The most famous North Shore beaches on Oahu include Waimea Bay and Laniakea Beach.
You can swim on the North Shore of Oahu in the summer!
You can’t swim at most North Shore beaches in the winter because the ocean is too rough for swimming at that time.
But that’s also what makes for good conditions for surfing on the North Shore.
Oahu’s North Shore is world famous for being an international surfing destination in the winter.
Which are the best Oahu beaches that are on the North Shore?!
First, the quick list of the top 5 beaches on Oahu to know about when you’re making a trip to the North Shore.
Then, a bit more about each of these beaches, including some nearby places you might want to go when you’re in the area!
Some of the best things to do on Oahu are at North Shore beaches!
But before that…
North Shore beaches in summer vs in winter?!
So there IS a difference if you’re visiting Oahu in summer compared to if you’re visiting Oahu in winter when it comes to the North Shore!
Most notably, winter on the North Shore is internationally known for being a surfing destination!
And what does that mean?!
It means big waves in the winter!
And in terms of entering the water, it can mean that you generally may not find ideal swimming or snorkeling conditions in winter months.
It’s also not really a time to test out your beginner surfboard on the most popular beaches!
And it also means that if you’re on the North Shore in the winter, you might be able to catch a surf competition if you’re lucky!
If there are no surf competitions when you’re there, you might be able to watch experienced surfers catch the waves instead.
Or just watch the massive waves crashing, as that can be a tourist activity on its own too!
So it can be worth a day trip to the North Shore from Waikiki no matter the time of year.
The high surf can be dangerous and can result in a lot of rescues by lifeguards on the North Shore.
5 best beaches on the North Shore of Oahu
The best North Shore beach for possible turtle sightings on Oahu is Laniakea Beach!
2. Shark’s Cove
The best North Shore beach for snorkeling is Sharks Cove!
3. Waimea Bay
One of the best beaches on the North Shore with beach facilities is Waimea Bay. In winter, Waimea Bay is one of the top beaches for surfing on the North Shore and all of Oahu.
4. Sunset Beach
One of the best North Shore beaches for a wide expansive sandy beach is Sunset Beach. In winter, Sunset Beach is another one of the top beaches for surfing on the North Shore and all of Oahu.
5. Kuilima Cove
Another one of the best North Shore beaches for beginner snorkelers is Kuilima Cove. Kuilima Cove is also the Turtle Bay resort beach.
More below about the North Shore Oahu beaches!
Amazing Oahu experience you need to consider:
- The best way to swim with turtles in Waikiki: Turtle Canyons snorkeling
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A little more about these top North Shore beaches!
1. Laniakea Beach aka Turtle Beach
If seeing turtles is on your bucket list of things to do on Oahu, then you will definitely want to add Laniakea Beach to your list of beaches to visit on the North Shore!
Since it’s wildlife, turtle sightings can never be guaranteed, but this can be a relatively reliable beach for seeing turtles on Oahu.
So if you’re looking for where to see turtles on Oahu, try this North Shore beach!
There are plenty of people who have gone to Laniakea Beach and leave disappointed not having seen a turtle, but it’s a good place to test your luck.
At this beach, there are 3 to 4 of the same turtles who are regulars on this beach, and sunset or shortly before the sun goes down might be a good time to try to catch at least one of them.
Hawaii is very serious about protecting marine life.
Turtles are protected by state law and federal law under wildlife conservation laws.
The State of Hawaii doesn’t want you touching turtles, and you’ll likely see volunteers here who try to make sure everyone keeps their distance from these wild turtles.
If you’re interested in Turtle Beach on the North Shore, you may also be interested in this marine life in Hawaii:
- Where to see turtles in Waikiki
- Hookipa Beach turtles in Maui
- Punaluu black sand beach turtles on the Big Island
- Hookipa Beach seals in Maui
2. Shark’s Cove
Outside of the winter surfing months, it’s usually possible to safely snorkel at Shark’s Cove.
It’s considered to be safer since it’s more guarded from the waves as an enclosed lagoon.
This can make Shark’s Cove one of the top snorkeling beaches on the North Shore.
Although, it doesn’t mean that it’s completely protected, so be sure to use your good wisdom!
This area is also a part of the one of Oahu’s marine conservation districts which also means the marine life here are protected!
