19 Best Things to Do on the North Shore of Oahu

If you’re looking for the best things to do on the North Shore of Oahu, look no further!

We’ve compiled a list of the best things to do on the North Shore of Oahu so you can make the most out of your visit.

Whether you’re looking for a fun day out with the family, visit one of the best beaches in Oahu or an adventure-filled getaway, we’ve got you covered.

With its world-famous beaches and stunning natural scenery, the North Shore is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Hawaii.

Come explore this beautiful part of the island and discover everything it has to offer.

The North Shore in a Nutshell

The North Shore of Oahu is a beautiful stretch of coastline located on the island’s northern side.

It’s home to some of the world’s most famous beaches, including Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and the Banzai Pipeline.

Huge waves at Ehukai Beach on the North Shore of Oahu
The Banzai Pipeline

The North Shore is the perfect place to enjoy a laid-back Hawaiian vacation.

This area is also known for its huge waves, attracting surfers from all around the globe.

From the Waikiki/Honolulu area, the drive should take about one hour.

What to Do on The North Shore of Oahu

There’s no shortage of things to do on Oahu‘s North Shore. Here’s a list of 19 of the best things to do in this beautiful part of Hawaii:

1. North Shore Food Trucks

The North Shore is home to some of the best food trucks in Hawaii.

While you are there, start your day with a smoothie from The Sunrise Shack or an Acai Bowl. This is one of our favorite places to get breakfast on Oahu, so don’t miss out!

The gorgeous yellow sunrise shack on the north shore of Oahu

Make sure to try Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck for lunch. It’s a very popular spot and comes highly recommended.

Garlic shrimp plate with rice and a soda from Giovann'is shrimp truck on the north shore

Our personal favorite was the North Shore Tacos food truck located across the street from Sunset Beach. Their fish tacos are amazing! We also tried their chicken quesadilla and it hit the spot as well.

Quesadilla with beans and rice from North Shore Tacos

Also, don’t forget to stop by Sugah Daddeh’s Cane Juice stand for some fresh-pressed cane juice and other fresh beverages. You won’t regret it, trust us!

Me standing in front of the Sugah Daddeh's Cane Juice stand on the North Shore

2. Watch Pro Surfers

If you’re lucky enough to be on The North Shore during surfing season (wintertime), make sure to catch a glimpse of the pro surfers in action.

The waves on The North Shore are some of the biggest in the world and attract the world’s top talent as well.

You can watch them ride the waves from one of the many beaches, such as Sunset Beach, Haleiwa Alii Beach Park, or the Banzai Pipeline.

Gorgeous white sand beach with blue waters at the banzai pipeline on the north shore of Oahu.
Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline)

Make sure to bring your camera; it’s a sight you won’t want to miss!

3. Snorkel at Some of the Best Places on the Island

The North Shore is home to some of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu.

Shark’s Cove is a great place to start and probably the best choice. It’s located in Pupukea and is known for its abundance of marine life. You’re almost guaranteed to see some colorful fish and coral while you’re there. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot turtles as well.

Octopus swimming at Sharks Cove on the north shore of Oahu
Photo credit: Amanda @janzercise on Instagram
Turtles swimming at Sharks Cove on the north shore of Oahu
Photo credit: Amanda @janzercise on Instagram

The best times to snorkel here are when the waves are calmer in the summer months.

Another great spot is Turtle Bay. This snorkeling spot is perfect for the entire family, as waves are calmer here most times of the year.

Me wearing my snorkeling gear at the Pupukea Tide Pools on the north shore
Remember to add a rashguard/snorkeling shirt to your Hawaii packing list.

Turtle Bay is protected by a reef, making the water very calm and clear. You’re also likely to see turtles while you’re in the water.

Other top favorite snorkeling spots include Three Tables and Kuilima Cove.

4. Spend the Day at Turtle Beach Resort’s Public Beach

If you’re looking for a relaxing day at the beach, Turtle Beach Resort’s public beach is the place for you.

Gorgeous white sand beach with clear water at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore

This beach offers everything you need for a perfect day in the sun. Make sure to bring some beach chairs and an umbrella if you plan to spend a lot of time here.

5. Visit Pupukea Tide Pools

If you’re looking for a more relaxing activity that’s also perfect for kids, head over to the Pupukea Tide Pools.

These tide pools are located close to Shark’s Cove, making it the perfect place to visit after a morning of snorkeling. Be sure to go during low tide for the best experience.

Cody entering the Pupukea Tide Pools on the north shore of Oahu

6. Visit Laniakea Beach for a Chance to Spot Turtles

Laniakea Beach is a must-visit for any turtle lover, as sea turtles are known to bask in the sun quite often here.

Be Warned- Turtles are wild animals, so it’s not always guaranteed that you will see them while you are there.

Turtles lying on the beach at Turtle Beach Oahu

We visited in February, waited for about 1 hour, and didn’t see any turtles. 

