We spent a week in North Shore Oahu during a crazy rain storm (even for Hawaii!). We were hardly able to do half of the things we wanted to do, but that didn’t stop us from loving every minute of it. The North Shore is so incredible! We’re already planning a trip back (with hopefully better weather) because there are so many things to do in North Shore Oahu.
Here are just a few you could choose from!
Top Things to do in North Shore Oahu
1. Shark Cage Diving
If you’re afraid of sharks and the idea of cage diving terrifies you, believe me when I say I know how you feel. I was terrified, too, and even had to practice Lamaze breathing to get myself into the cage. I was so happy I did, though! Native Galapagos sharks are attracted to the hum of boat motors, not chum, after being trained to approach fishing boats who have thrown discarded fish and crab back into the ocean for decades. Galapagos sharks have no interest in humans and are incredibly safe to be around, making this an adventure of a lifetime.
Not only do you have the incredible opportunity to see sharks up close in a safe, friendly way, the boat ride out is also very scenic and travellers have a good chance of seeing dolphins and whales (depending on the time of year.)
2. Visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation
Though more inland than the other activities, the Dole Pineapple Plantation is still considered part of Oahu’s North Shore and you must go.
Visitors enter the Dole Plantation through a massive gift shop of everything possible: pineapple t-shirts and candy, of course, but also trivets, coloring books, keychains, hats, magnets, stuffed toys, jewelry, chair covers, pillows, etc. It sounds awful, but it’s actually hilarious and so fun!
Beyond the gift shop you can watch a pineapple cutting demonstration, eat a famous Dole Whip Sundae, and go outside for a Dole plantation maze, pineapple growing farm, train ride through the plantation, etc. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon!
3. Photo op at the North Shore Angel Wings
Artist Colette Miller’s Global Angel Wings art project has come to the North Shore! Recently a pair of her painted angel wings has flown to the small coastal town of Haleiwa. Miller says the angel wings represent love, peace, kindness, compassion, hope, the visitor’s inner angel, and the good we can bring to the earth.
Sounds to perfectly encompass all of the love and joy found on Hawaii, so you may as well internalize the attributes as much as possible with this interactive artwork!
4. Hiking Kaena Point State Park
On the eastern tip of Oahu’s North Shore is Kaena Point State Park. The Kaena Point State Park hike is one of the most beautiful on Oahu! Not only does the area include this gorgeous and easy (but long) hike, It’s also home to a group of local off-roaders. Take a few minutes to watch the monster Jeeps ride just beyond the Kaena Point hike parking lot, or join in if you have your own Jeep and want to feel local!
Related: Off-Roading Kaena Point State Park
5. North Shore Camping
Beach camping in Hawaii is kind of iconic, isn’t it? And all is not lost if you don’t have your own vintage VW van! Malaekahana Beach Campground has you covered. With spots available for tents and small and large plantation houses to rent by the night any kind of camper will be satisfied. Each site has it’s own fire pit, access to the beach, outdoor showers, and a camping store for essentials. Hawaii is the perfect place to get close to nature, and there’s no better way to do it than by waking up on the sand while North Shore camping.
6. North Shore Surfing
In the wintertime North Shore Oahu is home to some of the largest swells in the world. Pipelines and giant waves attract world-class surfers from every corner of the globe. If you’re a surfing enthusiast you’ll definitely want to try your hand at surfing in North Shore!
If you’re more interested in watching North Shore surfing there are plenty of opportunities to do that, too. North Shore Surf competitions take place in winter during the biggest swell season, but you can also view surfers off of most beaches.
7. Visit North Shore Turtle Beach
One of the best things to do in North Shore Oahu is look for native sea turtles! The best place to see turtles on the North Shore is on Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach (not to be confused with the North Shore resort Turtle Bay). There are some things you need to know before setting off, though: First, it is illegal to touch or get too close to the turtles. They are endangered! Feel free to watch them, but give them space! Second, this beach is so well known for watching turtles that it gets pretty crowded. By afternoon tourists swarm the beach and parking is limited. According to the Hona Guardians (volunteers who stay at the beach with information on how to safely interact with the turtles) the best time to see the sea turtles in around lunch time, between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. There is a small parking lot for Laniakea Beach across the street from the beach (on the mountain side), but no crosswalk so be careful crossing the road!
8. Eat Butter Garlic Shrimp
When driving the coastal road of the North Shore you’ll find tons of food trucks offering one thing: SHRIMP. The most famous dish is butter garlic shrimp, which draws a line at the most famous food trucks. You’ll likely hear other tourists visiting Laniakea Beach or the tidepools discussing their plans for butter garlic shrimp plate dinners and start craving your own. I’m not going to say which food truck is better than any other, the most important thing is that you just go to one. And consider calling ahead to order your shrimp plates- it took us 30 minutes just to get to the payment counter and another 20 to wait for our meals!
9. Go to a Polynesian Cultural Center Luau
Yes, it’s a fabricated luau which isn’t as great as an authentic family luau, but what are the odds you’ll find a local family luau while you’re on the North Shore? The Polynesian Cultural Center luau is also a bit pricey. Luau costs $120-$250 depending on your luau package! But the PCC is also more than dinner and a show. You’ll get authentic Hawaiian food and see hula and fire dancers during your meal, but feel free to come early or stay after your appointed luau time to experience the rest of the center, which is a living museum of Polynesian culture. Tour the acreage which features 6 different Polynesian islands and learn what makes them each unique and special. There are plenty of demonstrations in each location, which keep old and young interested! Luau prices also include a daily showing of Ha: Breath of Life, an incredible live production that chronicles life on a Polynesian island.
The PCC is operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and mostly employed by students from the nearby BYU-Hawaii campus. You’ll meet performers from the islands being featured, which is a huge plus!
10. Cliff Dive Waimea Falls
To see lush Hawaiian landscape make a stop at Waimea Valley. It’s home to an easy, gorgeous botanical walk/ hike that leads to a huge waterfall. You can swim at the base of the waterfall and even cliff dive off the top of it (or watch those who do!)
Waimea Falls is run by Waimea Valley, a non-profit that is committed to preserving the land and Hawaiian culture. Entrance to Waimea Valley costs $8 for children and $16 for adults 12+.
11. Swim or Snorkel Sharks Cove Tide Pool
Sharks Cove, aka Pupukea Tide Pool, is a great spot for snorkeling! It’s easy to access off the highway and home to fun Pacific fish. Wear good shoes to get into Sharks Cove because large lava rocks cover the area, then don your snorkel gear to catch a glimpse of Nemo or Dory. Even if you don’t snorkel, come to Sharks Cove just to relax! Watching the waves periodically crash over the tide pool’s rock wall is really incredible!
I hope you enjoy your visit to North Shore Oahu! As you can see there are plenty of things to do. You’ll have fun at any of these spots and be planning your next trip as soon as you’re home!
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The O’Briens are currently spending two years living abroad as digital nomads. They are worldschooling their 6-year-old-son and teaching him to appreciate the world and cultures around him! Their biggest loves while traveling are extreme adventure travel, family travel, and doing service. They hope we can all work together to make the world a better place!
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