so be prepared to lather up in that reef-safe sunscreen.
Haleiwa Beach Park
Located just in the famed little town of Haleiwa is Haleiwa Beach Park. This golden-sand beach is not the busiest of beaches on Oahu’s North Shore, so it makes it a great place to get away from the crowds. Do note that this beach, once again, is not ideal for swimming, as it is more of a surfing beach.
Haleiwa Harbor is less of a beach and more of an area to do ocean sports, but it’s made it on this list anyways. There are about half a dozen places lining the harbor where you can get kayaks or paddleboards. Then, you can either spend your time in the harbor itself, or you can venture down the Anahulu River.
Looking for a guided kayak tour of the Anahulu River? This post has everything that you need to know.
Haleiwa Alii Beach Park
Haleiwa Alii Beach Park is good for basically any water activity depending on the conditions of the ocean. Huge waves? Pro surfers love it. Smaller waves? Beginner surfers love it. Near-glassy surface? Kayakers love it. Doesn’t really matter? Divers heading towards the Haleiwa Trench love it.
Kaiaka Bay Beach Park
Kaiaka Bay Beach Park is located on a peninsula, which means it’s a bit more secluded than the majority of North Shore beaches. This North Shore beach is more of a picnic beach rather than a swimming or surfing beach.
Aweoweo Beach Park
This North Shore beach is probably one of the kid-friendliest ones. With not too many people, bathrooms, and a playground, your children will have a fantastic time at Aweoweo Beach Park.
Rumor has it that Polo Beach is an unofficial nude beach, so don’t go there if that’s not what you’re looking for.
Mokuleia Beach is another one of the unique North Shore beaches. This beach has some tall, coniferous trees lining it – it’s like Hawaii’s version of evergreen trees. You definitely wouldn’t expect to see anything like it on a tropical island like Oahu.
Looking for more information on the North Shore, like hotels, food, and hikes? Check out my Ultimate Guide to the North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii!
Have you been to any of these North Shore beaches? Tell me about your experience in the comments! (I promise I’ll respond!)
Are you planning a dream vacation to Hawaii? Pin this for later, so you can pick a few North Shore beaches to visit!
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4 Replies to “A Complete List of Oahu’s North Shore Beaches”
Such an interesting post! I am an island girl myself (Greek) so I loved it and I am pinning it now! And I had no idea that you measure waves as half of the size that most people measure waves, do you know why’s that?
I’m not exactly sure why the wave size measurement difference started, but I know why we do it now. Basically, the measurement from the top of the wave to the point where sea level would be flat without the waves is how we measure our waves, which, at least in my mind, makes sense. Everyone else measures the waves from the top of the wave to the very bottom of the trough/dip (which would be exactly double the size of how we measure the waves). Does that make sense?
Wow! Great post 🙂 I love the ocean so much and have always wanted to visit Hawaii. Thanks for sharing so much info! On the bucket list even more now.
Sounds like it’s time to plan a trip over!