If it’s your goal to spot them, you might need to be a little more patient than we were!

If you are lucky and see them, remember to give them plenty of space and do not touch them.

7. Check Out Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay is one of the most popular beaches on the North Shore, and for a good reason.

It’s great for swimming (summertime), sunbathing, and surfing. This beach offers something for everyone.

8. Cliff Jump at Waimea Bay Rock

If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to check out one of the best places to cliff jump on Oahu: Waimea Bay Rock.

If you decide to do this activity, do so at your own risk, be careful, and make sure that the water is deep enough before jumping.

View of Waimea Bay and Waimea Bay rock on the north shore of Oahu

As a side note, cliff jumping is prohibited here in the wintertime due to high surf conditions.

9. Hike Waimea Valley

If you’re looking for an easy hike on Oahu, the Waimea Valley is a great option.

The botanical gardens with trees at Waimea Valley on Oahu's north shore
Cody hiking the easy paved path of Waimea Falls hike on the north shore

This beautiful valley is located across the street from Waimea Bay and offers a stunning botanical garden to explore.

10. Swim in Waimea Falls

This waterfall is located in the Waimea Valley and is an excellent place for those that love waterfalls. Swimming in the pool below the waterfall is allowed, but lifejackets are required (and provided for you).

Waimea Falls and the pool below it. Two swimmers are enjoying the pool.

The hike to the falls is one of the easiest waterfall hikes in Oahu and can be done by people of all ages.

11. Hike The Ehukai Pillbox Trail

If you’re looking for an easy-intermediate and short hike, the Ehukai Pillbox Trail is a great option.

This trail offers stunning views of the North Shore and is one of the best hikes on the North Shore of Oahu.

Me and Cody on top of the second Pillbox at the Ehukai Trail on the North Shore
On top of the second pillbox

12. Hike the Ka’ena Point Trail

The Ka’ena Point Trail is an easy but long hike that offers excellent coastline views.

View of the ocean from the Ka'ena Point Trail on the North Shore
Kaena Point Trail
Mountain and ocean views seen from the Ka'ena Point trail on the north shore of Oahu
Kaena Point Trail

If you get lucky, you might even see whales, dolphins, and/or the endangered monk seals.

13. Visit the Historic Haleiwa Town

Haleiwa is the largest town on the North Shore and is a great place to visit if you’re looking to do some shopping or grab a bite to eat.

There are plenty of shops and restaurants to choose from here.

Cody walking around Haleiwa Town
Walking around Haleiwa Town

14. Get Shave Ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice

While you are in Haleiwa, be sure to get shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice. This is one of the best shave ice spots on Oahu.

Cody admiring his shave ice from Matsumoto on the North Shore of Oahu

15. Visit La’ie Point

If you’re looking for a great place to take pictures, La’ie Point is a solid option. This point offers beautiful views of the coastline and is a great place to stop by and enjoy the incredible scenery all around you.

Also, this is one of the best places to cliff jump on Oahu, however, it’s also one of the most dangerous places for this activity.

Cliff jumping spot at La'ie Point on Oahu's North Shore

If you decide to do this activity, do so at your own risk and never underestimate the power of the ocean, especially in the winter months.

16. Visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation

The Dole Plantation is located in Wahiawa and is a popular tourist destination. This plantation offers tours, a pineapple garden maze, and a train ride through the plantation.

There is also a gift shop and restaurant on-site.

17. Try the Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation

If you’re a fan of Dole Whip, be sure to try it at the plantation. This delicious treat is made with pineapple and is a refreshing snack on a hot day (or any day, for that matter).

Cody holding the dole whip at the Dole Plantation. On the way to the North Shore of Oahu

18. Watch the Sunset

The North Shore of Oahu is also known for its spectacular sunsets. Be sure to catch one while you are there.

One of the best places to watch the sunset is, well, Sunset Beach. This beach gets its name from the stunning sunsets that are frequently on display here.

People watching the sunset at Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore

Be warned that many people come here to watch the sunset. It might be crowded, especially in the summertime.

To watch the sunset at a less-crowded beach, try Kawela Bay. This bay is located just south of Sunset Beach and offers fantastic views of the coastline and sunsets.

19. Shark Dive

If you’re looking for something adventurous, book a shark dive tour. There are many options available for this activity in Oahu.

Man shark diving inside a cage

Best Times to Visit the North Shore

There is no right or wrong answer here. It all depends on why you are visiting the North Shore.

For example, if you are going to the North Shore to watch surfing competitions, the wintertime is best for you. You should also check which months/days the competitions will occur.

The same applies if you are planning on surfing some of the big waves as well. The wintertime (November-April) would be the best time for this.

Note: Waves are the best around February 

Cody standing on a rock on the Ka'ena Point Trail overlooking the ocean
Ka’ena Point Trail

On the other hand, if you want to swim in calm waters and have a great snorkeling experience, you are better off going in the summer months (May-October) when the waves are calmer.

