Home to the some of the world’s largest waves, Oahu is a popular destination among surfers, especially during the winter months. Regardless if you are just starting out with surfing or you are a real professional, the beaches across the North Shore area in Oahu will invite you with the powerful and large ocean swells. After you have spent the day immersing yourself into the colorful Hawaiian surfing culture, you can also admire the breathtaking sunset views. The tall green summits are as inviting as the clean blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, so exploring the hiking trails across North Shore should be another part of your Oahu itinerary. If you are ready to have the holiday of your life-time filled with adventures and experiences, which will make you step out of your comfort zone, head to North Shore, Oahu – Hawaii’s surfing paradise.
Location of North Shore
Quietly nestling in the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is the only American state that enjoys the endless tropical summer days. The entire Hawaiian archipelago consists of more than 130 volcanic islands, however, one of the most popular ones is Oahu. Often referred to as “The Gathering Place”, Oahu is also the third-largest island part of the archipelago and is home to the vast majority of the population of the Hawaiian State.
The entire island is just 40 miles long and 30 miles wide and is divided in a few different areas. As you can guess by its name, the North Shore is the northern coastal area of the Oahu island. It is the big waves and the excellent surfing conditions that attract sport enthusiasts from all over the world to North Shore.
Getting to North Shore
There are three major airports in Hawaii, the most popular of which is Honolulu International Airport. Also known as Daniel K. Inouye International Airport it serves the largest number of airlines and international flights. Situated near the Hawaiian capital – Honolulu on the Oahu Island, it makes it easy for visitors who are planning on spending their holiday at North Shore. Check out the best flight deals.
You will be surprised to hear that getting around Oahu is actually not difficult at all. Visitors can easily reach North Shore even without a car. The island has a fantastic bus system called “The Bus”. It is not just affordable, but it is also extremely convenient as it covers over 4200 bus stop across the island. Even if you have to travel from Honolulu to North Shore, you can take bus line 52, and in approximately one and a half hours, you will be able to enjoy the fantastic waves.
Keep in mind that the other two air hubs – Hilo International Airport and Kona International Airport are situated on the Island of Hawaii. As there is no ferry between the two islands, you would need to book another flight to reach North Shore in Oahu.
When to Visit
Hawaii is undoubtedly one of the best destination year-round. The vast majority of tourists visit Hawaii during the summer season, whereas those who would like to escape the crowds plan their holidays for May and September. If you will be visiting North Shore in Oahu and would like to enjoy the fantastic massive waves, however, the best time to surf is during the winter season from mid November to the beginning of February.
One of the first things you should do when you get to Hawaii, is head to the beach. The North Shore area is popular with its numerous fantastic beaches with massive waves perfect for surfing. Check out which are the best beaches you should visit in the area.
Pipeline Beach, also known as the Banzai Pipeline is by far one of the most popular surf beaches in the world. Having three different reefs that the ocean breaks into, the beach is known to be home to some of the world’s largest waves. Well-known surfers from numerous countries visit Pipeline Beach during the winter to tube ride on these massive waves. The beach is also hosting the annual Billabong Pipe Masters, which is often crucial for choosing the World Surf Champion of the year.
With its fantastic 25 to 30 feet waves, Waimea Bay is one of the most popular surfing beaches in the North Shore area. While the beach is extremely family-friendly during the summer season with its clear and calm waters and numerous facilities, as well as, lifeguards on duty, it becomes the spot hosting “The Eddie” surfing competition during the winter. The North Pacific storms are the cause of the high ocean swells that surfers love riding on. If you are not a professional surfer, you can find a comfortable viewing spot and enjoy the show from.
If you are just starting out with surfing, one of the best places to head to and practice is the Chun’s Reef. This area offers more gentle waves, perfect for beginners. While there are a number of stands you can rent a surf or book a lesson from, the facilities along the beach are relatively limited. Lifeguard is normally on duty, however, you will not find any restrooms or even a dedicated parking lot. Due to the shallow reef, Chun’s Reef is not a good spot for swimming, but a number of tide pools on the west side offer great snorkeling conditions.
Another beach with some small and gentle swells, which are more suitable for body boarding is Haleiwa Alii. Perfect for the entire family, you can spend the entire day tossing a frisbee, swimming, sunbathing or building a sandcastle with your children. There are numerous bars, restaurants and shops nearby, as well as, many picnic areas and restrooms just by the beach. With lifeguards only on duty, the beach is also extremely safe throughout the year. The soft sandy sand is also perfect if you want to just take a morning walk or run along the beach.
