Are you planning an upcoming trip to Oahu, Hawaii, and looking to fill up your itinerary? Still trying to figure out what to see and do on the North Shore? Well, you’re in luck because, in this article, I’m covering the very best things to do in North Shore Oahu.
Since I’ve spent over a year living on the North Shore, you’re not getting an armchair traveler who spends a few hours online reading other blogs and then regurgitating that information, pretending to have expertise.
No, this comes from someone who has experienced the area firsthand and can give you an insider’s perspective on all the best things to see and do on this beautiful piece of the island.
How to Get Around North Shore Oahu
Before we get to the good stuff, let’s discuss transportation. Oahu does have a public bus system that makes north shore stops. Unfortunately, the stops are limited, and the schedule can be unreliable.
To get the most out of your time and to be able to access all of the best things to do in North Shore Oahu, it’s best to rent a car. For everything you need to know about the car rental process, including the best type of car to rent, please take a look at this detailed article on renting a car in Hawaii.
We have also a great guide to driving in Hawaii you should check before going.
Best Things to Do North Shore Oahu
The North Shore is undoubtedly Oahu’s playground, full of activities, epic scenes of nature, and some of the best eats on the island. Here are the 17 best things to do in North Shore Oahu.
1. Beach Day at Waimea
If only one beach day is available on your Oahu itinerary, it must be at Waimea. It’s arguably the best beach on the island because it offers something for everybody.
Waimea is often the source of many postcards because of its beautiful white sand, clear blue water, and lush green vegetation that serves as the perfect frame for the scene. It’s an ideal beach to hang out and enjoy the views.
For adventure seekers, ‘Jump Rock’ at Waimea is the perfect spot for cliff jumping, and the steep sand hills in the winter months are awesome for sandboarding.
Waimea is an excellent snorkeling spot when the waves calm down in the summer. It’s not uncommon to spot Turtles or even dolphins!
Arrive early to have the best chance to snag one of the limited parking spots; otherwise, you’ll need to park alongside the road.
2. Visit Laniakea or Turtle Beach
Speaking of turtles, next up on the list of best things to do on North Shore Oahu is Laniakea Beach, often referred to as ‘Turtle Beach.’ It’s no doubt the best place to spot the rare and endangered Green Sea Turtle, or as the Hawaiians call them, ‘Honu.’
You’ll likely be able to spot them resting on the shores and sometimes even napping on the beach. It’s also one of Oahu’s best spots for snorkeling with a chance to spot turtles.
Laniakea is easy to find as it’s just off the Kamehameha Hwy, about halfway between Haleiwa and Waimea. Parking is available along the road opposite the beach.
3. Grab a Plate Lunch at Ted’s Bakery
North Shore Oahu is packed with activities that will work up an appetite. So many amazing food options are available, but one that you don’t want to miss is Ted’s Bakery.
Ted’s serves up the best plate lunches on the island. My favorite is the garlic shrimp; they are all good. Make sure to grab one of their delicious Haupia pies for dessert.
Seating and parking is limited at Ted’s. Also, the service line can get pretty long, so plan accordingly and try to avoid peak lunch and dinner times.
4. Paddleboard Haleiwa River
North Shore Oahu is known for its beaches, but there’s also a beautiful river that runs through the town of Haleiwa. The Anahulu River, often called the Haleiwa River, is one of the best spots to paddleboard since the water is usually very calm.
Several paddleboard vendors are onsite to make the board rental process a breeze. Kayaks are also available for those not comfortable on a paddleboard.
You can choose to go on a self-guided tour up the river or take advantage of the many full-service options to help get the most out of the experience.
Parking is available along the street and at the park nearby.
5. Watch the Sunset at Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach is the best spot on the North Shore to watch the sun go down. As the name suggests, this beach is known for its incredible sunsets.
It’s also home to Oahu’s most massive wave, which only occurs during the winter months.
During these months, Sunset Beach becomes a haven for professional surfers from around the world who come to ride the legendary waves. Please keep in mind the strong currents and stay on the beach unless you have experience with big waves.
Parking is limited along the side of the road and across the street. Showers and restrooms are available.
6. Take a Photo with the ‘Lost’ Banyan Tree
The North Shore is full of photo ops, but one of the most unique is the giant Banyan tree that lives near Turtle and Kawela Bay.
Featured in shows such as ‘Lost’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ this tree is a must-see. It’s a quick stop off the side of the Kamehameha Highway.
To get there, follow the trail to Kawela Bay across from the fruit stand. Parking is available on the side of the road.
Make sure to grab a Banana Lumpia on your way to or from (at the fruit stand).
7. Treat Yourself to Some Shave Ice at Matsumoto’s
Matsumoto’s is a North Shore staple. Maintaining its original facade from the 1950s, this store has become world-famous for its delicious shaved ice.
The line can get pretty long, but it moves quickly as they have perfected their process over the years. Choose your favorite flavors and top with condensed milk or vanilla ice cream to take it up a notch.
There is a nice shaded common area with picnic tables to enjoy your frozen treat. There are also several retail shops nearby, and onsite parking is available.
8. Boogie Board at Pounders Beach
Pounders Beach, aka Laie Beach Park, is a local favorite and the perfect place to grab a boogie board and catch some waves.
