Visiting Hawaii’s Oahu is a dream for many. Yet, the island isn’t small and with attractions being spread out throughout the island, transport can sometimes be a challenge.

Although the best way to explore this sightly island is by car, it sometimes is not economical for solo travellers or backpackers to do that. Transport was something I struggled with when I visited Oahu solo in September. That, coupled with the fact that it can be stressful driving in the urban island on the opposite side of the road.

waikiki-oahu-honolulu-hawaii-sunset

Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

That was why I found it easiest to base myself in Waikiki where the main shopping and dining options are. You can bet it’s full of tourists and Waikiki beach is perpetually filled with Europeans here to escape the harsh winters.

Thanks to my friend Tony, he’s found a solution to that! It’s actually possible to explore Oahu by public bus – TheBus.

jervis bay hyams beach girl jump australia

TRAVEL HACK:

As always, I find the best way to source for the cheapest flights is by checking on Skyscanner & Momondo.

As for accommodation, I found HotelsCombined to provide the most comprehensive, unbiased comparison of different hotel sites. 🙂 Airbnb is another reliable one for accommodation. Use this link to get $62 off!

Protect yourself against mishaps & misadventures with World Nomads travel insurance.

Order your very own portable WiFi device & travel easy with Tep Wireless.

I spoke extensively about the gems of North Shore Oahu activities in my earlier post. The tropical charm of Oahu’s North Shore is an absolute must experience for all visitors.

Continuing from that post, I will specifically elaborate in this post how to get from Waikiki to North Shore by bus, if the option of driving to the North Shore is out for you.

It’ll also include a breakdown of the things to do in North Shore Oahu that will leave you wanting for more of Hawaii!

How to explore North Shore Oahu’s activities by bus

The bare bones tour suggested below begins and ends at Ala Moana Center, right by Waikiki. Suggested attractions do not cost anything.

In addition to sightseeing, the tour includes time for swimming/ snorkeling and hiking.

Almost all stop areas have public restrooms.

TheBus Fare

An all-day pass for adults is USD5.50. It’s good to have exact change because the driver doesn’t give any.

TheBus App (DaBus2)

Download DaBus2 app on your phone. While it can be inaccurate at times due to traffic conditions and road closures, it’s still useful for finding real-time bus arrivals.

North Shore Oahu Bus Routes

A frequented bus route from Ala Moana Center to the North Shore is 60. The stop is #426 on the mountain-facing side of the center on Kona Street.

Bus 60 enters the North Shore through the windward (eastern) side of Oahu in Kaneohe and ends at Weed Circle in Haleiwa Town.

From Haleiwa, the fastest bus route to Ala Moana Center via central Oahu is 52.

The Oahu Bus Schedule

The suggested tour schedules take between 12-13 hours starting at 8:30am and ending between 8pm and 9pm. The times are based on the most current weekday schedule.

During the winter months of November to February, seasonal waves make most North Shore beaches dangerous for recreational swimming. As the saying goes, “If in doubt, don’t go out.”

Although Ala Moana Center officially opens at 9:30am (10am on Sundays), some stores like Foodland, Longs Drugs, and Target open at 5am, 6am, and 8am respectively.  Snacks and supplies such as a cheap snorkel and mask can be purchased at those stores.

During daylight hours, Bus 60 operates in 30-minute intervals.

Below are two suggested itineraries to explore the North Shore by bus depending on the season you go.

North Shore Oahu itinerary for March to October (Calm Waters)

8:33 a.m.         Leave Ala Moana Center on Bus 60.  Stop 426

9:42 a.m.         Arrive at He’eia State Park. Pay tribute to He’eia Fishpond.

10:11 a.m.       Leave He’eia State Park on Bus 60.  Stop 1574      

10:29 a.m.       Arrive at Kualoa Regional Park. Take pictures with Chinaman’s Hat.

10:59 a.m.       Leave Kualoa Regional Park on Bus 60.  Stop 2457

11:32 p.m.       Arrive at La’ie Shopping Centre. Explore La’ie Point State Wayside.

12:33 p.m.       Leave La’ie Shopping Center on Bus 60.  Stop 2510

12:41 p.m.       Arrive at Kahuku Sugar Mill (lunch spot)

1:41 p.m.         Leave Kahuku Sugar Mill on Bus 60.  Stop 2523

Option 1:  Hike and swimming

2:03 p.m.         Arrive at ‘Ehukai Beach Park. ‘Ehukai Beach Park is known for its ‘Ehukai Pillbox hike. If you prefer something milder, the beach is one of North Shore Oahu’s beaches that’s excellent to swim in!

