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19 Best Things to Do on the North Shore of Oahu

Sarah Etinas

Hawaii, USA

The North Shore of Oahu is one of the most famous spots in the Hawaiian Islands, thanks to its prime surfing conditions. But the waves at Pipeline and Waimea Bay aren’t the only draw of this alluring destination. While on the North Shore of Oahu, you can also swim with sharks, search for hidden petroglyphs, snack on sweet treats, and tackle tucked-away hikes.

Regardless of what type of adventure you’re looking for— whether it’s food-focused, nature-based, or adrenaline-induced—you’ll be able to find an activity that suits your style of travel. To help you plan your itinerary, here are 19 of the best things to do on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.

Spend a Few Hours at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu, Hawaii.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is the most popular paid attraction on the island of Oahu, and for good reason. While at this famous attraction, you can experience a Hawaiian lūʻau, learn about Polynesian culture, and watch an exhilarating night show.

Cliff Jump at Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay, Oahu, Hawaii.

While there are loads of things to do at the iconic Waimea Bay—from swimming in the summer to surfing in the winter—the most popular thing to do is cliff jump. If you look at the left side of Waimea Bay, you’ll see a tall rock with a line of people. Every few seconds, you’ll see someone make a 15-foot jump into the stunning blue waters. So why not hop in line to wait for your turn? It’s important to note that you shouldn’t cliff jump at Waimea Bay in the winter, due to the large winter waves.

Do Some Kid-Friendly Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove

Shark’s Cove, Oahu, Hawaii.

While there are a couple of awesome snorkeling spots on the North Shore, Shark’s Cove is the perfect place to snorkel with kids. Even though the water remains shallow, you can say hello to colorful fish, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. If you head to the less kid-friendly section of Shark’s Cove (outside of the rocky outcropping), you’ll also have a chance to see other cool sea creatures, like turtles and lobsters! It is important to note that you should not snorkel at Shark’s Cove in the winter, due to the season’s large waves. 

Compare the Best North Shore Shrimp Trucks

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, Oahu, Hawaii.

During your time on the North Shore, you’ll inevitably see quite a few shrimp trucks, due to the shrimp farming industry in the little town of Kahuku. For decades, there has been a rivalry between three of the main shrimp trucks in the area: Giovanni’s, Fumi’s, and Romy’s. Each of these eateries puts its own spin on the shrimp, and, while everyone has a preference, there is no clear winner in this competition. You simply have to try all three to pick your favorite.

Devour a Slice of Pie from Ted’s Bakery

Ted’s Bakery, Oahu, Hawaii.

Ted’s Bakery put itself on the map with its delicious chocolate haupia (coconut) pie. While this local bakery serves up other pie flavors, including blueberry cream pie and strawberry guava cream pie, locals will tell you that the chocolate haupia pie is the one that you must try.

Watch a Surf Competition at Banzai Pipeline

Banzai Pipelie, Oahu, Hawaii.

Each winter, the best surfers from all around the world come to the North Shore of Oahu to surf the epic waves. While there are many beaches along the coast that have prime surfing conditions, Banzai Pipeline, or simply Pipeline, is known as the best of them all. In the winter, the waves at Pipeline often reach 20-40 feet (which is 40-80 feet for anyone not from Hawaii–we measure wave size differently). Thanks to these massive waves, Pipeline hosts quite a few surf competitions each season, the most popular one being Billabong Pipe Masters. It’s important to note that, unless you’re an extremely experienced surfer, you should not surf at Pipeline in the winter (or at any other beach on the North Shore, for that matter).

Watch the Sunset at Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii.

Sunset Beach is the perfect place to catch the sunset, and not just because of its appropriate name. Due to the location of Sunset Beach, you’ll be able to have an unobstructed view of the brightly colored sky as the sun sets.

Keep an Eye Out for the Petroglyphs Hidden Under the Sand at Ke Iki Beach

Ke Iki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii.

One of the most under-the-radar things to do on the North Shore of Oahu is look for the petroglyphs at Ke Iki Beach. Petroglyphs are the ancient Hawaiian pictorial language. While the other islands have quite a few spots to see petroglyphs, Oahu has just two, and one of them is at Ke Iki Beach. But the petroglyphs at Ke Iki Beach are quite hard to find. They actually only appear when the waves are large enough to drag large amounts of sand out to sea. Underneath all that sand, you’ll find the hidden petroglyphs!

