Travel Guide to North Shore Oahu For First-Time Visitors
North Shore is one of the best parts of Oahu for day trips. This remote area of Oahu is a world away from tourist-packed Honolulu and Waikiki. However, it has gained popularity over the years for its wild waves, stunning coastline, and delicious food.
How to get to North Shore Oahu
North Shore is 32 miles from Waikiki. To get there, you can either drive your own vehicle or take public transport.
From Waikiki, you need to head to Ala Moana Road and turn right on Piikoi Street. Keep to the left and turn left on Lunalilo Street, and then take the ramp onto the H1 freeway. Keep going when you see the sign for Aiea and Pearl City, and continue on to H2 and follow the sign for Wahiawa and Waialua. North Shore is at the end of the freeway.
Buses #52 and #55 go to North Shore from Ala Moana Center every 30 minutes on weekdays and longer on weekends. The bus costs $2.75 per person each way and you can put your bike in front of the bus if you have one. The #52 bus goes on the freeway to North Shore and #55 detours through Kaneohe.
Things to do in North Shore
Once you arrive in North Shore, you will find there are plentiful beaches, food, activities, and interesting film locations. Here are my recommendations on what to see and do in North Shore.
Since the beaches are not in Honolulu and Waikiki, most places there attract visitors and locals who want to get away from the crowds. Visitors will be welcomed with the turquoise blue water, crashing waves, long coastline, the sound of the swaying palm trees, and the sight of professional surfers in the water all day.
Waimea Bay Beach Park
Waimea Bay Beach Park is one of my most favorite beaches on North Shore with powdery sand, trees, pristine ocean, and quiet ambiance. The beach is a perfect place to lie down and soak some vitamin D in the morning. The outcropping monolith creates unique beachscapes and it is where lots of people go cliff jumping.
Sunset Beach is another prime surfing location after Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline. The water is calm during the summer while professional surfers take up the challenge of riding the tall waves in the winter; it is an astonishing sight to watch. Swimming is not recommended at Sunset Beach during the winter owing to the strong currents, and if you plan to swim, try to stay in the parts near the shore.
Of course, one thing you cannot forget to do at Sunset Beach is to watch the sunset. It is one of the best in Hawaii, especially in the winter.
Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, offers visitors the best chance to see the green sea turtles all year round and you do not need to look into the ocean to see , as you will find the sea turtles on the shoreline. This is because, every day, the turtles will come out of the water, relax on the sand, and digest the algae they eat.
I saw a green sea turtle when I was there in the afternoon. The turtles there usually go back to the ocean during the sunset. My friend and I waited for two hours, but after sunset, the turtle was still laying there and refused to move. It appeared he liked the attention we gave him and he probably went back after we all left.
I made it to Turtle Bay a few times and it is a beach that you need to walk through the Turtle Bay Resort to get to. With the clear water, you can see a group of sea turtles. Turtle Bay is not as appealing as the other beach I went to, probably because it is at the back of a resort and it has more people, but it is still accessible to the public. If you are interested in seeing more turtles, I would say go for it.
North Shore Surf Spots
There are few main surf spots in North Shore: Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Ehukai Beach Park. These beaches are the best for experienced surfers and Ehukai Beach Park is where the Banzai Pipeline surfing contest takes place each December. Less-experienced surfers are not encouraged to go into these waters in the winter, as waves are huge and can form curls of water only professional surfers are able to tube through.
North Shore restaurants
Shrimp truck: There are many international restaurants in Haleiwa Town, but you will never go wrong trying any of the food trucks lined up on the roadside. One of the most popular food trucks is Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. They have different flavors of shrimp that are freshly made, and it is best paired with passion fruit.
Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken: This place only opens on weekends and holidays and there are massive queues, but it is worth the trip. The chicken is cooked in Kiawe wood and roasted to perfection. You can also get side dishes, such as rice and pineapple coleslaw.
Matsumoto Shave Ice: This family-owned shaved ice shop was found in 1951 and has become the most popular one in Hawaii. They have dozens of flavors from strawberry to papaya, and you can add ice-cream and mochi on the top. I found the taste is pretty sweet and the portions can be huge. Regardless, Shaved Ice is a local delicacy everyone needs to try when they visit North Shore.
North Shore Film Locations
Kualoa Ranch: While on your trip to North Shore, it is worth it to make a stop at Kualoa Ranch to see where the Ring, Pearl Harbor, and Jurassic Park were filmed with the backdrop of Kaaawa Valley. You can also take a Movie Set Ranch Tour and jeep tour that takes you deep into the Kaaawa Valley.
My friend and I made several trips to the Dole Plantation whenever we were in North Shore and it was definitely worth the time and the hype. There are pineapple trams inside taking guests through the pineapple plantation where you will learn the history of the Dole plantation and agriculture in Hawaii, as well as get to see pineapples in different shapes and stages. Before and after taking the tram, you an try freshly made Dole Whip and the pineapple juice.
Extreme Activities on North Shore
For adventure seekers, you can check out the shark diving and Skydive. Both tour companies will pick you up at your hotel in Waikiki and send you back. I did skydiving when I was there and it is definitely worth the time and the money. The staff was fun and I jumped from 14,000 feet high. They made sure to take care of everything while letting you enjoy floating in the sky. For more about skydiving, you can check out my experience here.
Where to stay in North Shore Oahu
There are not many hotel options in North Shore and the only hotel I have known to date is Turtle Bay Resort. It is very expensive and I was only there to get to Turtle Bay but I have never stayed there overnight. If you want to stay in the North Shore area, you can check out Airbnb in advance for budget purposes.
If you plan to stay in North Shore for a few days, please make sure to have a car so you can get around easily. The bus takes you to the major attractions but the wait is long. It is not recommended to walk from one beach to another, as the distance is long.
-If you are looking for a budget-friendly place to stay, check out Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel. I stayed there for a week during my return trip. Amazing location and the staff there are very knowledgeable about Hawaii and can give you great recommendations on things to do and places to visit. This hostel also offers free breakfast and affordable day tours
-For detail itineraries and off-the-beaten-path destinations, you can get my Oahu travel guide. All the essential travel information, tips, and the routes are included in this guide, so you can just grab this guide and go without additional research.
-I also purchase travel insurance from World Nomad before I go on any trips to cover unexpected accidents and sickness. I highly recommend it because it is affordable and the service is reliable.
Have you visited North Shore Oahu? Share your exprience below.
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