If you are looking for a secluded and remote beach with very few tourists, you should visit Mokuleia Beach. During the winter months, the beach is a lot more popular among surfers thanks to the bigger and more powerful waves. Rip currents are more likely, though, so the beach can be also a bit dangerous during the winter season. During the summer months, however, the long sandy beach is perfect if you want to go for a walk or sunbathe and relax on the beach. If you still want to try some water activities, the shallow reef offers great snorkeling conditions. On some particular days, the wind is also perfect for kite-surfing and windsurfing. As this is one of the more off-the-beaten-path beaches in North Shore, visitors will find only a limited number of facilities. Its remoteness and quietness, though, will make you feel like you are on a deserted island far away from any civilization.
In order to fully experience the surf culture at North Shore, you should plan at least an entire weekend filled with water adventures and great mood. If you have previously visited the Waikiki area, you will quickly notice the big differences. North Shore has a much more laid-back and relaxing atmosphere, it is not as touristy and crowded. As a result, the number of accommodation options are North Shore are also relatively limited. The Turtle Bay Resort and the Courtyard by Marriott Oahu are the two largest hotels in the area offering luxurious and deluxe services. If you are traveling on a budget and would like to fully experience the authentic surf vibe, it is better to book one of the beach villas. The Mokule’ia Beach Houses at Owen’s Retreat and the Backpackers Vacation Inn and Plantation Village are fantastic options.
Things/ Activities to Do
While the main activity that visitors enjoy while in the North Shore area of Oahu is surfing, there are a number of other activities and places that you should also visit. Keep reading and learn about all the fantastic non beach things you can do in North Shore.
Visit the Town of Haleiwa
If you have spent the entire day enjoying the fantastic waves on one of the best beaches across North Shore, you might want to spend a relaxing afternoon by visiting the town of Haleiwa. The area is packed with the essential surf shops, food trucks offering mouth-watering lunch bites and a few great art galleries that are worth exploring.
If you love being surrounded by nature and enjoy the peace and quiet of some off-the-beaten-path spots, you should certainly go hiking in Oahu. While there are a number of interesting hiking paths you can choose from, we suggest heading to Laie Falls first. The trail is quite easy and short. Once you reach the 15-foot falls, you should also take a dip in the refreshing waters before heading back. The Ehukai Pillbox Hike is another hidden gem, which even if a bit challenging is totally worth the efforts. In just 30 minutes you will reach the top, perfect to enjoy the beautiful sunset from. Last but not least, one of the most popular hikes across Oahu is the Diamond Head Trail. The 0.7 mile trail, will take you to a viewing platform offering an absolutely stunning 360-degree view, which is also considered to be the world’s longest land view.
See the Sea Turtles
It would be a shame if you plan a holiday to Hawaii without getting to see the green sea turtles “Honu”. This endangered turtle species that can be only found across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, have found the Laniakea Beach in North Shore, and have called it home. Locals suggest that between 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM the turtles enjoy heading and chilling at the beach. Hence, this is the best time to visit the Laniakea Beach and if you are lucky enough you might get the chance to see them. Always be respectful of the animals and make sure that you give them enough space and keep safe distance. Make sure that you do not leave any trash behind you, as it is on us to ensure the well-being of the turtles.
Admire the Sunset from Sunset Beach
One of the most essential things in your Hawaiian itinerary should be admiring the sunsets. There is something extra magical and special about how the sun kisses the ocean goodnight and the way the golden rays reflect in the endless blue waters of the Pacific. Despite the fact that you could see the sunset from every corner of the North Shore area, the best spot is the Sunset Beach. The only thing to keep in mind is that this is a relatively popular place and can get a bit crowded especially during the touristy season. If you are visiting North Shore during the winter, though, you may even have the entire beach for yourself.
Hawaii and the North Shore area in particular is all about getting out of your comfort zone and filling your itinerary with adventures and experiences. Besides the water activities, visitors can also go on a skydiving adventure over the Oahu Island. The Pacific Skydiving is the best place you can book your experience from, however, you need to do it well in advance, as the spots get filled up relatively quick. Have a holiday of a life-time and enjoy as many fantastic experiences as possible.
Regardless if you are just a beginner surfer or you are more experienced, you will be able to find exactly what you need at North Shore. Some of the beaches in the area are known to be home to the world’s largest waves, while others offer more gentle swells, as well as, excellent conditions for other sport activities, such as windsurfing or snorkeling. Besides the beaches, however, North Shore on the Oahu Island deserves your attention with its great hiking trails and beautiful sunset views. Are you ready to pack your bags and head to North Shore?