Are you looking for a list of the best things to do on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii? This guide from a Hawaii local has everything that you need to know!
The North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii is one of the most iconic spots in the island chain. With places like Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay, it’s no wonder the North Shore has put its name on the map. While it is most popular with surfers from around the world, Hawaii locals and tourists love the many things to do on the North Shore of Oahu as well.
So what are you waiting for? Are you ready for a trip to Oahu’s North Shore?
Where Is the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii
As the name of the North Shore implies, it is the northernmost coastline on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This runs from Kaena Point in the west to Hauula in the east.
This puts the North Shore about an hour away from the typical vacation destinations of Honolulu, Waikiki, and Ko Olina.
When Is The Best Time to Visit the North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Regardless of the time of year, you want to go to the North Shore as early as possible! The morning is the best time for snorkeling, surfing, and hiking – and it’s also the best time to snag a coveted parking spot, which quickly fill up on the North Shore.
As for the best time of year, that depends on what you’re hoping to do and see! The wave size changes a lot depending on the season. That means, if you’re hoping to snorkel, you’ll want to visit in the summer. And if you’re hoping to watch pro surfers shred some massive waves, you’ll want to visit in the winter.
How to Get to the North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
If you’re planning to visit the North Shore, I highly recommend renting a car for a couple of different reasons.
First, you’ll likely have to make an hour drive to the North Shore if you’re staying on the South Shore of the island (which includes Honolulu, Waikiki, Kapolei, and Ko Olina). That drive will be pretty pricey by Uber or Lyft and will take even longer by bus.
The second reason I recommend renting a car for your trip to the North Shore is for ease. There’s a good chance you’ll be making tons of stops during your time on the North Shore. And these stops will be far enough apart that you’ll have to drive. A car will definitely come in handy.
If you’re on a budget and can’t afford to rent a car, you can also take The Bus (yes, that’s the name of Oahu’s public bus). This option will only cost you a few hours a day, and it will take you within walking distance of just about any major North Shore stop!
The only downside to taking The Bus is that it will take quite a bit of extra time.
By Uber or Lyft
If the other two options don’t appeal to you, there’s always Uber or Lyft! This is definitely the priciest option, but if that’s what you prefer, there are drivers waiting.
Tips for Visiting the North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Spend More Than One Day
Most visitors to the North Shore try to see everything in one day, but that’s just not possible! There’s just so many things to do on the North Shore!
For that reason, I highly recommend spending at least two days (if not more) on the North Shore. That way, you can see more of this beautiful part of the island.
Stock Up on Snacks
As you explore the North Shore, you’ll be hopping from beaches to shops to hikes. It’ll be so exciting that you might even forget to eat until you’re already lounging on the sand. (Not even going to lie, that’s happened to me before.)
Since the best restaurants on the North Shore are kind of far from the beaches, I recommend stocking up on some local snacks. The Foodland near Shark’s Cove is the perfect place to do so.
Embrace the Slow Pace of Island Life
The pace of life on the North Shore is nice and laidback. And you’ll definitely notice this during your time on the North Shore, whether its when you’re ordering food or driving.
Since the main road on the North Shore only has one lane in each direction, traffic can be quite slow, especially with the frequent stops to let people cross and the inevitable traffic on prime surf days. Rather than getting frustrated, just take a breath, enjoy the lovely views, and embrace the slow pace of island life.
If you really want to embrace laidback pace and the island’s aloha spirit, you can pause to let a group or two cross the street in front of your car.
40 Best Things to Do on the North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Cliff Jump at Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay is one of the most popular beaches on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Between the calm waters in the summer and the surfable waves in the winter, this beach is always a ton of fun. But the most popular thing to do at Waimea Bay is cliff jump.
On the left side of the beach, there is a rock that you can climb up and jump off into the water. (Just look for the rock that everyone else is climbing!)
*Note: For your safety, don’t try to go cliff jumping at Waimea Bay in the winter! That’s when the waves become huge, and cliff jumping becomes dangerous!
Find the Secret Stairs at Waimea Bay
One of the lesser known things to do at Waimea Bay is find the secret stairs. Straight out of a movie, these stairs take you to an amazing view of the bay.
