Time to head to
the countryside and pay a visit to the
laidback Oahu North Shore!
A one hour drive will take you from the bustling Waikiki to the rural countryside. You know you’re close when you pass the Dole Plantation, and travel through the pineapple fields. Continue driving down the ridge, as you admire the impressive view of the North Shore of Oahu. Roll down your windows, and breathe the fresh cool salty air, as you arrive at the rustic old Haleiwa Town.
It’s time to slow down and relax when you reach Historic Haleiwa Town. Grab a Hawaiian shave ice, check out the Hawaiian art galleries, and shops before continuing on to the famous Oahu North Shore beaches.
I never get tired visiting North Shore Oahu. There’s a different style and way of life in this part of the island that’s hard to put into words –it’s something you just have to experience to appreciate.
Talking with artist Roy Taisora, who owns his own gallery in the North Shore , I believe he put it best when he advised to “slow down when you arrive in the North Shore and the magic will appear… You will be treated to the small island life”.
I enjoy popping into small but well represented art
into small roadside island cafes, buying trinkets for my little girl
and checking out the surf gear at the rustic surf
Make sure to stop by and visit Roy Taisora’s gallery along with the other half dozen galleries in Haleiwa town, including the famous works of the artist Wyland. If you are interested in picking up a piece of Hawaiian art work, this is the place to do it.
You’ll find that it is about 50% less expensive than purchasing it back in Waikiki.
Also make a point to visit renowned artist, Kim Taylor Reece Gallery, outside of Haleiwa, in an area called Sacred Falls, Punaluu. See more below in the Kahuku section...
Beyond the galleries filled with Hawaiian art work, I love the
character of the old surf
shops with the retired long boards that line
up against the entrance walls. Even if you are not into
surfing, you might appreciate the nostalgia that’s lying around these
There is also a neat surf museum located in Haleiwa Town called the North Shore Surf and Cultural Museum. It captures the history of surfing on Oahu North Shore,
with antique surfboards, ancient artifacts, daily showing of movies and other surf nostalgia.
It’s easy to find the popular North Shore Shrimp Truck, as there are probably about 30 or more spread throughout North Shore-Oahu. They are all about the same so go ahead and stop when you see one so you can fulfill your craving to snack on a bucket of shrimp. The garlic shrimp is a crowd favorite.
Don’t get too full on
shrimp because you'll need to save some of your appetite for
mouth-watering shave ice!
Make sure you stop at the popular
Hawaiian Shave Ice shop. A trip to
just isn’t complete without indulging in this ultimate Hawaiian
Take a stroll through the Matsumoto’s video, and order a yummy shave ice!
Matsumoto’s is by far the most famous, but if you wish not to stand in the long line, then jump next door to Aoki’s Hawaiian Shave Ice (reopening next year)
BEST Hawaiian Shave Ice TIP:
Where ever you end up, just make sure you request a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of your cone –trust me, it takes your Hawaiian shave ice experience to a whole new level!
If Hawaiian shave ice just doesn’t cut it for you, then maybe Ted’s Bakery's famous pies just might fulfill that sweet tooth.
Take note that these are not just everyday pies that you can find anywhere, but special pies with Hawaiian local flavors like Haupia (coconut), Chocolate Huapia (most popular) & Pineapple Cheese. Everyone loves the Chocolate Haupia, my family's favorite is the plain Haupia.
I would recommend buying a whole pie versus just a
slice, or eat a slice while you are there, so you still have the
ability to return and buy more before you leave.
The North Shore of Oahu has 7
miracle miles of incredibly beautiful beach waiting to be
Leaving Haleiwa Town, you have two choices as you head out to the beaches.
Turning left and heading west, will take you an isolated and beautiful side of Oahu North Shore called Mokuleia.
Turning right will take you across the famous twin-spanned
which is the gateway to some of Hawaii’s most popular
Bay Beach Park, Ehukai Beach Park (Banzai
Pipeline), and Sunset Beach Oahu are the main event
wintertime, when the waves are towering at 30 ft plus faces.
Discover Turtle Beach, or what is
truly named Laniakea Beach. The green sea turtle choose
their home as we do, and this small Oahu beach happens to be it!
On almost any given day, you will find Hawaiian sea turtles basking
here on the beach. You’re not
allowed to touch, but you’ll have the best front row seat to view them.
“Turtle Beach” is not hard to find, but could be quit challenging to
Parking is no longer allowed at Laniakea Beach, so you will need to travel further down and walk back.
You are more likely to see green sea turtles swimming about, than reef sharks here at Sharks Cove.
