Aloha! Are you heading to Oahu soon? You’ll definitely want to schedule in time on the beautiful North Shore. While it is known for its big waves (perfect for surfers), there are several other incredible things to do on the North Shore of Oahu. Our family of 3 recently spent time on the North Shore as part of our trip to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu, and we loved every minute. Although we stayed on the East Shore for most of our trip, Oahu is very drive-able, so it was easy to drive to the North Shore when we wanted. Our highlights included exploring Waimea Valley and snorkeling at Three Tables Beach, but the North Shore has so much more to offer! While I highly recommend renting a car, there are numerous tour companies that will take you to the North Shore for the day, if you are staying in the Honolulu/Waikiki area. So don’t miss out on exploring this beautiful part of the island!
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I’m excited to share our favorite things to do on the East Shore of Oahu! I’ve included our family’s favorite beaches, fun activities, places to eat, and where to stay. You also can find my tips for families scattered throughout this post!
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Things to do on the North Shore, Oahu
North Shore Beaches
The North Shore of Oahu has stunning beaches with huge waves, making it a dream destination for surfers. That being said, the waves can be too rough for typical visitors to enjoy during many months of the year. If you aren’t traveling to Oahu during the summer, be sure to check on swimming recommendations and wave strength on the North Shore before enjoying the water. If you’re traveling to Oahu during the late fall, winter, or spring, consider exploring the East Shore for several safe snorkeling beaches.
Tip for families: If you’re traveling with children, toddlers, or infants, consider bringing an appropriately sized life jacket for them to wear. Our daughter wore her almost every time we were at the beach, and it allowed us to relax while she freely splashed around and practiced her swimming. Although she was never without us in the water, it was wonderful to have the peace of mind. We love this life jacket for our 1 year old!
Three Tables Beach
Our family spent most of our time at Three Tables Beach in Pupukea. Named for its three flat reefs (aka “tables”), it is generally calm during the summer months. We chose to spend a lot of time here because it tends to be a great, calm beach for children. Our toddler loved this beach, and we felt like it was a safe option for our family. There were restrooms near the parking lot.
Our favorite snorkeling experience on Oahu was at Three Tables Beach! We saw so many fish and the water was incredibly warm. It was a highlight!
Tip for families: If you’re traveling with little ones, don’t skip this beach! It is lovely for travelers of all ages, but you’ll find that it’s an excellent place for kids and toddlers to play during the summer months.
Sharks Cove in Pupukea is considered to be one of the best snorkeling and scuba diving beaches in the world. We personally skipped this beach only because we read over and over again that it isn’t a good beach for children. It’s excellent for snorkeling (and therefore very crowded), but there isn’t a lot of sand for children to play in, and the water can be rough. We heard that it is a must-visit cove for adults!
Turtle Beach (Laniakea)
If you have a dream of seeing sea turtles during your trip to Oahu, then you’ll want to check out Turtle Beach, officially Laniakea Beach, in Kawela Bay. The beach has a beautiful, rocky portion and a large stretch of sand. Sea turtles love to rest here, and it is not uncommon to see numerous turtles relaxing on the sand around lunchtime.
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North Shore Activities
Explore the Beauty of Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens & Waterfall
Waimea Valley on the North Shore of Oahu is stunning and is a must-see if you enjoy botanical gardens and waterfalls. We spent a few wonderful hours here, exploring the grounds as we walked to the waterfall (which is .8 miles one way). The main path is entirely paved, so feel free to bring a travel stroller if you have a toddler or baby. There are several side paths that are more bumpy, but our stroller still did fine.
The waterfall and its swimming hole is typically open to swimmers during the summer months, so wear your swim suit if you would like to take a refreshing dip (but as always, be mindful of leptospirosis in Hawaii, which can be contracted from the fresh water on the islands). Life guards are on duty with life jackets to share. We happened to travel here during a rare break in the rain, so the waterfall was just a trickle. But it was beautiful and we enjoyed the lovely walk!
Explore Local Culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore is considered to be one of Oahu’s top attractions. Known for their village tours, dance shows, and cultural presentations, it is an amazing way to experience authentic Polynesian culture.
Zipline at CLIMB Works Keana Farms
Our family had to skip ziplining at CLIMB Works Keana Farms this time, but we will be back! My husband and I love ziplining, but our daughter is too young for now (the minimum age is 7 years old). It is difficult to imagine a more gorgeous zipline destination that the North Shore of Oahu!
Book a Beach Photo Session with a Local Photographer
Booking vacation photo shoots has become our favorite way to capture our family’s memories while we travel. we have become big fans of Flytographer, a company that works with local photographers in over 200 cities around the world.
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Where to Eat on the North Shore
The North Shore of Oahu is known for its incredible food (in particular, garlic shrimp)! Food trucks are popular and can be found throughout the region, but you can find a big concentration of them along Kamehameha Hwy in Haleiwa.
Ok, I need to give a huge shout out to Hale’iwa Bowls for making the best acai bowls that we’ve ever tasted! My sister and her family had traveled to Oahu a few months before us and had stopped here. They raved and raved about their acai bowls, so we made a point to stop here too. I really cannot put into words how delicious our mana bowl was. It alone is worth a trip back to Oahu. 😉
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Cove Café in Haleiwa. I loved my Surf n’ Turf Burger and my husband enjoyed his traditional cheeseburger.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is quite possibly the most popular shrimp truck on the North Shore. You can find it in Haleiwa.
Haleiwa Joe’s is an excellent choice if you’re looking for sit-down seafood meal. They are known for their fresh fish…yum!
Aunty’s Lil Green Hut is located in Kahuku and is known for their organic, gluten-free options. It’s the perfect spot for people with food allergies who would like a healthy, safe treat!
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Where to Stay on the North Shore
The North Shore is a beautiful place to stay in Oahu. As much as I enjoyed our time in Honolulu, there is so much more to island! Our family loves renting vacation homes through Airbnb. We love the flexibility of having our own kitchen and laundry machines. We also love having at least one bedroom, which makes traveling with a toddler much easier at bedtime.
Here are a few great Airbnb options on the North Shore (they all happen to be family-friend too):
- Spacious home in the North Shore country (up to 8 guests)
- North Shore country retreat (up to 4 guests)
- Cottage with a beach view (up to 3 guests)
- Studio retreat in the mountains (up to 3 guests)
- Studio by the sea (up to 2 guests)
Tip for families: You can can filter your Airbnb search to ensure that you have the amenities that are important for your family’s comfort. For example, you can search for homes that have high chairs and cribs. We have chosen to always travel with our daughter’s travel crib and portable sound machine. The consistency helps her easily adjust to new sleeping situations when we travel.
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Enjoy planning your own trip to the North Shore of Oahu! My hope it that you found these suggestions helpful as you enjoy the planning process for our own wonderful Hawaiian adventure. I would love to hear from you! Have you been to the North Shore? What activities stand out to you? Mahalo for allowing me to share our tips!
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