This snorkeling beach has a rocky beach entrance.
This means that if you won’t be wearing fins while snorkeling, you might consider wearing water shoes so you won’t be as concerned with stepping on sharp rocks and cutting your feet!
Know before you go to snorkeling beaches on the North Shore! Know what it is when you see it!
- humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Hawaii state fish… it’s not as hard to pronounce as you might think!)
- Hawaiian white-spotted toby (cute little Hawaiian pufferfish!)
Things to do near Shark’s Cove
Once you’ve finished up your snorkeling, you can refuel with some food from some North Shore food trucks!
There are some food trucks located almost directly across from the Shark’s Cove snorkeling area right along the North Shore’s main road.
3. Waimea Bay
The Waimea Bay beach park is one of the beaches on the North Shore that’s considered a top spot for surfing during the winter surfing months.
During the summer when the waves are calmer, it can make a good beach for wading in the water… along with some snorkeling too.
But as with all beaches on Oahu, you will still want to be careful though.
For Waimea Bay, one of the reasons is because the shoreline can drop off quite drastically when you’re in the water.
Things to do near Waimea Bay
If you like stunning views from above…
DON’T miss the Puu O Mahuka Heiau
Not only will this give you a chance to see a bit of Hawaiian culture (heiau = ancient Hawaiian temple), you will also get to see stunning views of the North Shore!
This is a short drive just off the North Shore’s main road, and just a few minutes from Waimea Bay.
This can be a quick stop as a scenic overlook before you go to Waimea Bay.
And then if you like botanical gardens and waterfalls…
DON’T miss Waimea Valley
This is a nature park, so this can be a nice little stroll through greenery.
A trip to Waimea Valley can also give you a small glimpse into Hawaiian culture.
There’s a Hawaiian ancient living site here…
And there’s also a small heiau near the entrance of this park too.
You’ll want to give yourself 1-2 hours here.
Waimea Valley is located a few minutes from Waimea Bay.
4. Sunset Beach
The wide stretch of sand on Sunset Beach can make for a nice area to hang out.
This is one of the (nearly) white sand beaches that you can find on Oahu.
This is another beach on the North Shore that’s known for surfing in Hawaii.
Things to do near Sunset Beach
If you like stunning views from above…
DON’T miss the Ehukai Pillbox Hike
On this hiking trail you can find another scenic overlook with views of North Shore beaches.
The starting point of this hike is at Sunset Elementary School, which is just a few minutes from Sunset Beach.
And if you like fresh fruit…
DON’T miss the Sunrise Shack
You can find fruit smoothie bowls here!
This place is also famous for their organic coffee.
Be prepared to spend some money, though. You can consider it a part of your Hawaii experience!
This shack is located along the side of the road a few minutes from Sunset Beach.
5. Kuilima Cove
If you’re looking for another snorkeling spot with a nice beach, Kuilima Cove is also considered a snorkeling spot.
And this is a North Shore snorkeling spot to try if you’ll be visiting in winter. Because the bay is a bit more sheltered, there can be less impact of strong waves here.
You don’t have to be staying at the resort in order to snorkel here, as there is public access at this beach.
Waikiki to the North Shore
If it’s your first trip to Oahu, then there’s a good chance that you will be staying in Waikiki, or somewhere nearby.
Waikiki is the main tourist hot spot on Oahu where most of the hotels the island are located, along with a few hostels.
The North Shore is a bit of a trip from Waikiki, so it’s best to plan it as a day trip or part of a circle island road trip around Oahu.
You can rent a car to go to the North Shore, and this will be about a 1 hour drive.
You might encounter traffic on the North Shore as it’s just one lane in each direction.
You can also take the bus from Waikiki to the North Shore.
The bus may take you a good 2 hours one way though – but if you go for it with a good attitude and you don’t mind walking a lot taking the bus on Oahu, even for a long time, then it’s not so bad! (I took the bus to the North Shore!)
You can also rent bicycles on the North Shore too – near the food trucks right near the Shark’s Cove snorkeling spot can be a good place to find bikes.
And those are some of the best beaches on the North Shore to consider making a part of your trip to Oahu!
Also have a look at more of the best beaches around Oahu.
And also see the best of hiking on Oahu.
HAPPY NORTH SHORE BEACH TIME!
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