This North Shore cove got its name from its shark like shape around it. Shark’s Cove that is part of Pupukea Beach Park, and is known for its amazing snorkeling and scuba diving. Under these waters you will see a large variety of marine life making home to the surrounding reef, and numerous lava tubes and caves to explore.
It’s an underwater playground here at Sharks Cove, but only advisable to enter the waters under flat conditions (typically in the summer), and if you’re a good swimmer. Take note that there is no lifeguard on duty at this North Shore beach.
Three Tables is another great snorkeling area located just above
Waimea Bay and before you arrive at Sharks Cove. This is another
unique reef area that’s part of the Pupukea Beach Park, and worth
exploring the caves and marine life below.
Finally, don’t miss a
breathtaking Oahu waterfall across the street
from Waimea Bay Beach Park. It’s
located in the
Audubon Center (formally known and sometimes still referred to
Falls Park”). This is a fun place to take a stroll with the
There is a small entrance fee to these botanical gardens, but well worth the admission to stroll the grounds with over 300 species of tropical plants and a stunning view of a 50ft waterfall at the end of the trail.
Nobody thinks of hiking ridges when searching things to do on the
North Shore of Oahu, but there is a hidden trail known as the Ehukai Pillbox Hike. Some refer to it as the Sunset
Pillbox Hike, as it resides behind the Sunset Elementary School,
as has the best sunset view!
This intermediate hike will take approximately 30 minutes to reach
the first of
two military pillboxes that sit up top.
While most visitors head to the North Shore to visit Haleiwa Town and the popular beaches, I like to head towards the tip of Oahu North Shore and beyond. You'll notice there's a lot less traffic & development, and a lot more country greenside to see.
But the adventure doesn't stop once you reach the north tip, where you'l l find the Turtle Bay Resort and its extensive natural preserved estate.
Not too far beyond the bend you discover the original 2 shrimp farms in a small town call Kahuku. Between Romy's Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp and Fumi's Kahuku Shrimp farms, you can sample some of the islands best and freshest garlic shrimp! Take a tour or simple sit on the outdoor picnic tables and enjoy!
Just below Kahuku in Laie awaits the Polynesian Cultural Center. From a Center that opened up in 1963 to the public to over 42 acres to explore today, this Oahu attraction offers an incredible experience! You could easily spend all day here exploring the many different Polynesian cultural areas, shows and activites.
You'll want to stick around for the traditional luau, and also get tickets to their amazing night show called Ha "Breath of Life". This broadway like production is a one of a kind experience, high energy, and will keep you on the edge of your seat!
Make sure to book your ticktes early and take advantage of
discounts to the Polynesian
Very few visitors make it to the Sacred Falls area, or discover the Kim Taylor Reece Gallery. It's an absolute treat for those who appreciate the artist of Hawaii.
Kim has captured the beauty of the Hula performance in sepia-toned black and white photography. His enlarged photographs that he lovingly calls murals are very captivating and will leave you with a larger appreciation for what the Hawaiian Hula dancers and their performances are all about.
Because the attractions are spread through out Oahu North Shore, it's best to rent a car to get around, and see everything on your own time.
There are lots of charter tours available to get you out to the main attractions, but you lose part of the whole feeling of what the North Shore Oahu is about.
Taking the Oahu
bus is also an option, but again, you will lose much time
and off the Oahu bus at destination points. If you choose the
bus as a means of transportation, I would recommend stopping in Old
Haleiwa Town, and then choosing just one of the North Shore beaches to
continue traveling on to.
From Waikiki, take the H-1 Freeway
Take the H-1 Hwy West to the H-2 Hwy North
Follow the H-2 Hwy to the Kamehameha Hwy (hwy 99)
Take Hwy 99 and continue into Haleiwa Town.
If you wish to by pass Haleiwa and head towards the north shore beaches, then continue on Hwy 99 and merge onto Hwy 83, which will take you to the coastline.
As you continue on Hwy 83, you will first encounter Waimea Bay Beach Park, followed by the Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach Park), and Sunset Beach Hawaii.
From Waikiki, take the number 98A bus from Waikiki to the Wahiawa
Armory and transfer to Oahu Bus 88A, that will take you out to Haleiwa
Town and to the northshore beaches.
Facilities: Old Haleiwa Town has some of the best Oahu North Shore restaurants and public restrooms. The famous North Shore Beaches and Waimea Falls Park also have facilities available.
Start early as traffic builds through out the day, and plan on staying
out there a full day including sticking around to view the sunset at
one of the beaches -Sunset Beach Hawaii didn’t get its
name by chance.
I would also recommend checking out one of the Oahu North Shore restaurants for dinner. This will allow you to let the returning traffic to pass, and give you a chance to enjoy a nice ending to a fun day, versus trying to rush back to Waikiki to get ready for a late dinner.