So when you’re staying in Waikiki during your time on Oahu, the North Shore can make a nice day trip from Waikiki.
It may not be possible to do ALL of the things listed below with just one day on the North Shore, but you can do most if you really want to!
Although, if you really wanted to, you might even be able to hit all the spots if you’re renting a car!
But still, taking in the North Shore slowly can always be a positive thing!
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Also to keep in mind…
North Shore beach conditions
So one of the most important things to know about the North Shore as you are planning your first trip to Hawaii is that the time of year you go can make a difference in your experience!
You can have a good experience no matter the month you visit, but it will just be different depending on when you go.
Hawaii is known as one of the top surfing destinations in the world.
And where is one of the top surfing destinations in Hawaii?!
The North Shore of Oahu!
And surfing season is in the winter months.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a surf competition on the North Shore.
Even if you’re visiting in winter and not into surfing, this can make a difference for you because good surfing conditions can generally mean not-so-good conditions for snorkeling and other water activities.
And even if you are visiting the North Shore outside of the time of big surf, you’ll still want to make sure to be careful when in the water.
In some spots, the tide can change quickly and there may be strong currents.
Many North Shore beaches don’t have lifeguards, although some do.
So just be sure to pay attention to the posted signs on the beach so you can be aware of the warnings!
How to get to the North Shore from Waikiki
If you are staying in Waikiki, renting a car will be the best way to get to the North Shore on your own.
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.
Driving from Waikiki to the North Shore will be about an hour. You also might encounter traffic on the North Shore as it’s just one lane in each direction.
Otherwise, if you won’t be renting a car, you can also take the bus from Waikiki to the North Shore… if you want to think of it as part of a grand island adventure on Oahu! Going by bus to the North Shore may take a solid 2 hours one way!
But if you go for it with a good attitude and you don’t mind walking a lot 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.
North Shore tours
If you want to leave the planning and driving to someone else, and learn about Hawaiian culture along the way, there are also driving tours. There are tours that start from Waikiki and circle around the island and will include a trip to the North Shore:
- Hidden gems of Oahu circle island tour with North Shore snorkeling and swimming with turtles (snorkeling is ocean permitting! aka if the waves aren’t rough.)
- Waimea waterfalls and circle island adventure tour
Be sure to look for the reviews!
Here's some info on Hawaii trip prep!
- Best shoes for hiking in Hawaii
- The perfect type of shirt for swimming in Hawaii
- Do you need water shoes for Hawaii?
- THE top things to pack for Hawaii
PLUS... Oahu tour, or on your own: Can you visit Pearl Harbor without a tour?
10+ things to do on the North Shore for your first trip to Oahu
The list below of things to do on the North Shore starts at the northern most point of Oahu and then generally goes south along the North Shore coast from there along the western side.
1. Kuilima Cove
A snorkeling spot on the North Shore located at Turtle Bay Resort. You can hang out at this beach even if you’re not a guest staying here.
Kuilima Cove: See more about this North Shore activity.
2. Sunset Beach
Wide stretch of sand on the North Shore. In winter, this area has among the best beaches for surfing.
3. Sunrise Shack
Popular spot to stop along the side of the road for some coffee or healthy fruit bowl!
A 1-2 hour hike that will give you views of the North Shore coast. This hike starts at Sunset Beach Elementary School, which is also basically right in front of Sunset Beach.
Ehukai Pillbox Hike: See more about this North Shore activity.
5. Shark’s Cove
6. North Shore food trucks
Go for some shrimp or fish tacos at a food truck on Oahu. You can find some in front of Shark’s Cove. There are also some on another part of the North Shore, in Kahuku which is kind of near Turtle Bay Resort.
There are also bicycle rentals near the Sharks Cove food trucks, and biking up and down the North Shore can be another great way to experience the North Shore!
7. Three Tables Beach
Another snorkeling spot when waves are calm within the Pupukea marine life conservation district.
8. Puu O Mahuka heiau
See a bit of Hawaiian history with a trip to this ancient sacred Hawaiian temple. This is designated as both a state historic site and a national historic landmark. Also go for the sweeping views of the North Shore.
9. Waimea Falls
This is a visit to the Waimea Valley nature park where you can find one of the most popular waterfalls on Oahu. You’ll walk through botanical gardens and a Hawaiian cultural site to get to waterfalls that you can swim at.
Waimea Falls: See more about this North Shore activity.
10. Waimea Bay
11. Laniakea Beach
You might have a good chance of seeing turtles at this beach also known as Turtle Beach.
Laniakea Beach: See more about this North Shore activity.
How to make some of these top North Shore activities a part of your Oahu vacation?!
The North Shore basically has one main road, and this runs along the coast.
You can use some of these activities to guide you to the general areas of the North Shore to go.
But be sure to stop off at any place that looks good to you, too!
You might even find a place to rest to the sound of ocean waves!
And to save a bit of money…
Before you head to the North Shore, stop by a grocery store or convenience store to pick up some snacks or picnic food!
You’re sure to come across some picnic tables to enjoy food with ocean views!
And those are some ideas for how to spend one day on the North Shore!
And for the days you won’t be on the North Shore…
See ideas for how to spend the rest of your days on Oahu!
More for your trip to Oahu:
HAPPY NORTH SHORE OAHU TRAVEL PLANNING!
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