Oahu’s North Shore first caught the eyes of tourists after a bunch of surfers from California came to ride the enormous waves in Waimea Bay in the 1950s. To this day, Waimea Bay is a surfing mecca. Whether you surf or not, the North Shore has so much more to offer than surfing. In fact, the stunning beaches with less visitors during summer months are a romantic break from the busy beaches of Honolulu.
Oahu’s North Shore is a scenic 60-minute drive from Waikiki Beach. While the island of Oahu has so much to offer in and around Honolulu, an early morning drive to the North Shore is well worth it for a day trip. If you want to spot beautiful beaches on your way to the North Shore, go up the east side of Oahu. You can stop at lookout spots near Hanauma Bay and enjoy a scenic ride along the coast passing by Kailua and Kaneohe, 2 popular towns. This route will take you about 2 hours to make it to the North Shore.
If you drive through the center of Oahu along I-H-1 and I-H-2, you’ll pass right by the Dole Plantation. There are several options for touring the pineapple farm. The Pineapple Express Train takes twenty minutes and provides full narration to inform tourists about James Dole, the founder, Hawaii’s most famous fruit crop, and other stories about the pineapple. The Plantation Garden Tour will take you through eight mini-gardens featuring the North Shore’s most diverse crops. The Guinness Book of World Records named the Pineapple Garden Maze the World’s Largest Maze. Spend some time venturing through the maze and see if you can find the eight hidden stations. Lastly, be sure to explore the Pineapple Variety Garden where students can view more than twenty varieties of pineapples from all over the world.
Breakfast at The Beet Box Café
Once you arrive on the North Shore, make your first destination The Beet Box Café. This cozy wooden café in Haleiwa serves fresh and local produce daily. The café receives fresh produce four days a week to ensure customers get the finest local fruits and vegetables of Oahu. This vegetarian café serves mostly organic food and prioritizes health and wellbeing.
The acai bowls are made to perfection with fresh and local ingredients, including superfoods like cacao and hempseeds. Their non-acai bowls include the Pitaya bowl and the Green Bowl—made with kale, spirulina, banana, and almond butter. If you’re in the mood for a hot breakfast, try a breakfast burrito, scrambled eggs, breakfast sandwiches, quiche, or a toasted bagel. The vegan and gluten-freen options are extensive, and you can also enjoy fresh juice, smoothies, kombucha, coffee, or tea.
Hiking the North Shore
Once you’re fueled with energizing local vegetarian cuisine, get set for a morning hike through the North Shore’s mix of exotic terrain. While the Ehukai Pillbox Hike is a short distance, it is far from leisurely. If you’re looking for a good way to sweat and be active, add this hike to your list of morning activities. The hike takes roughly thirty minutes to reach the top. The forest-dense hike is unexpected since it’s right by the ocean. The view of the ocean from the top is remarkable. If you conquer the uphill climb to the pillbox, you’ll experience a wide view of the Banzai Pipeline. This view is even better when you can sit for a while and watch the surfers. The second pillbox is about ten minutes from the first and not as strenuous.
If you decide to hike the Ehukai Pillbox, be sure to pack plenty of water and wear hiking shoes. Park at Sunset Beach Elementary School and find the orange sign for access to the trailhead.
Slow Down in Historic Haleiwa
Before settling down for lunch, unwind from your hike with a stroll through Haleiwa’s historic town. Grab a Hawaiian shave ice from Matsumoto Shave Ice. Matsumoto’s offers exotic flavors like Lilikoi, Lychee, and Li Hing Mui, as well as classic favorites such as Piña Colada, Pickled Mango, and Guava. You can add Azuki Beans, Mochi, or ice cream to any shave ice.
Historic Haleiwa has everything from vintage surf shops to eclectic art galleries, like Tabora Gallery Haleiwa. Grab your gifts at one of the local shops in Haleiwa to save about 50% compared to what you can find in Waikiki.
On your way out of Haleiwa, snap a photograph in front of Colette Miller’s Global Angel Wings. The beautiful pink and purple wings are located right in front of Anahulu’s shave ice spot.
Lunch in Haleiwa
It’s time to take a relaxing lunch break at Haleiwa’s Beach House restaurant. Offering Hawaiian specialties and local seafood, Beach House also offers spectacular scenery. The recently renovated restaurant is located across from Ali’i beach and has an open-air deck and fire pit. There are always sixteen hand-selected craft beers on draft, and ten signature cocktails, along with forty different wines. The menu has plenty of seafood appetizers, fresh and local salads, fresh island fish, and seafood sandwiches. Chef favorites include the Thai BBQ Chicken Sandwich, Spicy Tuna Club, and the Chef’s Daily Catch.
Lunch in Waimea Bay
We also highly recommend Pupukea Grill in Waimea Bay. Waimea Bay is just a short drive from Haleiwa (less than twenty minutes) and has unbeatable ocean views. Pupukea Grill is ideal if you’re looking for fresh and local cuisine but in a more casual setting. Pupukea Grill’s menu has a variety of quinoa bowls, sushi handrolls, plate lunches, flatbread wraps, burgers and sandwiches, and ono kine bowls. In addition, they offer acai bowls and smoothies.
Explore Waimea Bay
Every Thursday Waimea Bay hosts the Haleiwa Farmers Market with local produce stands, handmade goods, and live music. The farmers market is open from 2-6pm every Thursday. If you have kids, don’t miss out on the arts and crafts stands!
In the summertime, Waimea Bay’s waves are gentler and more suitable for swimming. Peak surfing season is from November through February when the big waves hit. Head to Waimea Bay during the summertime to lay out on the beach, enjoy a picnic, and swim along the shore. The bay even has a twenty-foot rock just off the beach that is great for jumping into the water.
Waimea Valley is home to a botanical garden and the fifty-foot Waimea Falls. You can take a botanical tour, cultural tour, or roam on your own. The Audubon Center is directly across from Waimea Bay Beach Park, and you have to pay an entrance fee, but it’s worth it to be surrounded by more than 300 species of plants.
Horseback Riding in Laie
Gunstock Ranch is one of the best places to go horseback riding, and it’s located in Laie, which is about thirty minutes from Haleiwa. Gunstock Ranch offers scenic rides, sunset rides, pony rides for kids, and their sweetheart ride for couples. They even offer a private sunset dinner ride. Gunstock Ranch is nestled against the Ko’olau Mountains on 600 acres of land.
Cool Off With Haleiwa Bowls
After an afternoon of activity, whether hiking, swimming or horseback riding, Haleiwa Bowls offers the finest smoothie bowls to replenish your body with vital nutrients, superfoods, and energy. Choose your acai bowl, and then top it with any of your favorite toppings, including kiwi, bee pollen, coconut, granola, and more. Haleiwa Bowls offers botanical supplements like collagen peptides, ashwaganda, maca powder, and so many options for functional mushrooms. Of course the Haleiwa Bowls stand has smoothies too! Choose a fruity concoction or a functional smoothie, which includes several of the botanical supplements.
If you fall in love with Oahu’s North Shore as many do, plan to spend some extra time on the North Shore. Paddle board with Rainbow Watersports, snorkel with reef sharks at Sharks Cove, enjoy a sunset catamaran ride, visit the Polynesian Cultural Center, and explore Kualoa Ranch, which is where parts of Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, Lost, and Hawaii Five-O were filmed. However you decide to spend your time on Oahu’s North Shore, you can’t go wrong, and you will likely come back time and time again.