Destinations,  Hawaii,  North America,  Oahu,  Our Adventures,  USA

Things to do on the North Shore, Oahu

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

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.



You might  also be interested in: Beach Vacation Packing List

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.

Photo captured by Tara from Flytographer

We chose to have our Oahu family photos taken on the East Shore, but Flytographer also has photo shoot destination options on the North Shore, including La’ie Point and Mokuleia Beach.

Photo captured by Tara from Flytographer

Flytographer works with all travelers- including solo travelers and large groups (and everyone in between). You can use my referral link for $50 off your first photo shoot!

You might  also be interested in: Beach Vacation Photo Shoot in Hawaii + $50 Flytographer Discount Code

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.

Hale’iwa Bowls

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. 😉

Cove Café

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

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

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

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):

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.


 

Booking.com is another great place to find wonderful deals on vacation homes, hotels, and resorts. Check out their listings for the North Shore here! Here are a few popular resort and villa options:



Booking.com


You might  also be interested in: What to Pack in a Toddler’s Carry-On

 

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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34 Comments

  • Dada

    Alohaaaa! Here we come Hawaii…more particularly the north shore Oahu! So wonderful things to do and see! Our family love to snorkel so Oahu really seems to be perfect for us. We could probably stay at the Three tables beach all day, although we would probably also try the Sharks cove!

    Thanks for all the tips aswell for where to eat in Oahu! That acaii bowl looks yummy indeed!

  • Lisa

    What a dreamy post!! Hawaii is a top destination of mine, and I’d love to get out there one day. Oahu looks wonderful, and I never realised the difference between the shores. I’d love to see some turtles, so this beach would be top of the list. Waimea gardens also looks beautiful, and I’m a big sucker for waterfalls too.

    • Leah

      Yes, Oahu has a lot of variety! A lot of travelers never leave the Waikiki area, which I think is a shame! Honolulu is a lovely city, but the rest of the island has so much to offer with a laid back vibe. Each shore is known for different things, and each deserves a visit, in my opinion. 🙂

  • Umiko

    Three Tables Beach looks interesting. My family would enjoy it, too, although there’s no toddler anymore in the family. And I would like to see turtles having sunbathing at the Turtle Beach. 😉 Your Surf n’ Turf Burger sounds delicious. Being an island, I can imagine they have excellent seafood, and grilled shrimp in particular.

  • Jackie Gately

    I am a big fan of botanical gardens so I will definitely add Botanical Gardens & Waterfall to my Hawaii itinerary when I visit. Plus, I never thought of hiring a photographer while on vacation until reading this. What better way to capture family memories while in Hawaii–or anywhere for that matter? (I’m always the one behind the camera…) I will definitely look up Flytographer. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Yukti Agrawal

    Wow Oahu has so pretty beaches and that too not very crowded which I love the most. There are so many beautiful things to do on the North Shore like the visiting the beautiful Three Tables Beach. Exploring the beauty of Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens & Waterfalls would be the another beautiful thing to do here.

  • Manjulika Pramod

    I have heard a lot about the North Shore of the beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu and indeed its look inviting. Sharks Cove, Turtles Beach, Three Tables and Keana Farms, everything looks stunning and worth it. Great places are enjoyed best with great food. A personal photographer for a photo shoot is a great idea.

  • daniel

    Great post!! Your post looks amazing and really secluded, someplace that I would definitely love to go to. Didn’t know id there was a spot in Hawaii which isn’t crowded by hordes of tourists. Hawaii has always been on my radar and I am planning to visit it next year and North Shore Oahu has definitely taken a spot.

  • blair villanueva

    Hawaii is also in my dream travel destination because of its many beautiful islands and the community takes pride on promoting their nature and culture. I love spending time to reconnect with nature and be grateful. Of course, I can’t deny how gorgeous their beaches are!

  • Andi

    I’ve been to Oahu a few times but never got to the North Shore – they were quick trips for media events – my NEXT trip to Oahu I WILL get over there and I will use this handy dandy guide!

  • Holly

    I only got to spend a brief afternoon on the North Shore as part of a tour on my first day. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck was awesome, and I got some spectacular sunset shots from pipeline!

  • Becki

    This is one place that’s been on my bucket list, ever since I saw Lilo and Stitch! I’d love to find out more about Shark Cove that you mentioned. I love diving and snorkelling, and was wondering if it got the name from actual sharks living there, or from some other way. I’ve seen sharks swwiming (and have swam with sharks) in shallow water similar to this type of cove before and keen to do it again in other places.

    • Leah

      Shark’s Cove is very popular! I have heard that there aren’t actual sharks there, but I might be mistaken. Either way, it’s a paradise for snorkelers and divers!

  • Ann

    The botanical garden and waterfall seems really beutiful!

    And hey, I checked out that thing with flytogopher, seems like a great thing to do while travelling 🙂

  • Jen Morrow

    Darn, I got excited when I read Sharks Cove! That is the first beach I would visit, especially with snorkeling and scuba diving. Such a difference traveling with children.

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