Oahu’s North Shore Beaches
Stretching for over seven miles, the North Shore of Oahu is a popular region on the island offering many hiking and big wave surfing opportunities.
We love the North Shore because its beaches are not as crowded as Waikiki, and it offers some of Oahu’s most incredible attractions. It is truly a world-class surfing destination, and the region hosts the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing each winter.
Granted—if you are new to the sport—this is a place to spectate surfing, not learn it. The massive waves can swell as high as 60 feet during the winter months. But you’ll be amazed watching the pros carve the waves and hang ten.
If you’re visiting Hawaiʻi anytime soon, the beaches on Oahu’s North Shore are a must in your itinerary.
How To Get There
You can take a bus from the Honolulu Airport to the North Shore, but expect the trip to take a couple of hours with all the stops. A taxi can run you $150 or more for a one-way trip from Waikiki. The easiest and most comfortable way to explore the North Shore is by renting a car.
From Waikiki, H-1 W, which merges into H-2 N, is the fastest route. This will take you across the middle of Oahu. It’s approximately 30 miles, but you will want to allow at least an hour for travel time. The earlier in the day you leave your hotel, the less traffic you’ll encounter.
Places To Visit
There are many places to visit and things to do on Oahu’s North Shore. From glimmering beaches to daring hiking trails cutting across Hawaiʻi’s wilderness and picturesque sights—we’ve got the best recommendations for you.
The North Shore boasts some fantastic trails for a good hike. These are some of our favorites:
The Ehukai Pillbox Hike is one of the most popular Oahu North Shore hikes for its challenging steep incline and breathtaking view of the coast and the famous Banzai Pipeline. “Pillbox” refers to an old WWII bunker. The hike is about two miles round-trip and takes about 30-40 minutes to ascent to the top of the ridge. Kids and elderly travelers can do it as long as they have steady footing and someone to help them up—beware of loose dirt and muddy sections after a heavy rain. If you’re having trouble finding it in your maps app, search for the Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park or Sunset Beach Elementary School. The trailhead is behind the parking lot.
Waimea Falls is a hike in the Waimea Valley, which is truly a hidden gem of Oahu’s North Shore. Waimea Valley is a stunning botanical garden, and the hike is an easy 3.5-mile round-trip on mostly flat paved paths. Depending on the weather and conditions, you are allowed to swim at the falls with a lifeguard on duty. There is an entrance fee for Waimea Valley, which goes toward maintaining the park.
Kealia Trail is also loved by hiking enthusiasts for its relative difficulty and magnificent views, but it tends to get muddy. Make sure you have proper trail shoes. The trailhead is behind Dillingham Air Field, and there is a parking lot. This is one of the longer hikes on the North Shore, and you may encounter a few mountain bikers. The trail is 7.6 miles if you do the full out-and-back, so bring a lunch and expect to spend a half-day if you hike the whole way.
Laie Falls is a beautiful path for somewhat experienced hikers. It’s a roughly 8-mile round trip to the falls and back. This trail does cross private property, so hikers are asked to obtain permission before they go. You can do this at the Laie Shopping Center. Visit Hawaii Reserves, Inc. in the mall and inquire about obtaining a permit for Laie Falls.
Oahu’s North Shore is home to some of the best beaches in the world for witnessing big wave surfing. Each winter, many famous surfing tournaments are held to take advantage of the swelling waves. But unless you’re a pro surfer, the North Shore waters between November and February can be severely dangerous and are best left to the expert adventurers.
The months from May till September are a good time to visit the beaches on Oahu’s North Shore as the waters are more subdued, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of the ocean in safety and warmth.
A few beaches that you should definitely visit are the Sunset Beach, Malaekahana Beach, Waimea Bay Beach Park, Pupukea Beach Park, and the Turtle Bay Beach where you can spot the endangered green sea turtles lounging on the sand to warm themselves up.
Besides surfing and swimming, you can enjoy many water sports on these beaches such as snorkeling, scuba diving, paddling, and sailing. If you don't have your own equipment, don’t worry. The North Shore has numerous places where you can rent gear.
Hikes and beaches aren’t all that make Oahu’s North Shore a place worth visiting. You can visit the numerous surf towns near the coast such as Haleiwa, Kahuku, Pupukea, and Waialua where you can mingle with the locals, eat some good food, shop for souvenirs, and try our shaved ice.
If you want to spend a relaxing evening, then Waimea Valley’s lush botanical garden is an excellent choice. A couple other places you can visit are the Polynesian Cultural Center and Dole Plantation.
Explore the North Shore With GoVibe
The North Shore is by no means small, so the flexibility of a rental car will allow you to make pit stops at different beaches and hikes as you explore Oahu’s North Shore at your own leisure. There’s no need to waste time looking for transportation. Reserve your rental car in advance with GoVibe, and we’ll pick you up at the airport as soon as you arrive. Our affordable rates and concierge service are just two reasons our customers love our service. Contact us to learn more or book now. We’ll see you here soon!