How to Spend a Day on the North Shore Oahu
This is a good place to start
The North Shore of Oahu is a thing of legend. Known as the ultimate escape from the crowded sunbathing and beginner surf lesson shores of Waikiki and the shopping bag clad tourist heavy sidewalks of Kalakaua Avenue and Ala Moana Boulevard, the North Shore is without high-rises and concrete criss crossing roads, minus the meandering coastal route of Kamehameha Highway. Keep the Country, Country is the mantra of locals but vistors are still welcomed with open arms as long as they play by the rules - relax, you're on island time. Correction, North Shore island time. There's a difference.
The pace is slower on the North Shore, even though the traffic can be too - a side effect of its laid back beauty being one of the biggest tourist draws on Oahu. Start your trek to the North Shore early but upon arrival pay no mind to the time and just go with the island flow.
The following is a full day itinerary to consider for a full 24 hours on the North Shore. Even if you're staying in Waikiki plan to spend one night on the North Shore so you can get the full experience. Arrive from a central Oahu position (H1W to H2N to Kamehameha) and save the half circle island tour portion for the way back in the AM the next day.
Here is our recommendation of how to spend a day on the North Shore of Oahu
Where to Eat on the North Shore
Start the day with a breakfast acai bowl under the palm thatched awning of Haleiwa Bowls. The staff is super friendly and the acai bowls are fresh, fruity, crunchy, energizing and are considered the best on Oahu - the perfect way to start the day on the North Shore.
Haleiwa Bowls Acai Bowl
For those looking for a little more heat for breakfast then a stop for a Chorizo Breakfast Burrito at Cholo's Homestyle Mexican tucked into the backside of the North Shore Marketplace or for something more traditional (but always with a local twist) at Kono's Haleiwa on the Kamehameha facing portion of the marketplace.
You're in the town of some of the best shave ice in america so be sure to endulge an early day sweet tooth with a stop at world famous Aoki's (update: now in memorium) or Matsumoto's Shave Ice before making your way further into the country.
Matsumoto's Shave Ice w/condensed milk
As lunch approaches a great place to find yourself along Kamehameha Highway is at Shark's Cove where across the road is the like named Shark's Cove Grill. Order the Shark's Cove Breakfast (for lunch of course) or a Banana Protein smoothie for something light. Mid-day sweet tooth attacks should be spent at Sunset Beach's Ted's Bakery - home of the original Chocolate Haupia Pie (known on the mainland as coconut cream pie). Return to Haleiwa Town for dinner at Opal Thai for the best thai food on the island or at Breaker's Restaurant & Bar and hang with the local surfers there to refuel after a long day tackling the waves of the North Shore.
Where to Shop on the North Shore
Thankfully there are no shopping malls on the North Shore and hopefully it stays that way. But fret not shoppers because the North Shore's Haleiwa Town is home to unique boutique stores, art galleries, and surf shops that you won't find anywhere else. Polynesian Treasures in the North Shore Marketplace is a great place to grab an authentic (NOT Made in China) souvenir. Global Creations & Interiors down the road is our pick for some of the best home decor on Oahu. On that note you won't find a better wall hanging representation of the North Shore than at the Clark Little Gallery, one of the best photographers to hail from the islands and even a visit to browse the gallery is an attraction in itself. Grab something for the keiki (child) in your life at the Growing Keiki while groms and/or water sports enthusiasts will want to spend at least an hour navigating the jam packed full of product Haleiwa Surf & Sea.
Artist rendition of Global Creations Haleiwa
Where to Play on the North Shore
The North Shore is one giant playground for beach front enthusiasts so you can't go wrong with turning off into any beach side gravel coated parking "lot". One point of interest you don't want to miss includes Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, which is home to a crew of sea turtles that come to shore for day long naps. Laniakea is the only place on the island where you are practically guranteed to see a sea turtle relaxing in it's natural habitat.
A true local at Laniakea Beach
Another must see but better known site is world famous Waimea Bay, home to 30 foot monster waves in the winter. During calmer days you can climb "jump rock" (ignoring the "Do Not Jump" sign) and plunge with the locals into the warm waters belows. If you have some time on your hands and have the constitution for a hike then head up across from Waimea Beach to Waimea Valley to sacred Hawaiian grounds that lead to Waimea Falls.
Sacred heiau at Waimea Valley
Of course no trip through the North Shore is complete without a main event visit to Ehukai Beach to see the majestic Pipeline location and stage for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing final leg - the Billabong Pipemasters. If you happen to be in town between the middle of November into the ides of December you can catch one or all of the Triple Crown events. Haleiwa hosts the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Ali'i Beach while Sunset Beach is home to the Vans World Cup of Surfing, both preceding the aforementioned Pipemasters event. People from all over the world come to watch the gladiators of the sea battle it out on the North Shore's tumultuous waves - there's no sporting event on the planet like it.
Billabong Pipemasters at Ehukai Beach Park
Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach
Spectators at Reef Hawaiian Pro - Ali'i Beach Park
Where to Mingle at Night on the North Shore
Until the last couple of years most of the nightlife on the North Shore consisted of sharing mai tai's at local eateries or bringing Kona Brewing Company Longboard Lager down to the beach with a few friends. Otherwise the best parties took place in the walls of the Volcom, Billabong, or other surf brand houses facing Pipeline and unless your party consists of just girls that meet a certain "criteria" the chances of being invited in are nil. But now regular folk have a chance to enjoy nightlife on the North Shore with the recent Turtle Bay Resort addition of Surfer, The Bar. If you happen to be on the island during the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing the Surfer Poll Awards have been slated to continue at Turtle Bay Resort and aired at Surfer, The Bar.
Where to Stay on the North Shore
Until you make a friend or two on the North Shore with a pad you can crash at or the have the funds and luck of availability for a North Shore vacation rental your best bet is the only hotel on the North Shore - the Turtle Bay Resort. Turtle Bay Resort, considering all of its magnificent resort amenities is actually quite affordable compared to its South Shore counterparts. We often don't recommend beginners try the surf on the North Shore but you're protected by the reef and bay at Turtle Bay so it's also a great place to catch waves or learn for those that are more comfortable with the likes of Waikiki's mellow rolling waves.
A view of Turtle Bay Resort
Leaving the North Shore
When it's time to pack up from your day on the North Shore in the next day AM you'll want to take the scenic route out to soak in the full coastal experience. If your headed west, towards Makaha or the Disney Aulani Resort in Kapolei you'll want to hit Farrington Highway but in the more likely scenario that you're headed back towards Waikiki's south shore then continue along Kamehameha Highway to the windward side (east) of Oahu where on the border of the North Shore in Kahuku you will find the Kahuku Food Truck Market - a great place to grab lunch and complete the North Shore experience.
Grab a refreshing pineapple smoothie at Hawaiian Island Extreme at the Kahuku Food Truck Market
Ya'll come back now, ya' hear?