And, well, because they’re a secret, I can’t give you much more information than that. But keep your eyes and ears open – and maybe you’ll find this hidden gem!
Let the Kids Snorkel at Shark’s Cove
Shark’s Cove is the most kid-friendly snorkeling place on Oahu in general, not just on the North Shore. Within just a few feet of water, you can find schools of colorful fish, tons of sea urchins, and even a sea cucumber or two!
While you can venture out of the rocky area of Shark’s Cove to do a little more snorkeling, this also puts you in open ocean, which is more dangerous and not as kid-friendly.
*Note: Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove in the winter is not a wise idea. Between the large waves and the sharp rocks, it would basically be a disaster in the making.
Snorkel at Three Tables
While Shark’s Cove is the most well-known snorkel spot on the North Shore, Three Tables may be the best. As the neighboring beach to Shark’s Cove, there’s a lot of overlap with the types of sea creatures you’ll see, but Three Tables just has a lot more space and reef to explore.
*Note: For your safety, don’t venture out past the three “tables” (a.k.a. the three flat islands bordering the outer edge of the beach). After that point, the current becomes quite strong, and you may end up getting pulled out without realizing it!
Spend the Day at the Polynesian Cultural Center
One of the most popular things to do on the North Shore is spend a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. As a matter of fact, the Polynesian Cultural Center claims that it is the most popular paid attraction on the entire island. While there, learn about the many Polynesian cultures by wandering through six Polynesian villages, experiencing a luau, and watching a cultural evening show.
Try a Slice of Pie from Ted’s Bakery
Ted’s Bakery on the North Shore is known for its sweet treats, particularly its pies. These pies come in a wide variety of flavors, but the chocolate haupia pie from Ted’s is what put this bakery on the map. This chocolate-y, coconut-y dessert is divine and absolutely worth your time.
Cast Your Vote in the North Shore Shrimp Truck Rivalry
For as long as I can remember, there has been a North Shore shrimp truck rivalry: Giovanni’s versus Romi’s versus Fumi’s. Each of these shrimp trucks takes locally harvested shrimp (although when they need to due to demand, they do supplement the local shrimp with shrimp from elsewhere) and puts its own spin on it. So after trying all three, be sure to come back to the comments and let me know which one you think is the best!
In case you don’t want to eat that much shrimp during your time on Oahu’s North Shore, I’ll tell you my opinion: the garlic shrimp from Giovanni’s is my preference.
Take a Tour at the North Shore Soap Factory
The North Shore Soap Factory makes the Hawaiian Bath and Body natural skincare line. Situated in the historic Waialua Sugar Mill, the North Shore Soap Factory offers tours of the company’s soap making process. Learn how they encapsulate scents like plumeria, pikake, and mango into lovely bars of soap.
Stand-Up Paddle Board at Haleiwa Harbor
Stand-up paddle boarding in Haleiwa Harbor is a ton of fun! Because it is a harbor and not open ocean, there’s not as much of a current to fight against. Plus, it is attached to the Anahulu River, which you can wander down and explore. You might even see a turtle during your stand-up paddle board experience.
*Note: There are ton of shops and vans in or near Haleiwa Harbor that rent stand-up paddleboard equipment. And they’re actually pretty reasonably priced, especially considering how expensive things can be in Hawaii.
Catch a Surf Competition at Banzai Pipeline
One of the best things to do on the North Shore is watch a surf competition at Banzai Pipeline, simply known as Pipeline. Hawaii is known around the globe for its prime surf conditions, and Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu is the best place to go to watch pro surfers do what they do best.
Throughout the winter months when waves reach 20 feet (or 40 feet for anyone who’s not local – we measure wave size differently), there’s likely a surf competition happening somewhere on the North Shore. Billabong Pipe Masters is definitely one of the most popular surf competitions at Pipeline specifically, so check to see if that’s happening during your time in the islands.
Do a Little Surfing Yourself (NOT at Pipeline)
If you are hoping to do some surfing on the North Shore of Oahu instead of just watch it, consider Chun’s Reef. This surfing spot isn’t as wild as Pipeline, but the waves are still exciting.
