Updated: Jan 2
The laid-back North Shore is a stretch of coast on Oahu known for big waves and professional surfing contests at places like Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach. In summer (May–Oct), Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District has calm water for snorkeling among colorful coral and fish. Indie galleries, surf shops, and Hawaiian plate-lunch spots fill the area leaving plenty to do in North Shore Oahu on your trip.
We spent two days exploring North Shore Oahu on our recent trip to Hawaii. It can be easy to take just a day trip to this area because Oahu is a small island and North Shore is only an hour away from Waikiki. However, I highly recommend you take your time and spend more than just a day here if you can. There’s plenty to do in North Shore Oahu!
1. Hike in Ka’ena State Park (or camp!) free
My favorite part of North Shore was Ka’ena State Park. It was also my favorite place we went hiking on Oahu. We chose to hike Ka’ena Point Trail and the views along the trail did not disappoint. It’s a 5.60 mile, out and back trail near Waialua, Oahu.
Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 2 h 30 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime.
We loved the mountain views on one side and the coast on the other. We were there in February and saw at least 10 whales along the hike too! When we got to Ka’ena Point we also saw seals on the beach there. It was a great hike and I definitely recommend this part of North shore.
The drive here was also really beautiful. You go along the side of the mountains and enjoy the beautiful beaches on the other. There are a lot of beautiful drives on Oahu, especially along the North Shore!
2. Waimea Valley
Waimea Valley is an area of historic cultural significance on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. The valley, being an important place in Hawaiian religion, includes several historical structures including stone terraces and walls constructed during the time of the Hawaiian monarchy.
3. Eat and Shop in Haleiwa varies
Haleiwa is a small town located on Oahu’s North Shore, widely (and wildly) known for its fierce surfing competition. This charming town has acquired a bohemian personality, which is a reflection of both the artistic and surfer community intertwined here.
It hosts some great beachy shops as well as the food North Shore is famous for! You’ll find plenty of highly-rated acai bowl spots, shrimp shacks, and food trucks there. We enjoyed hitting up the food truck park in the middle of town.
I also did a little bit of local shopping, stopping in a few stores and getting some gifts like bath sales and candles to take home!
4. Watch for Turtles at Laniakea Beach (Snorkel here too!) free
We had heard the hype about Laniakea Beach and getting to see turtles there. Since we hadn’t seen any yet, we had to make a stop. We were so glad we did! We ended up seeing a turtle right on the beach!
Sure enough, locals had roped off the area and were keeping tourists safely away from the turtle. The locals here are really thoughtful of their beautiful home and as visitors, we should be too! People kept a safe distance and enjoyed seeing the turtles on the beach.
This was also an area we saw several people swimming as well as snorkeling. All in all a popular and fun beach!
Photo by Jess Loiterton on Pexels.com
5. Take a surf lesson at Kawela Bay Beach $75-100
When you’re in one of the most famous places for surfing, why not take a lesson? This is probably one of the most popular things when people are thinking about what to do in North shore. We ended up at Kawela Bay Beach for our lesson, but there are a lot of different beaches. Our instructor told us it all depends on the surf for the day.
We found our lesson through Airbnb Experiences, but there are a lot of options for surf lessons while in North Shore. Find one that fits your experience level and go on an adventure!
Dole Plantation from our Helicopter Ride
6. Visit the Dole Plantation free – $13
Unsurprisingly, one of the most popular things to do in North Shore is to visit the Dole Plantation. The Pineapple Garden Maze (the world’s largest maze) is especially fun for the little ones.
A lot of Oahu Circle Island tours will include a visit to the Dole Plantation, but it’s also pretty easy to visit on your own!
Admission to the Dole Plantation grounds is free, and there are also plenty of free activities, including a pineapple-cutting and chocolate-making demonstration and a fish-feeding pond. For a more active pineapple adventure, ride on our Pineapple Express Train Tour or explore our Plantation Garden Tour.
Activities are available daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Closed on Christmas day). Dole Plantation is located at 64-1550 Kamehameha Highway, Wahiawa, HI 96786. Click for a map and driving directions.
Photo by Jess Loiterton on Pexels.com
7. Watch Pro Surfers at Banzai Pipeline free
Like the trademark waves of its Banzai Pipeline, Oahu’s North Shore has crashed into the mainstream repeatedly, due to its beautiful vistas, flawless swells, and its status as the top surfing destination in the world.
The largest waves are in the winter months and there could even be a surfing competition happening while you’re visiting. Make sure you check social media sites and look up “surf competitions North Shore” before going to be prepared.
There was a surfing competition while we were visiting and while it was cool to see, it also lead to more traffic and a harder time getting where we planned to go. Plan ahead if you’re going in the winter months and expect it to be difficult to park at Banzai Pipeline.
8. Catch the Sunset on the Beach
North Shore is a great spot to catch the sunset on Oahu! The famous Sunset Beach or Shark’s Bay are the most popular, but many beaches on North Shore are a great spot to stop and take in the view.
No better way to end this list than by talking about a great way to end the day on the North Shore! We’ve officially answered what to do in North Shore Oahu. No matter what you decide, you’ll have a great time!