A Local's Guide to Visiting Oahu's North Shore

Oahu’s North Shore is one of my favorite places to escape the hustle and bustle of Honolulu.  It’s famous for it’s huge waves and being home to the charming surf town, Haleiwa.

If you have plans to be on Oahu, you cannot skip a day trip (or more) to the charming North Shore. Here's a guide to visiting, including how to get there, what to do, and where to eat!

 

ABOUT THE NORTH SHORE

The North Shore of Oahu is the area located on the northern-facing part of Oahu, of course! Literally speaking it is entire area from Kaena Point to Kahuku Point, with charming little Haleiwa located smack dab in the middle.

 

GETTING TO THE NORTH SHORE

When I go to the North Shore, my destination is always Haleiwa.  I recommend the same for you, with additional stops on the way as needed.

If your goal is to get to the North Shore as quickly as possible, simply type “Haleiwa” into Google Maps and do what it says.  For me a trip to the North Shore is often more about the journey than the destination, so I like to take the coastal road.  It’s one of the prettiest roads you will ever drive and there is lots to see along the way.

Assuming you’re coming from Honolulu, putting “Haleiwa” into Google Maps will give you a route that'll take you straight through the island (45 mins total).  It doesn’t even provide another option because my preferred route takes much longer — about 1 hour 30 mins without traffic.  But, like I said, it’s the scenic route and worth it.  Plus you can take the quick way home.

To trick Google Maps into directing you along the coastal route, after you search directions to “Haleiwa” click “add stop” and search “Kualoa Ranch”. Once you find it, drag that stop above Haleiwa.  This should give you a route that takes you along the coast and looks similar to the above right photo.

While I definitely recommend spending a fair amount of time at Kualoa Ranch while on Oahu, I wouldn’t actually stop at it on your trip to the North Shore.  Both the North Shore and Kualoa have a lot to do and deserve fully dedicated days.

Prior to Haleiwa there are many places to stop, though.  There are food trucks in Kahuku (like famous Giovanni’s Shrimp), many scenic beaches and look out points, and adorable fresh fruit stands galore!  Keep reading for more specific details.

 

WHAT TO DO

Oahu’s North Shore is famous for it’s crazy big waves so you will definitely want to stop at a beach (or two or three) on your way to Haleiwa.  I recommend:

 

WAIMEA BAY — my favorite North Shore beach and often where I will spend my morning on the North Shore prior to heading to Haleiwa.  The parking lot is incredibly tiny and, with little additional street parking, you are often out of luck if you come to late.  If you want to spend some time here, I’d come early (arrive by 10 or 10:30).

The bay is incredibly beautiful and it has a huge rock that people jump off into the water. If you’re up for an adventure it’s a pretty good time, if not, it’s great for photos!  Unlike many beaches on the North Shore, you can usually go in the water here without worry.

You can also hike Waimea Valley near here back to a waterfall if you’d like to get some exercise!

PIPELINE (EHUKAI BEACH/BANZAI PIPELINE) — home of the world’s deadliest wave!  Unless you are extremely experienced, I would not recommend getting in the water here.  But it is world famous and depending on when you go you might be able to catch a surf competition.

Note: the beach itself is actually called Ehukai Beach.  "Pipeline" is technically the surf break there, but as far as I know most people just call it all "Pipeline".

SUNSET BEACH — another famous beach that surfers cannot get enough of. North Shore waves are biggest from October to March but are worth seeing year-round, in my opinion.

LANIAKEA BEACH (TURTLE BEACH) — a beach full of turtles!

In addition to beaches, you'll want to set aside a fair amount of time to explore Haleiwa.

 

HALEIWA TOWN — the iconic town of Haleiwa is a historic surf town perfect for exploring.  In addition to tons of great food, there are also a handful of cool surf shops, boutiques, gift stores, art galleries, and more.

There are a few different areas in Haleiwa you may want to spend some time exploring:

  • Haleiwa Store Lots is a newer shopping area built around Matsumoto’s (famous shave ice) and is fun to walk around. The Haleiwa Fruit Stand/Whalers General Store has great local gifts and Island Vintage Coffee is a nice cafe.
  • North Shore Marketplace is another shopping area that has many galleries, boutiques, cafes, and more
  • Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck lot is full of food trucks if you want to try a bit of everything

If you can’t find parking at any of the above locations, try the North Shore Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center. I think parking is free there, but double check the signs.

 

WHERE TO EAT

Haleiwa is full of so many amazing places to eat that the most difficult part of going is often deciding where to get your meals!  Some of my favorites:

 

HALEIWA BOWLS

Delicious acais bowls, smoothies, and coffee in the cutest straw shack. Very Instagrammable!

location: 66-030 Kamehameha Hwy
hours: 7:30-6:30pm daily
site / insta

 

MATSUMOTO SHAVE ICE

Iconic shave ice shop serving the North Shore since 1951! It’s not the best you’ll ever have, but to me (and many others, including celebrities!) it’s always been something you just do when you go to the North Shore.

location: 66-111 Kam Hwy Suite #605
hours: 9am-6pm daily
site / insta

 
 

WOW WOW HAWAIIAN LEMONADES

Handcrafted Hawaiian lemonades. Refreshing and delicious!

location: 66-526 Kam Hwy
hours: 9am-5pm daily
site / insta

KUA AINA

A good place to grab a burger if that is what you’re in the mood for!

location: 66-160 Kam Hwy
hours: 11am-8pm daily
site

 

GIOVANNI'S SHRIMP TRUCK

Extremely famous shrimp plates and garlic hot dogs! There is always a huge line no matter what time you go.  To be totally honest I have actually never tried it due to the long queue, but I’ve heard only good things so I felt obligated to include it.

location: 66-472 Kam Hwy
 hours: 10:30am-5pm daily
site

 

THE BEET BOX CAFE

Organic breakfast and lunch.

location: 66-437 Kam Hwy
hours: 7am-4pm daily
site / insta

 

ISLAND VINTAGE COFFEE

Coffee and light bites.

location: 66-111 Kam Hwy
hours: 6am-6pm daily
site / insta

 

If you need food before Haleiwa, stop at the food trucks in Kahuku.  There’s another Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck there and many other great options.

Pupukea Grill (site/insta) in Pupukea is great if you want ahi, too! 

Along the way you’ll also find many different fruit stands and small markets along the side of the road, including the Instagram-famous Sunrise Shack (site/insta)!  If you need to pick up some lychee, want to drink fresh coconut water, etc. these are a great option.

 

STAYING ON THE NORTH SHORE

If you are interested in staying on the North Shore instead of just visiting for the day, Turtle Bay Resort is the place to stay.

 

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