That said, if you don’t have a good amount of surfing experience on your belt, Chun’s Reef is NOT for you! As a matter of fact, the North Shore of Oahu in general isn’t the spot for you to surf. Instead, head down to Oahu’s south shore, where the waves are quite a bit calmer.
Watch the Waves Crash at Laie Point
A trip to Laie Point may be one of the most underrated things to do on the North Shore. There are pretty much only two things to do at this hidden gem – check out the views and do a little cliff jumping – but a visit is still completely worth it.
*Note: Do know that the waves at Laie Point can get quite high. Be sure to keep your distance from the edge!
Watch the Sunset at Sunset Beach
Is there a more appropriate place to catch the sunset than Sunset Beach? Watch the sky blaze in yellows, oranges, pinks, and reds after the sun dips below the horizon.
Find the Petroglyphs Hidden Beneath the Sand at Ke Iki Beach
Petroglyphs are the ancient Hawaiian pictorial language. You can think of them as the Hawaiian version of Egyptian hieroglyphics. While the Big Island is packed with petroglyphs, there are only two places to see them on the island of Oahu: At Nuuanu Memorial Park and at Ke Iki Beach.
But the petroglyphs at Ke Iki Beach have stayed hidden for another reason: they only appear when the waves are big enough to sweep huge swaths of sand away! Then, beneath all that sand, you’ll be able to see rocks with petroglyph carvings.
Grab Some Coffee at Waialua Estate
Along with sunny beaches, coffee is at the top of the list of things that Hawaii is known for. While Kona coffee is the most famous, Waialua Estate coffee is just as good.
If you’re looking for more coffee farms that are worth your time, this Hawaiian coffee companies article is definitely worth a read.
Wander the Path through Waimea Valley to Waimea Falls
The path to Waimea Falls is considered to be one of the easiest hikes on the island – if you can even call it a hike. This three-quarter-mile path is almost entirely flat, and it ends up at the nicely sized Waimea Falls. As an added bonus, you may be allowed to swim at the falls (this is weather dependent), although you must wear a life jacket.
Tackle the Path to Ehukai Pillbox
While most people have heard of the Lanikai Pillbox hike near Lanikai Beach, there are actually far more pillbox hikes on the island than just that one.
Your first question is probably, “What is a pillbox?” Put simply, pillboxes are cement bunkers or lookout points used by the military during World War II. Now, they just make for great viewpoints.
The Ehukai Pillbox hike takes you to one of these stunning viewpoints. Hidden behind Sunset Beach and Pipeline, the Ehukai Pillbox provides a short and sweet adventure. Over the course of this hour-long hike, you’ll wander through bright greenery, pass by a table covered in multicolored children’s handprints, and catch amazing views of the North Shore from the historic pillbox.
Get an Acai Bowl Made with Locally Grown Acai Berries from Kahuku Farms
One dish that typically makes it onto people’s Hawaii food bucket lists is an acai bowl. While acai berries are not native to the Hawaiian Islands, many people have come to associate the two tropical favorites. But luckily for you, there is one place on Oahu that makes their acai bowls with locally grown acai berries: Kahuku Farms.
The acai bowls at Kahuku Farms are something special – in the best way possible of course. The locally grown acai gives an added touch of flavor and the toppings of graham cracker granola and lilikoi butter almost make it reminiscent of a key lime pie.
*Note: Since Kahuku Farms uses locally grown acai berries for their acai bowls, this delicious treat is seasonal. It’s typically only available in the summer, but this all depends on the acai berry production.
Take a Tour of Kahuku Farms
As if delicious, farm fresh food wasn’t enough, Kahuku Farms also offers tours of its lands. Learn about the various plants on the farm, as well as the history of the farm itself! You’ll even get a delicious fresh fruit sampling on whatever is growing that season!
Walk Along the Beachfront Trail to Kahuku Pillbox
Now, I’m not actually sure if there’s a name for this North Shore hike, so I named it myself: Kahuku Pillbox. (I thought it was appropriate considering all of the other pillboxes on the North Shore.)
Located on a little peninsula near Turtle Bay Resort, there are two different ways to reach Kahuku Pillbox. But I’m only going to discuss the beachfront route, which, while it is longer, is objectively better.
