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!
So hopefully this list can give you more ideas of things to do on the North Shore.
The North Shore can fit perfectly into a 3 day Oahu itinerary!
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?!
In terms of entering the water, it can mean that you generally may not find ideal swimming or snorkeling conditions in winter months.
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! And if there are no surf competitions when you’re there, you might be able to watch 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.
Watch the video below for the types of waves you might see on the North Shore in winter. The waves can be crazy… and dangerous!
5 best beaches on the North Shore of Oahu
aka best things to do on the North Shore!
Go here for possible turtle sightings on Oahu.
2. Shark’s Cove
Go here for one of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu when the water is in calmer months.
3. Waimea Bay
Go here for one of the best beaches on the North Shore with beach facilities. In winter, this is one of the top beaches for surfing on Oahu.
4. Sunset Beach
Go here for a white sand beach on Oahu. In winter, this is another one of the top beaches for surfing on Oahu.
5. Kuilima Cove
Go here for another snorkeling spot on the North Shore. This is also the Turtle Bay resort beach.
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A little more about these top North Shore beaches!
…aka the best things to do on the North Shore!
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.
Touching turtles is one of the top mistakes first time visitors to Hawaii make, and you’ll likely see volunteers here who try to make sure everyone keeps their distance from these wild turtles.
Turtles are protected by state law and federal law under wildlife conservation laws!
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!
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!
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
Possibly among the best Oahu maps for tourists!The Franko maps of Hawaii have a high level of detail for activities and it's beachproof aka waterproof. There's an "adventure" guide map and a "snorkel/dive" guide map. Plus a wall map for home to get you excited for your upcoming trip to Honolulu!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
Be sure to take a look at the reviews of these amazing tours on the Oahu:
- Sailing the ocean on a Hawaiian canoe to a small island
- Hidden gems of Oahu circle island tour + North Shore snorkeling
- Kayaking the ocean to a small island
- Dream Hawaii helicopter flight: Oahu waterfalls, mountains, and valleys including the North Shore and Sacred Falls
- Sunset cruise on the ocean