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The North Shore of Oahu is known for some of the best surfing on the planet. But even if you don’t surf, you can enjoy world-class beaches, laid-back locals, and fantastic food, all in a casual yet beautiful location. As you might guess, the North Shore is located on the northern shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, which is home to tourism capital Waikiki. However, the North Shore is on the opposite side of the island, well over an hour’s drive away, and it’s not nearly as heavily populated as Waikiki. Life is a little more casual on this side of the island.
SECRET BEACHES. The North Shore is home to some secret beaches, where you’ll be one of very few other visitors. All beaches on Hawaii are public beaches, but some – like Waikiki Beach – can get extremely crowded. Check out my recommendations below for some of the secret, deserted spots. And for other ideas outside of Waikiki, including some great spots in downtown Honolulu, check out 5 Secret Oahu Locations.
How to Get to North Shore, Oahu, HI
Oahu’s airport is in Honolulu, on the opposite side of the island from the North Shore. You’ll have to drive a little under an hour to make it to the North Shore.
It’s definitely worth it to rent a car. Although public transportation exists, it’s not very frequent or reliable. Ubers are available but can get expensive, as you’ll need to travel by car most places.
Where to Eat Dinner in North Shore, Oahu, HI
Matsumoto’s Shave Ice // This is THE place to get shave ice in Hawaii. (Yes, they say “shave ice,” not “shaved ice.”) There are many other vendors, but only one Matsumoto’s, which shaves its ice super-thin, so that you feel like you’re eating the softest snow.
Roy’s Beach House // Roy Yamaguchi is one of the first famous Hawaiian chefs and has built a very successful restaurant business. Roy’s Beach House is at the famous, pricey Turtle Bay Resort, which you can visit regardless of whether you’re a guest, and order classics such as his Misoyaki Marinated Butterfish. Note, Roy’s is currently only open for carry-out due to COVID-19, but is normally an upscale dine-in restaurant. If you want to read about what to expect when staying at the luxury Turtle Bay Resort, where Roy’s Beach House is located, check out the review here.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck // This is one of the OG food trucks, before food trucks were popularized. Eat the extra-buttery, extra-garlicky shrimp with two scoops of rice. It’s a supremely popular, no-frills experience that you’ll want to visit every single day of your stay on Oahu’s North Shore.
Waialua Estate Coffee & Chocolate // Right by Mokuleia Beach (see below), you’ll find Waialua Estate, where you can see the coffee and chocolate getting grown as well as eat and drink some on-site. Order coffee drinks that are roasted on-site daily, and take home a bag or four, as well as some homemade chocolate. Walk around the grounds and you can see the enormous cacao pods growing!
Hukilau Marketplace // Have your choice of about a dozen different traditional Hawaiian eats in this indoor-outdoor marketplace. Tita’s Grill is a local favorite; you can get a Hawaiian “plate lunch” there, which generally means a full meal with a protein, a scoop of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad.
Things to Do in North Shore, Oahu, HI at Night
Mokule’ia Beach Park // This is a “secret beach” that’s mostly only visited by locals. It’s deserted and gorgeous, with some fantastic snorkeling due to the many coral areas in the water. In the picture below, my footprints are the only ones I can see in this entire white-sand beach.
Shark’s Cove // You should plan to visit both Shark’s Cove and Pupukea Tide Pools (below) at once, since they’re right by each other! Shark’s Cove has no sharks, but is rather a lava rock beach that’s fantastic for seeing fish. If you’re a scuba diver, this is a great place for you. If you don’t dive, it’s still a lovely snorkeling spot, but you should wear water-friendly shoes with heavy bottoms because walking on lava rock with bare feet hurts. While you can visit Shark’s Cove after 5p, I’d actually recommend visiting this one BEFORE work starts if possible!
Pupukea Tide Pools // I’ve seen crabs, turtles, mini sea eels, and all kinds of small marine life here. The tide pools are formed by lava rock, and little creatures make their homes inside the nooks and crannies of the rock. As with Shark’s Cove, I recommend wearing shoes.
Waialua Old Sugar Mill // This is no longer a real, working sugar mill, but it once was! You can still see the smoke stack like it stood in the 1800s. Onsite are a couple of shops that let you read about the location’s history. It’s a great place to pick up some souvenirs too.
Kahuku Farms // This is a working farm that offers formal tours in the middle of the day, but if you can’t get away at 1:00 pm, you can still visit the farm and see their hydroponic gardens.