This one-mile path starts at Turtle Bay Resort. From there, it meanders through the oceanfront cottages, onto the Kawela Main Trail, and then onto the Hidden Beach Loop along the North Shore coastline. Along the way, you’ll see hidden beaches, horses, and an ancient Hawaiian ahu (boundary markers between ahupua’a or ancient Hawaiian “states”).
Devour a Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation
While the Dole Plantation isn’t technically on the North Shore, many people combine a trip to the North Shore with a stop at the Dole Plantation.
The first thing that you must do at the Dole Plantation is devour a Dole whip. While there’s a good chance that you’ve tried a Dole whip somewhere else, those don’t even compare to the pineapple goodness of a Dole Whip from the Dole Plantation.
Get Lost in the Maze at the Dole Plantation
The second thing that you must do at the Dole Plantation is make your way through the maze. The maze at the Dole Plantation is the largest maze in the entire world! It actually lost its title once in the past, so the company decided to expand the maze in order to reclaim its title.
Take a Train Ride at the Dole Plantation
If you want to extend your stay at the Dole Plantation, you can also take a train ride. During this activity, you’ll learn all about the plantation’s farming practices and about many of the unique local fruits and veggies.
Find the Hidden Hauula Pillbox
The last of the North Shore pillboxes is Hauula Pillbox. And this pillbox is also the most hidden and the most difficult to reach. Also known as Kaipapau Bunker, this hike is a solid two-and-a-half miles roundtrip.
To reach Hauula Pillbox, you’ll begin your journey on the trail to Kaipapau Falls. But not long after you’ve started, you’ll have to take a couple of turns onto paths that are less clearly marked. If you’re interested, this is the clearest guide to the Kaipapau Bunkers that I could find. Please be sure to read it and do your own additional research before heading out to find this elusive pillbox.
Zipline at Keana Farms
One of the coolest things to do on the North Shore is Zipline at Keana Farms. This amazing farm actually has a three-hour ziplining tour! And while you glide over the treetops, you’ll also learn tons of interesting information about the farm and Hawaii in general.
Book Here: Keana Farms Ziplining and Farm Tour
Wander the Shops at Haleiwa
One of the most popular things to do on the North Shore is simply wander around the shops in Haleiwa. This historic town has a slight Western vibe to it, so it’s an interesting combination with the overarching surfing vibe of the North Shore.
While wandering around these shops, be sure to pick up any souvenir items that you may have in mind. You can also stop by the popular clothing shops for HE>i apparel and Red Dirt Shirts.
Skydive at Dillingham Airfield
For those of you with an adventurer’s heart, you can skydive at Dillingham Airfield. This North Shore airfield is the only place on Oahu where you can skydive, but you have your choice of three different companies. How cool would it be to say that you skydived in Hawaii?
Take the Iconic Instagram Photo at the Sunrise Shack
The Sunrise Shack is one of those places on Oahu that owes its extreme popularity to Instagram. This sunrise yellow structure is situated across the street from Sunset Beach. And while the building itself catches the attention of many Instagram influencers, the food just puts it over the top. The brightly hued blue dream bowl and the array of colorful tropical smoothies are definitely Instagram-worthy.
Smile In the Sunflower Fields in Waialua
Located on the westernmost part of the North Shore, the sunflower fields in Waialua are a real treat. These sunflower flower fields are actually grown as part of research projects – but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them!
These sunflowers bloom sometime between October and December (it changes a little every year, depending on weather patterns). While there, take as many pictures as you like and even ask the staff all of your sunflower-related questions.
Find One of the Hidden Beaches on the North Shore
Many people think Hawaii locals have secret beaches that they keep for themselves. And those people would be right. Can you find one?
Kayak in the Anahulu River
The Anahulu River is the best place to kayak on the North Shore – making doing so one of the best things to do on the North Shore. Connected to Haleiwa Harbor, the Anahulu River is filled with turtles that like to pop their heads up and say hi! And don’t forget the schools of fish swimming below your board!
