A Local's Guide to Visiting North Shore Oahu
North Shore Oahu 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 Oahu North Shore. Here's a guide to visiting, including how to get there, what to do, and where to eat!
The Best Tools for Traveling
First, let’s talk about planning tools! As a full time traveler with a LOT of experience planning trips, I have a handful of sites and tools that I cannot live without. They save me money, time, and frustration - all of which are very important for me and should be to you, too.
For flights, I use Skyscanner. Skyscanner is great because they find you the cheapest flights by comparing millions of options from airlines and travel agents. Click here to find the best flight deal!
For hotels I always use HotelsCombined, as you will notice in my recommendations. I love them because they compare all of the top travel sites in one spot - with no booking fee and no markup. Best price guarenteed! Click here to search HotelsCombined.
When I'm not staying at a hotel, I love Airbnb. When chosen right, it provides a more local experience and you can often get a lot more space for less money. Click here to get $40 off your first stay.
To get around while in city, I recommend walking, using public transit, or Uber if it's available. If you are new to Uber, use code "kbae3" to get your first ride for free. You can also use it on Uber Eats!
In larger cities or those where a rental car is needed (i.e. Oahu), I recommend Avis. I personally have used nothing but Avis for the last 6+ years and have only had wonderful experiences with them. The best part? When you become a preferred member you don't even have to wait in line - you just walk off the plane and head directly to your rental car. I have also found their prices to be the best. Click here to reserve your rental.
For tours, museum tickets, and other activities, I recommend GetYourGuide. They are a trusted site and have lots of unique things to do along with all of the standard touristy activites. Booking everything individually can be a bit of nightmare to keep track of. With GetYourGuide you can create an account to book and manage all of your tickets in one central location. Click here to search GetYourGuide.
Want to stay connected while traveling? I recommend renting a pocket-sized personal WiFi hotspot from Tep! Click here to see the latest prices.
Other Hawaii Information
If you will be visiting Oahu, we have everything you need to plan your trip!
FOR WHAT TO PACK… click here for our Hawaii packing list.
FOR WHERE TO EAT… click here for a local’s guide to the best places to eat.
FOR WHAT TO DO… click here for my top 10 recommendations. My number one recommendation is to swim with dolphins in the wild. Click here for a detailed post about how to do that!
FOR A GUIDE TO VISITING KUALOA RANCH (JURASSIC PARK HAWAII)… click here.
FOR A GUIDE TO THE FAMOUS NORTH SHORE… click here.
FOR THE BEST PHOTO OPPS… click here!
Also, subscribe below to get our FREE downloadable guide and we’ll also send you some step-by-step help to plan the Hawaii trip of your dreams!
What to Pack for the North Shore
COMFORTABLE YET STYLISH SNEAKERS. If you plan on running around a bit this is very important! My very favorite are M. Gemi’s white leather sneakers. I literally never travel anywhere without them. Click here to see latest prices and use for “CHRISTIE40” for $40 off.
NO-SHOW SOCKS. To go with the above mentioned shoes! I have tried so many different ones and find that most fall down under your heel (ouch) but these do not. Click here for the ones I love.
SANDALS. For the beach, of course! Click here for the ones I wear (I have numerous colors).
SUNGLASSES. Of course! Three timeless styles I’ve been wearing non-stop: click here for my favorite Quay aviators (I have both the black and the rose gold), click here for my round Ray-Bans, and click here for my all time favorite black on black Ray-Bans that are often hard to track down because they sell out consistently.
BIKINIS. If you haven’t tried Boys + Arrows yet - you must. Their seamless bottoms are by far the most comfortable I have EVER tried (and I own over 50 bikinis). Click here for my favorite bikinis! I also love this brand (I have black + gold and the navy colorful one), this brand, this brand, and this brand.
BEACH TOWEL. Do not forget towels! You will spend way more on them in Hawaii than you will if you buy them beforehand. Click here for my favorite quick drying colorful travel beach towels.
SUN HAT. To protect your face. Click here for the one I am loving.
SPF. Incredibly important, do NOT forget this. Click here for my favorite face SPF. I also always carry a mineral powder sunscreen brush with me at all times to put on top and lock in the SPF. Click here for the one I use and recommend.
SELF TANNER. I personally don’t love showing up in my bikini white as a ghost so I always self tan prior to arrival! Click here for my favorite bronzing mousse. If you don’t have a tanning mitt (you’ll need one to apply it), click here for my new favorite. For your face, I am loving these self-tanning drops that you mix into your moisturizer. Click here for those! I use the dark ones.
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE. Traveling makes you dehydrated as does sunshine so please do not forget this (and PLEASE do not buy single-use plastic ones instead). Hydro Flask is the best because it keeps your drink cold (or warm). So worth the investment. Click here to see the latest prices.
For a full list of what to bring to Hawaii, click here for my Hawaii packing list.
ABOUT THE NORTH SHORE OAHU
The Hawaii 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 Oahu Hawaii
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 Hawaii 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.
Things to do North Shore Oahu
There are many things to do in Oahu North Shore — everything from seeing the famous North Shore waves to walking around historic Haleiwa town.
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.
Best beaches North Shore Oahu:
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:
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.
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
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
THE BEET BOX CAFE
Organic breakfast and lunch.
ISLAND VINTAGE COFFEE
Coffee and light bites.
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.
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 if you prefer a hotel or resort. Click here to see the latest prices.
For a more local experience, these Airbnb options are my recommendation: 11 Best Airbnb Oahu Rentals: Waikiki, Kailua, North Shore.
For broader recommendations on where to stay on Oahu, click here for where to stay on Oahu - a local's guide!