Short on time on Oahu? Read my guide on how to have the best day at the north shore on Oahu.
Getting to the North Shore in Oahu
So if you’re on Oahu, you will have to spend a day at the North Shore on Oahu (if not more). It’s about an hour’s drive (or less if you’re a speed demon like myself) from Waikiki/Honolulu. If you don’t have a rental car, it is worth getting one for at least one day if not a few more.
The best time to go: Try to leave early. The earlier the better because traffic can pile up especially on weekends and it becomes a two-lane road after you get off the highway. If you’re going during the week, Tuesday is a good day because Hanauma Bay is closed.
There are two ways to drive to the North Shore in Oahu. The more scenic route is going to Kaneohe & heading counterclockwise around the island.
What to see and do at the North Shore on Oahu
- Waimea Bay: Head here for some sun and sand. Jump off the giant cliff! Take some photos. Don’t forget the beach towel or chair, sunscreen, a hat, and water.
- Waimea Valley: This is a nice little mini hike (all paved and generally flat). You can see the natural trees, flora, and fauna. There’s a small waterfall at the end that people can go swim in. Do so at your own risk.
- Historic Haleiwa Town: Visit Haleiwa! It’s a quaint town on the north shore. You’ll be busy taking photos and doing some shopping.
- See the turtles at Turtle Beach (Laniakea Beach): Parking is not allowed so find parking far away and walk there. NO touching.
- Visit the Dole Plantation: It’s a tourist attraction but you can get lost in the pineapple maze.
- Banzai Pipeline: This is another part of the beach. This is great for watching surfers, especially if the waves are killer.
- Visit Roy Taisora’s gallery and the other art galleries: If you’re into art and culture, the galleries at the north shore in Oahu are to die for.
- Ehukai Pillbox Hike: This is similar to the Lanikai Pillbox hike but less known! It will take 30 minutes to get to the top and it also has military bunkers to chill on
- Catch the beautiful Sunset: Sunset Beach is named Sunset Beach for a reason!
What to eat at the north shore on Oahu
Hawaiian Shave Ice
There are two shave ice places on the North Shore. One is Matsumoto’s. It’s very popular and usually has a long line. The other is Aoki’s Shave Ice and is ran by a mom and pop shop. It’s less-known which makes it much more popular with the locals.
Ted’s Bakery has long lines both times but it moves quickly and efficiently. I go crazy over a small plate of shoyu chicken (2 pieces) with a scoop of rice and macaroni salad. The chicken shoyu is DELICIOUS. The chicken is usually tender and moist while very flavorful with lots of sauce at the bottom. The small plate is usually enough for me. However, if you’ve got a large appetite, go with the regular-sized plate.
Apparently, you HAVE to get the snow puffies there. They are closed frequently so double check the hours or call them ahead of time.
Haleiwa Joe’s is a long-term establishment. Get the prime-rib or the crunchy coconut shrimp. You can go here for lunch or dinner. Sunset is a good time to go but it is also prime time.
This ice cream parlor is SUPER cute and quaint. The colors and decor along with a colorful + cozy couch made it comfortable to enjoy a cup of ice cream along with your hot or cold caffeinated beverage.
Update: Mackys Shrimp Truck has closed.
Mackey’s Shrimp Truck is located at 66-632 Kamehameha Highway with its own parking lot and picnic tables. If you’re short on cash, the 7-11 next door has an ATM. I went for the butter garlic while Carlo went for the spicy shrimp. Along with a nice-sized portion of shrimp that was fresh and pump, you also get two scoops of white rice with a little side salad + pineapple. We ate in silence for a good few minutes. When there’s no talking and just eating, you know the food is good or maybe it was the butter garlic sauce they put on the rice because it was quite garlicky and buttery which I like. There are some picnic tables to eat at – just be wary of the possible flies and the occasional chicken or rooster roaming around.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is awesome. Get the shrimp scampi and regular butter (you can go half/half) and the plate also came with two scoops of rice. If you wanted a side such as macaroni salad, it was extra.
I found the scampi to be better than the regular butter shrimp but you can’t go too wrong with shrimp & rice if you’re hungry. The macaroni salad was bland and nothing extravagant – something I keep encountering here. Again, there are picnic tables to eat at and bring cash. There’s an ATM across the street inside the McDonalds if you don’t.
Tip: Bring hand sanitizer to use before and after your meal since there’s no washrooms/restrooms near the food trucks.
There you go. I hope you enjoyed my guide on how to have the best day at the North Shore on Oahu.