Find a Treasured Sunrise Shell
A sunrise shell is one of the hardest shells to come across. These orange-and-pink shells are not only named after the colors they boast, but also because they are most commonly found at sunrise! For your best chance of finding one, head to Haleiwa Beach Park or Alii Beach Park.
If your search for a sunrise shell comes up empty, don’t fret! You can purchase sunrise shell jewelry from various local jewelers, including Rise Jewelry.
Use the code BORDERS10 to get 10% off your purchase on the Rise Jewelry website.
Pay a Visit to the Laie Hawaii Temple
The town of Laie has a large Mormon community – and they’ve built themselves a stunning temple. The Laie Hawaii Temple was built to resemble Solomon’s temple from the Bible. With a gleaming white exterior and a flowing pale blue pool, it’s a magnificent structure.
While you can’t enter the building, you can take a tour of the grounds and stop by the visitor’s center.
Try Night Kayaking with North Shore Explorers
Night kayaking is definitely one of the most unique things to do on the North Shore. North Shore Explorers will help you do this properly and safely.
While instead of going into open waters with minimal light, North Shore Explorers takes you night kayaking behind the scenes of the famous Polynesian Cultural Center. Listen to an ancient Hawaiian legend while gliding past the Polynesian Cultural Center’s versions of Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, and more.
Try a Bite of Kalua Pig from Kono’s
One of the most traditional Hawaiian foods is kalua pig. Typically, to make kalua pig, an entire pig is cooked in a hole in the ground (called an imu) for hours and hours.
Now, unless you know some locals hosting their own luau, odds are you won’t be able to try this hole-in-the-ground kalua pig. But if you’re looking for a place to try some as-traditional-as-it-can-get-without-being-cooked-in-the-ground kalua pig, Kono’s is the place for you. The entire menu seems to be centered around kalua pig, as they serve everything from kalua pig breakfast burritos to kalua pig sliders to kalua pig salads.
Spot Some Turtles at Laniakea Beach
One of the coolest things to do on the North Shore is check out the turtles lounging on Laniakea Beach. Also known as Turtle Beach (not to be confused with Turtle Bay), Laniakea Beach is your best bet for seeing turtles on Oahu. Most of the turtles simply lounge on the sand, but, if you’re lucky, you might be able to swim with turtles too! Just remember to keep your distance and respect their space.
Due to the height of the waves, you’re more likely to see turtles at Laniakea Beach in the summer when the waves are smaller, rather than when the big winter waves hit.
Hike to Kaena Point, the Tip of Oahu
When people come to Oahu, they often want to road trip around the entire island, as if the whole perimeter of the island is paved. While that is mostly true, there’s a little stretch of land on the northwestern tip of the island that remains unpaved. That spot is known as Kaena Point.
Since Kaena Point remains one of the few oceanfront places inaccessible by car, it has become a sanctuary for sea creatures. While it is officially a sanctuary for sea birds, it’s not uncommon to see the endangered Hawaiian monk seal lounging on the rocks of Kaena Point.
Swim with Sharks
This list of things to do on the North Shore has been pretty daring so far. With cliff jumping, ziplining, and skydiving, you may be convinced that the adrenaline-packed activities on the North Shore are out of the way, but that simply isn’t the case. You can also add swimming with sharks to your North Shore bucket list.
Book Here: Cage-Diving with Sharks on Oahu’s North Shore
Spend a Night at the Local’s Staycation Destination: Turtle Bay Resort
Turtle Bay Resort is pretty much always the local pick for where to stay on the North Shore. Whenever locals want to feel like they’re on vacation but don’t want to leave the island, they stay at Turtle Bay Resort. With a fitness center, a spa, and a golf course, there is a ton to do on the property. And around the property, there is fantastic snorkeling in Kuilima Cove and fantastic easy hiking trails all around.
Book Here: Turtle Bay Resort
Do a Hike or Beach Clean-Up
After enjoying all of the other things that the North Shore of Oahu has to offer, it’s important to give back. After all, the land and water that you’ve enjoyed won’t be the same if we don’t help to keep it clean! To do your part, simply grab a trash bag and do a hike or beach clean-up. Thank you in advance for your help!
Are there any other things to do on the North Shore that you think should have made it onto this list? Let me know in the comments below!
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