North Shore Oahu | Hawaii
You’ll want to roll down the windows of your rental car as soon as you turn out of the Honolulu International Airport to take in the ocean breeze. You immediately know you are in tropical paradise. While there are a variety of routes you could take to reach the North Shore, the hour long drive should not be rushed. Kamehameha Highway could be a destination in itself, with the ocean waves breaking over the road in some parts, and the Ko’olau mountain range impressively overlooking the road on the other side. As soon as you arrive, reach for your towel and head to the nearest beach, and you will feel yourself slowly relaxing to the pace of the island.
On the north side of Oahu, the North Shore feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. An easy drive, and if you are lucky you’ll be rewarded with far fewer crowds and an opportunity to get much closer to the spirit of the island. The beaches are large and for the most part uncrowded, the food trucks serve fresh and delicious food, hidden hiking trails and regular rainbows all make up the magic of the North Shore.
Where to Stay
There aren’t many hotel options on the North Shore so it’s a perfect place to rent a house. We stayed at this amazing Airbnb in Laie ($195/night), a quiet town on the North Shore. We had a spacious and comfortable apartment, access to a private beach across the street and a big deck to relax on at the end of the day.
What to Do
Surf! You are in the birthplace of surfing, and there is no better place to try riding some waves. We took lessons from Uncle Bryan's one day and highly recommend. The student teacher ratio was great and were very patient. Find his truck set up in the parking lot of Haleiwa Beach Park to sign up for your lesson!
Bonzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach | If you aren't ready to brave the waves yourself, take in the surfers at Bonzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach, off Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea. The big waves makes it so fun to watch, especially if you catch the sunset.
Waimea Beach | 61-031 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI
This was a favorite beach of mine. The waves are big and there isn’t much surfing here, but that didn't stop us from spending a lot of time in the water. Still, part of the fun is hopping around to check out different beaches, so don’t settle here for your whole trip!
Crouching Lion Hike | A quick, very steep hike that rewards you with spectacular panoramic views of Kahana Bay. The trailhead is hidden and can be tricky to find. It sits just above the Crouching Lion Inn & Restaurant, but if you reach this spot you have gone to far. Drive along Kamehameha Highway through the Trout Farm Road intersection and the trailhead will be on your right. The trailhead is located between a “Do Not Pass” sign and the telephone pole just past it. Told you it was hidden!
Where to Eat and Drink
Oahu is the land of food trucks. Embrace this and enjoy many delicious and casual alfresco meals.
Elephant Truck | Shark's Cove, 59-432 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Huge plates of flavorful, spicy noodles eaten on the picnic tables while overlooking some of the biggest waves on the North Shore. This was my favorite place we ate on the island, and yes we made several return trips. Tucked in with the other food trucks in Shark's Cove - don't miss it.
Opal's Thai | Haleiwa, 66-197 C Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Located in the Haleiwa shopping center, this is another don't miss meal while on the North Shore. Go with an open mind and an adventurous palate, and let Opel himself wow you with an authentic meal that will be tough to beat outside of northern Thailand.
Halewia Bowls | 66-082 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa
This tiki hut on the side of the road is a perfect stop when you need something healthy. Stop here for a refreshing smoothie or acai bowl as you drive through Halewia.
Matsumoto Shaved Ice | 66-111 Kamehameha Highway Suite #605, Haleiwa
A touristy stop in Haleiwa, you will likely have to wait but shaved ice is part of the culture of Hawaii and a must try at least once.
Beet Box Cafe | 66-437 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa
The place to go for breakfast, salads or other healthy options.
Caroline Stevens is a traveler, writer and communications professional living in San Francisco. She is the creator of Wander with Caroline, a compilation of travel tips and recommendations from her explorations across the globe. You can follow along with her adventures on Instagram at @wanderwithcaroline.