4:05 p.m.         Leave ‘Ehukai Beach Park to Laniakea Beach on Bus 60.  Stop 2545

Option 2:  Hike and snorkelling

2:03 p.m.         Arrive at ‘Ehukai Beach Park. Do the ‘Ehukai Pillbox hike, but to the first pillbox only. There is more in store for you later!

3:05 p.m.         Leave ‘Ehukai Beach Park to Shark’s Cove on Bus 60.  Stop 2545

3:09 p.m.         Arrive at Shark’s Cove. Shark’s Cove is perfect for snorkelling. You’ll be amazed at the diversity of marine life just swimming a few feet from the shore.

4:09 p.m.         Leave Shark’s Cove to Laniakea Beach on Bus 60.  Stop 2553

4:23 p.m.         Arrive at Laniakea Beach. Watch the cute Hawaiian green sea turtles basking on one of the best North Shore Oahu beach!

4:54 p.m.         Leave Laniakea Beach on Bus 60.  Stop 2563

4:59 p.m.         Arrive Haleiwa Town. Haleiwa is a quaint surf town I wouldn’t recommend you miss. Take your time to explore this little town.

6:07 p.m.         Leave Haleiwa Town on Bus 52 from Haleiwa Beach Park.  Stop 2298

8:02 p.m.         Arrive Ala Moana Center

North Shore Oahu itinerary for November to February (Large Swells)

8:33 a.m.         Leave Ala Moana Center on Bus 60.  Stop 426

9:42 a.m.         Arrive at He’eia State Park. Pay tribute to He’eia Fishpond here.

10:11 a.m.       Leave He’eia State Park on Bus 60.  Stop 1574

10:29 a.m.       Arrive at Kualoa Regional Park. The iconic Chinaman’s Hat is one for the gram.

Read: How to Really Grow A Large Following on Instagram

10:59  a.m.      Leave Kualoa Regional Park on Bus 60.  Stop 2457

11:32 p.m.       Arrive at La’ie Shopping Centre. Take your time to explore La’ie Point State Wayside.

12:33 p.m.       Leave La’ie Shopping Centre on Bus 60.  Stop 2510

12:41 p.m.       Arrive at Kahuku Sugar Mill. Stop for a lunch break here.

1:41 p.m.         Leave Kahuku Sugar Mill on Bus 60.  Stop 2523

1:49 p.m.         Arrive at Turtle Bay Resort. Another popular spot for swimming and snorkelling!

2:51 p.m.         Leave Turtle Bay Resort on Bus 60.  Stop 2341

3:05 p.m.         Arrive at ‘Ehukai Beach Park. Hike the famed ‘Ehukai Pillbox. It’s such a popular hike for good reason.

4:36 p.m.         Depart ‘Ehukai Beach Park on Bus 60.  Stop 2545

4:53 p.m.         Arrive at Laniakea Beach. See the Hawaiian green sea turtles basking.

5:21 p.m.         Leave Laniakea Beach on Bus 60.  Stop 2563

5:25 p.m.         Arrive Haleiwa Town. Explore this quaint surf town.

7:05 p.m.         Leave Haleiwa Town on Bus 52 from Haleiwa Beach Park.  Stop 2298

9:02 p.m.         Arrive Ala Moana Center

North Shore Oahu’s Attractions

He’eia State Park

From Ala Moana Center, the 14-mile journey to He’eia State Park takes 1h 10m.

In addition to Hawaii’s natural beauty, visitors should pay tribute to the historic accomplishments of the indigenous ancestors.

Ancient Hawaiians were masters at manipulating nature for their benefit.  One of their ingenious innovations was He’eia Fishpond, a type of loko kuapa (walled pond) found nowhere else in the world.

He’eia Fishpond, north shore oahu activities, hawaii

He’eia Fishpond

Built between 600-800 years ago, the 88-acre fish pond is currently undergoing reconstruction to perpetuate traditional Hawaiian aquaculture practices.

In ancient Hawaii, fish ponds played a significant role in feeding large communities. He’eia Fishpond may not rival the prestige of other ancient marvels like the Roman aqueducts, but just like the latter, they provided a critical resource in supporting a large society.

Kualoa Regional Park

chinamans-hat-oahu-honolulu-hawaii

Chinaman’s Hat

Off the shores of Kualoa Regional Park is Mokoli’i Island, better known as Chinaman’s Hat. The conical-shaped island, surrounding water, and landscape make this area picturesque.

Across the park is Kualoa Ranch, which offers tours and activities that explore and appreciate the allure of its 4,000-acre property.

