The North Shore of Oahu is synonymous with laid-back hippy country vibes, big wave surf, shave ice, food trucks with famous garlic shrimp, and kombucha. You’ve probably heard of Matsumoto’s Shave Ice, Waimea Bay and Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, but so has everybody else, which means they can get crowded.
In this article I will divulge some lesser-known North Shore Oahu activities including places to visit, hike and eat on the North Shore of Oahu from a local’s perspective.
According to Hawaii.gov, in the month of June of this year (2018), Oahu saw nearly 543,000 visitors in one month on this island alone. Many of those tourists will choose to visit the North Shore.
Here are 10 North Shore Oahu activities that prove why it’s no surprise that Oahu’s North Shore is gaining such popularity as a visiting destination.
- 10 Local North Shore Oahu activities
- 1. Get your morning fix at Coffee Gallery.
- 2. Walk to the other side of the shops to enjoy a breakfast burrito at Kono’s.
- 3. Walk half a block down the road to Waialua Bakery.
- 4. Stop in at The Soap Cellar for essential oil soaps.
- 5. Visit a Hei’au, an ancient Hawaiian temple or sacred sight.
- 6. Hike Ehukai Pillboxes.
- 7. Take a dip at Sunset Beach, then stop by Sunrise Shack.
- 8. Check out Waimea Bay and Pipeline for the big wave surf contests in winter!
- 9. Or head to Laniakea Beach (known to locals as “Lani’s” or “Turtle Traffic”).
- 10. Head back into town for supper at Banzai Sushi.
- 11. V Land Tacos
- 12. Beet Box Café
- 13. Bring your own reusable bottle to Celestial Natural Foods.
- 14. Take a photo next to the colourful angel wings street art.
10 Local North Shore Oahu activities
1. Get your morning fix at Coffee Gallery.
Located inside the North Shore Marketplace, this joint serves up local coffee, chai and specialty lattes along with delicious homemade pastries and goodies!
While you’re here, browse SoHa Living for Hawaii-made products to take home as souvenirs.
As a bonus, the premise around here has free parking.
2. Walk to the other side of the shops to enjoy a breakfast burrito at Kono’s.
My favourite is The Chun’s, filled with local kalua pork, bacon, scrambled eggs and potatoes.
TIP: Try all their spicy sauces, made in Denver, CO specifically for Kono’s. Grab a seat outside on the picnic benches, but don’t feed the chickens, no matter how cute their little fluffy yellow baby chicks are.
3. Walk half a block down the road to Waialua Bakery.
Waialua Bakery serves locally sourced baked goods between USD 1 – USD 5 and delicious sandwiches using ingredients from their garden.
This is the perfect place to grab a sandwich to take to the beach, because after you pass Hale’iwa and get into Waimea, there are few food options besides the occasional food truck alongside the road.
TIP: They accept cash only. And you’ll probably see a few of these green guys:
4. Stop in at The Soap Cellar for essential oil soaps.
On the short walk back to your car parked at the North Shore Marketplace, stop in at The Soap Cellar for some locally-made essential oil soaps – $6.25 each or 5 for $25.
5. Visit a Hei’au, an ancient Hawaiian temple or sacred sight.
From Kamehameha Highway, turn right just before the Foodland and go up the winding road for about 3 minutes before you see this sign on the right.
TIP: Don’t leave any valuables in the car. Walk the short loop to see aerial views of Waimea Bay.
6. Hike Ehukai Pillboxes.
Park (for free) at Sunset Elementary School, just across the street from Ehukai Beach. This is an easy hike that takes around one hour round trip, plus a bit of time at the top to take photos.
TIP: Wear mosquito repellant, and bring hiking shoes if you don’t mind getting muddy!
You can continue on to a long trail system that goes through a beautiful pine tree forest, but be careful because it’s very easy to get lost in there and quickly become disoriented!
Other Hiking Options: Ka’ena Point
This flat 5.5-mile round trip hike is easy and scenic, but can be very muddy after heavy rains. The trail starts from the Mokule’ia side and ends at an Albatross sanctuary, so if you visit in the month of February, you will be lucky enough to see these large, beautiful black and white birds nesting and doing their mating dance!
You will very likely see a Hawaiian monk seal resting on the beach too! Monk Seals will dive hundreds of feet deep into the ocean to catch fish, so they become exhausted and need to rest and sun themselves to warm up.
They do a very good job of blending in with the sand and the rocks, because we didn’t even notice them when we first went down to the beach! We immediately retreated back up towards the top to give them their space and to not make them feel threatened.
Hawaiian monk seals are highly endangered species, so if you do see one in the wild, please give it plenty of space and do not touch them.
7. Take a dip at Sunset Beach, then stop by Sunrise Shack.
Take a refreshing dip at Sunset Beach, then be sure to stop by Sunrise Shack, quite literally a shack (a nice one), serving up healthy fruit bowls, smoothies and raw vegan and vegetarian food!
8. Check out Waimea Bay and Pipeline for the big wave surf contests in winter!
In the wintertime during high wave season (November – February), check out Waimea Bay and Pipeline for the big wave surf contests!
According to Travel Weekly, waves can get upwards of 50’ in height, making for quite the spectacle of surfer watching!
9. Or head to Laniakea Beach (known to locals as “Lani’s” or “Turtle Traffic”).
This can sometimes be a place to spot honu, the Hawaiian word for sea turtle, and therefore the traffic can get backed up because of tourists stopping to take photos.
Hawaiians believe that sea turtles are a symbol of good luck in the form of a guardian spirit.
10. Head back into town for supper at Banzai Sushi.
Banzai Sushi is situated inside the North Shore Marketplace.
TIP: Go for happy hour from Monday to Thursday from 3 to 5pm.
Other notable eateries great for either lunch or supper:
Food trucks have started to make a grand appearance since the beloved Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck became famous. You can find rows of food trucks serving anything from Thai food to tacos to acai bowls along the main road in Haleiwa.
11. V Land Tacos
You can’t beat the price here, and the flavours are even more outstanding.
$2.50 for a small taco, or $5.50 to $7.50 for the larger sizes.
TIP: Order the fish tacos (fish of the day depends on season, but we got opah in March!)
12. Beet Box Café
Excellent for vegans and vegetarians, or folks who are looking for honest, healthy, quality-sourced ingredients.
TIP: Their smoothies and acai bowls are outstanding!
13. Bring your own reusable bottle to Celestial Natural Foods.
Fill up your bottle with Sky Kombucha on tap.
TIP: I only recommend that you come here for the kombucha, because this small grocer sells organic goods that are overpriced, and the customer service is almost always snotty and unwelcoming, which is a shame for the North Shore, whereas most of the other establishments welcome everyone with Aloha.
14. Take a photo next to the colourful angel wings street art.
Located across the street from Surf N Sea, it is your next stop to rent stand up paddle boards to cruise on the Anahulu River. You might even see a turtle!
I hope this list provides you with some fun, new ways to enjoy Oahu’s North Shore. Be sure to check them out on your next day off or your next visit to Oahu! Did you know, there are also haunted places in Oahu?!
Lisa is the writer and photographer behind travel & food blog, Cultural Foodies. In 2014 she traded rubber flip flops, bikinis and kukui nut leis for warm boots, fleece scarves and REI gear when she moved from O’ahu, Hawai’i to Seattle, Washington. Lisa lived in the Emerald City for four years where she met my now husband, Sasha. In 2017 they left our corporate careers to travel abroad for half a year, visiting ten countries and over 50 cities. They are currently based on the island of O’ahu, Hawai’i and continue to write and travel!