Please note, swimming at most of the famous North Shore beaches can be tricky for the average person due to the high surf.

Free Things to Do in the North Shore

There are many free things to do while visiting the North Shore. Here are a few options:

Visit the Beach- One of the best things to do on The North Shore (or anywhere in Hawaii) is to visit the beach. There are many beaches to choose from and they are all public/free!

View of the ocean with white sand beach and some rocks taken at Laniakea Beach
Laniekea Beach

Take a Hike-Many hiking trails on the North Shore offer stunning views of the ocean and coastline. Hiking is also free!

Explore the Town of Haleiwa- As mentioned before, Haleiwa is the main town in the North Shore and offers a variety of shops, restaurants, and it’s a great place to walk around and explore. 

Side Note: This is only free if you resist the urge to buy any and all of the neat things you’ll see!

Watch the Sunset– As mentioned before, the sunsets on the North Shore are some of the best in Hawaii. Be sure to watch one while you’re there.

North Shore of Oahu: Tips

Start early- If you are coming from Waikiki, be sure to start the day off early to make the most of your trip. It takes about an hour to get to the North Shore from Waikiki.

Parking issues- Parking can be hard to find, especially on the weekends. Be sure to arrive early to claim a spot.

Check the forecast- If you’re looking to surf some of the big waves, be sure to check the forecast before you go. The waves can be unpredictable.

Me taking a breath of fresh air on the Ka'ena Point Trail on the north shore  with gorgeous ocean and mountain views
Another shot on the Ka’ena Point Trail. Can you tell this is one of our favorite hikes?!

Bring water and snacks with you- It’s always best practice to bring food and water with you on days that are packed with adventures. We can’t tell you how many times granola bars saved us while hiking.

Be aware of dangers- If you’re looking to do some cliff jumping, be aware of the dangers involved and only do so if you’re experienced and confident.

Laidback atmosphere- The North Shore is more laid back than the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, so be prepared for a more relaxed atmosphere.

When in doubt, always ask the locals for recommendations. They know the best spots!

Bird flying over the Waianae mountain on Oahu's North Shore
Ka’ena Point Trail

North Shore Frequently Asked Questions

Is the North Shore worth visiting?

Absolutely! The North Shore has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, catch some waves, or explore the towns, you’ll find it all here.

What is the North Shore of Oahu known for?

The North Shore is most well-known for its surfing. It’s home to some of the biggest waves in the world and hosts many surfing competitions in the wintertime.

Its also known for having some of the best beaches on Oahu.

Is Waimea Valley worth visiting?

If you’re interested in an easy hike and exploring waterfalls, then Waimea Valley is worth visiting.

Is the North Shore safe?

Overall, the North Shore is safe. However, as with any place, there are always risks involved.

Be aware of your surroundings, don’t leave your belongings in your car, etc.

Why is the North Shore so popular?

The North Shore is famous for many reasons. Its beautiful beaches, laid-back atmosphere, surfing competitions, food trucks, and so much more.

How do I get to the North Shore?

The best way to get to the North Shore is by car. If you’re coming from Waikiki, it will take about 1 hour to get there.

Should you stay on the North Shore? Or spend the night?

That’s totally up to you, and it depends on how much time you have on your vacation.

We don’t mind the 1-hour drive from Waikiki, but then again, we love road trips.

I would start by figuring out all of the places/activities you want to do while on Oahu. After that, pick a place to stay that is close to where most of your activities are located.

Generally speaking, there are more lodging options in the Honolulu/Waikiki area, so we tend to stay there the most.

View of the ocean with palm trees and mountain views taken at Haleiwa Beach Park on the north shore
Haleiwa Beach Park

However, in a perfect world, we would love to stay on the windward (east) side of Oahu since most activities we do are on that side.

Personally, we don’t recommend staying on the North Shore if it’s just for one or two nights because packing/moving from one place to another can be hectic.

You have to pack, unpack and deal with check-in processes at each new location.
We used to do this when we started to travel, but it was always a bit stressful.

Unless you plan on spending a good amount of days in both places, we recommend just doing the drive.

We recently spent a month in the Honolulu area and we drove to the North Shore about four times. The drive was not bad at all.

RELATED ARTICLES: 25 Best Beaches in Hawaii For A Spectacular Trip

North Shore of Oahu: Final Thoughts

The North Shore is a popular destination for many reasons. It has beautiful beaches, a laid-back atmosphere, surfing competitions, food trucks, and so much more.

If you’re looking for a fantastic place to explore, the North Shore of Oahu is worth checking out.

With plenty of activities to keep you busy and beautiful scenery around every corner, you won’t regret spending some time in this amazing part of Oahu!

Mahalo for reading our post. Until next time, aloha, and happy exploring in the North Shore!