Watch the Waves Crash at Lā‘ie Point

Lā‘ie Point, Oahu, Hawaii.

The hidden gem of Lā‘ie Point is the perfect spot to simply sit and watch the huge waves crash into the rocks. But remember to stay a few feet from the edge for your safety!

Tour the North Shore Soap Factory

North Shore Soap Factory, Oahu, Hawaii.

Located in the old Waialua Sugar Mill, the North Shore Soap Factory whips up lovely island-inspired soaps, including mango, coconut, and plumeria. You can even take a tour of the facility to learn about the soap-making process.

Savor an Acai Bowl Made from Kahuku Farms

Kahuku Farms, Oahu, Hawaii.

Most visitors to Hawaii want to try a tropical acai bowl in the islands, even though acai berries are technically not native to Hawaii. As a matter of fact, the only place in Hawaii that makes their acai bowls from locally grown acai berries is Kahuku Farms. It is important to note that Kahuku Farms’ acai bowl availability depends on when the acai berries become ripe. Typically, the acai bowls are only for sale in the summer.

Go Cage Diving with Sharks

North Shore Shark Adventures, Oahu, Hawaii.

If you’re an adrenaline junky, cage diving with sharks should top your list of things to do on the North Shore of Oahu. You can get face-to-face with the ocean’s greatest predators from the safety of an underwater cage. We recommend North Shore Shark Adventures.

Search for a Rare Sunrise Shell

Hale’iwi Ali’i Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii.

The name for sunrise shells is definitely appropriate. First, these shells boast the orange and pink ombre associated with sunrise. And second, they are most frequently found at sunrise! But these shells aren’t easy to come across, even at sunrise. For your best shot, you can scour the shoreline of Hale‘iwa Ali‘i Beach Park.

Hike to ‘Ehukai Pillbox

‘Ehukai Pillbox Hike, Oahu, Hawaii.

The hike to ‘Ehukai Pillbox is one of the most breathtaking trails on the North Shore of Oahu. The island’s pillboxes, or military cement bunkers, were built during World War II to serve as lookout points. Today, these pillboxes, including ‘Ehukai Pillbox, offer stunning views of the island. This hour-long hike doesn’t take much effort but gives you an amazing reward. At the end of your journey through bright greenery, you’ll be able to gaze at unobstructed views of Pipeline and Sunset Beach.

Stroll Around the Shops at Hale‘iwa

Hale’iwa, Oahu, Hawaii.

The most popular attraction in the sleepy North Shore town of Hale‘iwa are the many shops. And while the businesses in the buildings are certainly noteworthy, it’s the intriguing surfer-meets-Western architecture that draws thousands of visitors every single year.

Skydive at Dillingham Airfield

Skydive Hawaii, Oahu, Hawaii.

If you’re looking to check skydiving off your bucket list, Dillingham Airfield on the North Shore of Oahu is the place to do it! First of all, since Hawaii is at sea level, you’ll be able to drop the full 15,000 feet (the highest altitude from which you can skydive), making your experience last even longer. Second, you’ll be able to experience an aerial view of one of the Hawaiian Islands with the stunning blue Pacific Ocean and bright green mountains.

Smile In the Sunflower Fields in Waialua

Waialua Sunflower Farm, Oahu, Hawaii.

Each fall, the sunflower fields in the town of Waialua begin to bloom. While these sunflowers aren’t native to Hawaii–they are actually planted for research purposes–they still make for quite a beautiful sight, especially with the bright green mountains in the background.

Kayak in the Anahulu River

‘Anahulu River, Oahu, Hawaii.

The Anahulu River is a hidden gem. This river flows under Rainbow Bridge and into Hale‘iwa Harbor. But the best part is the turtles in Anahulu River that like to say hello. So why not rent a kayak and wave back at them?

Spot Some Turtles at Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach, Oahu, Hawaii.

Many Hawaiian green sea turtles on the North Shore have chosen to make Laniakea Beach their home. As a matter of fact, so many turtles like to lounge on this beach that it has been given the unofficial name of “Turtle Beach.” While most of the turtles opt to relax on the shoreline, you might be lucky enough to swim with them in the water too! Don’t forget that Hawaiian green sea turtles are an endangered species. Please give them their space and don’t try to feed them.

While in Hawaii, don’t forget to check out the awe-inspiring black sand beaches.