From Kualoa, the 13-mile trip to La’ie Shopping Centre takes about 45 minutes. Shortly after the bus departs, look left to catch the ruins of a short-lived sugar mill built in the 1860’s.

sugar mill , north shore oahu activitiesAfter the ruins, you’ll see a grove of monkeypod trees. During World War II, parts of Kualoa were used as a temporary military airfield. The trees served as natural hangars that camouflaged the planes.

A short distance ahead is Ka’a’awa Valley. It may look familiar because scenes from movies and TV shows such as Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Godzilla, and Hawaii-Five-O were filmed there.

At the end of Ka’a’awa, 15 minutes after leaving Kualoa, is a rock formation called Crouching Lion. Over the past few years, this unsanctioned hiking spot has been popularized by social media.

Crouching Lion, north shore oahu activities

Crouching Lion

20 minutes after Crouching Lion is Hawaii’s number one paid attraction, Polynesian Cultural Centre, which showcases the major Polynesian cultures such as Samoa, Tahiti, Aotearoa, and of course, Hawaii.

La’ie Shopping Centre (explore La’ie Point State Wayside)

From the La’ie Shopping Center stop, walk 10 minutes to La’ie Point State Wayside. Go south towards the traffic light and turn left up on Anemoku St. At the T-intersection, turn right on Naupaka St. and go all the way to the end.

Kukuihoolua-Island-oahu-honolulu-hawaii

Kukuiho’olua Island

The island on the left is Kukuiho’olua. A tsunami generated by the 1946 Alaska earthquake punctured the centre hole.

On the right is a popular cliff jumping spot. A scene from the movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed there.

After exploring the point, walk back to the stop where you alighted.

La’ie has a large Mormon community. About 2-3 minutes after leaving to Kahuku, look left to spot the large Mormon temple a half mile from the highway.

Kahuku Sugar Mill

It’s lunch time!

There are several varieties of food trucks and establishments at this former sugar mill site. The most popular is Giovanni Shrimp Truck.  Other eateries are D & L Seafood and Mike’s Huli Chicken.  I recommend eating at the latter two since they both serve traditional Hawaiian food such as kalua pig, poke, and laulau.

Have space for dessert?  Get ice cream from Aloha Rolls.

A few minutes after leaving Kahuku Sugar Mill, you’ll see shrimp farms on the right and two popular shrimp stands: Romy’s and Fumi’s.

They are supposedly the only ones that source their shrimp locally in Kahuku.

romy's kahuku shrimp prawns, north shore oahu activities, hawaiiIn addition to shrimp, Kahuku is also known for its nationally-ranked high school football program. Dozens of Kahuku natives have played for professional and collegiate teams.

sunset-beach-oahu-honolulu-hawaii

Sunset Beach

The next expanse of white sand you’ll see is Sunset Beach, which is the start of the Seven Mile Miracle. Plying this stretch to Haleiwa is 36 surf spots with unique names like Off the Wall, Backdoor, and Rocky Point. In a few minutes, you’ll reach ‘Ehukai Beach Park.

‘Ehukai Beach Park (Ehukai Pillbox hike and swim)

Ehukai-pillbox-hike-Oahu-Hawaii

Tony and I on Ehukai Pillbox hike

A popular family-friendly scenic North Shore hike is Ehukai Pillbox which can be done with high-quality slippers, or better yet, hiking shoes.  Parts of the mostly shaded trail can get muddy after rainfall.

Read: The Science Behind Packing for Hiking; What To Pack, Why and How

The trailhead is across the street near Sunset Beach Neighbourhood Park. Go towards the end of the parking lot.  Before the gate to Sunset Beach Elementary School, the trailhead can be seen on the left.

It takes about 30 minutes to reach the first pillbox. The trail is flat for the first 5-10 minutes and eventually becomes steep. After the trail levels out, under a canopy of ironwood trees, you’ll reach the pillbox in 5-10 minutes. The second pillbox with the painted peace sign is another 5-10 minutes away.

After the hike, cool off with a swim at ‘Ehukai Beach (March to October) or admire the big waves (November to February) and watch the daring surfers. Oahu’s famed Banzai Pipeline surf spot is left of the main beach area.

Continuing along the Seven Mile Miracle, you’ll pass other notable beaches such as Shark’s Cove, Three Tables Beach (Pupukea Beach Park), Waimea Bay, and Chun’s Reef.  The former two are popular for snorkelling.

views of Waimea Bay, North Shore Oahu Activities

views of Waimea Bay

Shark’s Cove (snorkeling)

Most of Shark’s Cove is shallow. The best snorkelling area is on the right side. No lifeguards are on duty so do your due diligence. Snorkel only when waters are calm.