It’s also a great spot for swimming and relaxing away from the main tourist hotspots. The waves can get pretty big here, so please use caution, especially if you’re new to boogie boarding.
Also, take advantage of the trail that takes you up on top of the cliffside to look down at the waves crashing down below.
There are showers, picnic tables, and a small parking lot available for use.
9. Watch the Surf at Bonzai Pipeline
Every year in January-February, one of the biggest surf competitions in the world takes place on North Shore’s famous Bonzai Pipeline, aka Ehukai Beach Park. The competition draws the biggest names on the professional surf scene, and they face off on the most epic wave on the planet.
No worries if you don’t happen to be visiting during the scheduled competition time because you can watch advanced surfers dropping in on wave year-round at Bonzai.
Whether you’re an experienced surfer or have never touched a surfboard, watching the surfers at Bonzai is a ‘must-do’ activity on Oahu’s North Shore.
There is a small parking area at Ehukai Beach Park and additional parking alongside the road.
10. Snorkel at Shark’s Cove
Arguably, Oahu’s best snorkel spot next to Haunama Bay is Shark’s Cove on the North Shore.
The reef and tide pools here teem with marine life, including colorful fish, eels, octopuses, and more. It’s an excellent spot for both beginners and experienced snorkelers alike.
Several Food trucks are set up across the street, offering various options. Parking can be a bit tricky to find right next to Shark’s Cove, so it’s best to try one of the nearby parking lots or along the road.
11. Go Ziplining at Climbworks
If you’re looking for a heart-pounding adventure, look no further than Climbworks Keana Farms.
Located on the North Shore near Pupukea, this 2.5-hour zipline tour with eight dual lines, three suspension bridges, and a floating staircase takes you through breathtaking views of Oahu’s countryside.
Part of the experience is an exciting ATV adventure up to the ridge. You’ll also have a chance to taste some fresh fruits grown on the farm and learn about Hawaii’s history and culture.
Parking and restroom facilities are available on-site.
12. Get Immersed at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Located in Laie, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the North Shore.
This living museum celebrates the cultures and traditions of Polynesia through interactive exhibits, performances, and demonstrations.
Enjoy traditional Polynesian cuisine at one of their luaus or catch an evening show featuring dances from different island nations.
Plan to spend a full day here as there is so much to see and do. Ample parking is available, and shuttle services are also offered from Waikiki.
13. Pillbox Hike Near Sunset Beach
The Pillbox near Sunset Beach is the best all-around hike on the North Shore Oahu. It’s easy to access, and its mid-to-easy difficulty level puts it on the island’s list of best family-friendly hikes.
The views at the top are stunning, showcasing both the mountains and the ocean.
Parking is available at Sunset Elementary or along Kamehameha Highway. To access the trail, walk toward the marked trail from the parking lot.
It’s best to attempt this hike early or late to avoid the afternoon heat. The trail can get slippery if it has rained recently, especially going up the steep incline near the beginning.
14. Dole Pineapple Plantation Tour
If you’ve never visited the Dole Pineapple Plantation, you’re in for a treat. Located just off the North Shore on Oahu’s central plain, this popular attraction offers a variety of tours and activities.
Hop aboard the Pineapple Express train for a scenic tour around the plantation grounds, or challenge yourself in the world’s largest maze.
And don’t leave without trying their famous Dole Whip soft serve ice cream made with real pineapple juice.
Parking is available on-site, and there are also shuttles that run from Waikiki.
15. Hit the Golf Course at Turtle Bay Resort
Golf enthusiasts will love the two world-renowned golf courses at Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore.
The Arnold Palmer Course and George Fazio Course offer stunning ocean views and challenging holes that cater to all skill levels.
After a round of golf, grab some lunch or drinks at one of the resort’s many restaurants and bars. Parking is available on-site for guests.
16. Underwater Shark Cage in Haleiwa
This one is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re feeling daring, consider booking a shark cage tour in Haleiwa.
You’ll have the chance to get up close and personal with sharks while safely inside a submerged cage.
While this may sound scary, it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories.
Parking is available at the harbor where the tours depart from.
17. Indulge in Farm Fresh Food at Kahuku Farms
Located on the outskirts of Kahuku town, Kahuku Farms is a family-owned farm that offers tours and serves up delicious farm-to-table food in their outdoor cafe.
Take a tour around the farm to learn about sustainable agriculture in Hawaii and sample some of their fresh fruits. Then, stop by the cafe for lunch or a snack featuring ingredients straight from the farm.
Plenty of parking is available on-site, and the farm is easily accessible from the Kam Highway.
Wrapping Up: Best Things to Do North Shore Oahu
And there you have it! A comprehensive guide to the best things to do in North Shore, Oahu. From surfing magnificent waves to delving into the rich cultural history and indulging in fresh island cuisine, North Shore truly has something for every traveler.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a nature enthusiast, or a foodie, this Hawaiian gem is sure to leave you spellbound. So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in North Shore, Oahu. Remember, the island is more than just a destination; it’s an experience!
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Griff Christensen is a former marketing manager who ditched his high-stress lifestyle for the world. In 2019, he sold everything and set out on a full-time travel adventure around the globe with his crew The Runaway Family.