Turtle Bay Resort (November to February)

Turtle Bay Resort is 15 minutes away from Kahuku Sugar Mill. Near the resort is Kuilima Cove, an excellent swimming and snorkelling spot. The reef protects the cove from large winter waves. Beach chairs and umbrellas are free for resort guests only.

After alighting the bus, walk towards the right of the main resort building and find the paved path that leads to the beach. 

Laniakea Beach (see the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle)

One or more honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) usually bask along the shores of Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach) in the late morning to early afternoon.

Protected by law, observers must keep a recommended distance of 10 to 15 feet. Volunteers from Malama na Honu put boundary markers around the basking turtles and educate visitors about this endangered species.

Haleiwa Town

Save the best for last? Haleiwa is the final stop of the tour. The “Gateway to the North Shore” has a surf town designation because of its laid-back vibe, nostalgic feel, and for being the hub for a myriad of water activities offered.

Get off at Kamehameha Highway and Lokoea Place past Haleiwa Beach Park. Venture south and explore. Here are some main Haleiwa attractions:

  • Surf N Sea – oldest surf shop in Hawaii (closes at 7pm)
  • Anahulu Shave Ice – take an Instagrammable picture in front of their angel wings mural.

colourful angel wings street art, North Shore Oahu Activities

  • Gateway Rainbow Bridge – this bridge is to Haleiwa as the Golden Gate Bridge is to San Francisco. Unmissable spot!
  • Haleiwa Joe’s – an excellent place to eat dinner while watching the harbour and sunset.
sunset oahu honolulu hawaii

Hawaiian’s sunset never fail to mesmerize

  • Matsumoto Shave Ice – the most popular shave ice shop in Haleiwa and arguably all of Hawaii (closes at 6pm).
  • Haleiwa Store Lots (closes at 6pm)
  • North Shore Marketplace (closes at 7pm)

Return to Ala Moana Center

The shortest route for the 33-mile two-hour bus ride back to Ala Moana Center is 52. The stop (#2298) is on the northbound direction of Kamehameha Highway at Haleiwa Beach Park.  Don’t take Bus 60 since it traverses places you’ve already seen and takes up to an hour longer than 52.

Bonus: Dine at Halekulani Hotel’s House Without a Key

There was not a more Hawaiian welcome than starting off my trip in Hawaii at Halekulani Hotel’s restaurant, House Without a Key, on my first day in Hawaii. In your case, it could be the perfect end to your long day on the North Shore!

Starting with a Mai Tai cocktail, a classic Hawaiian cocktail, was a nice foray into the Hawaiian food culture.

mai tai, Halekulani-Hotel-House-Without-a-Key-restaurant-Oahu-Hawaii

Mai Tai cocktail

Another cocktail highly recommended is Lost Passion. It consists of passion fruit, margarita and champagne. I loved how refreshing it tasted – perfect as a tropical cocktail!

In the background, be serenaded by a Hawaiian song and dance performance at their outdoor stage all evening.

Halekulani-Hotel-House-Without-a-Key-restaurant-Oahu-HawaiiI was spoiled with a variety of starters when I visited. Most noticeably was how fresh their seafood were.

Oysters, Calamari, Ahi Poké, Yellowtail and Coffee-rubbed ribeye were presented on the table. Finally reuniting with my favourite poké, I was savouring as the sashimi melted in my mouth.

Halekulani-Hotel-House-Without-a-Key-restaurant-Oahu-Hawaii

Halekulani-Hotel-House-Without-a-Key-restaurant-Oahu-HawaiiAt this point, the prime location allowed me to witness the setting sun in its full fiery orange glory. There was no better setting to be in for my first day in Hawaii.

As if I’m not already full from the plethora of fresh seafood appetisers, I gushed as my main dish, Lobster Tails, was presented to me. I was in seafood heaven.

Halekulani-Hotel-House-Without-a-Key-restaurant-Oahu-HawaiiYou can bet that I had such a hearty meal I almost passed out in bliss. While I can’t share much about the hotel since I was only there for dinner, it is one of the pioneering hotels in Oahu and very highly reviewed amongst guests. A pity I only had the opportunity to visit the hotel’s restaurant this time!


No matter how well-planned and organized you are, life happens, and things don’t always go accordingly.

To help with that, you can use DaBus2 or Google Maps to plan your adjustments and alternatives.

Paper route schedules can be found inside the buses behind the driver.  Electronic schedules in PDF format can be accessed on thebus.org.

 

Did you try out the tour? How did it go? I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions for improvement. 🙂

Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.