Oahu’s beautiful north shore is famous for its massive waves and professional surf competitions during the winter months – and incredible snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming in the summer months. From Turtle Bay to Haleiwa, this beautiful stretch of coastline is home to endless magnificent views, pristine white sand beaches, and perhaps one of the island’s best scenic seaside drives.
With a visit to these 12 beaches, lookout points, and food spots along the way, you’re sure to fall in love with this coastal Hawaii drive. Check out
this map for a detailed list of all the places to visit from Turtle Bay to Haleiwa, and this map for our favorite Haleiwa destinations.
1. We’ll start at Kuilima Cove.
Located within Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's north shore is this amazing little cove perfect for novice snorkelers to practice their skills in the summer months. Here, you will find tropical fish, a little coral, the occasional sea turtle — and some stunning views!
2. Our first stop is at the iconic Ted’s Bakery.
Located on Oahu’s north shore is Ted’s Bakery, made famous for an impressive selection of pies, cakes, pastries, and bread. But that’s not all Ted’s Bakery does — they also serve breakfast, lunch and dinner food. Some of the most popular dishes include garlic shrimp, loco moco, and the fried rice special.
3. Now, we’re headed to the famous Sunset Beach…
While many locals flock to Sunset Beach for — you guessed it — sunset, it is quite the magical spot during the day as well. Like most beaches on Oahu’s north shore, the waves here are flat in the summer and huge in the winter months. When you take this drive will ultimately determine whether you choose to get in the water or simply watch professional surfers tackle some gnarly waves.
4. ...and the Banzai Pipeline, of course.
The Banzai Pipeline, or Pipe for short, is one of the most famous surfing spots in the world, with swells reaching up to 30 feet. The Banzai Pipeline is known for gigantic waves that break in shallow water just above a sharp, cavernous reef, forming large, hollow curls of water perfect for surfers to tube ride. Locals and tourists alike flock to the North Shore to sit on the beach, in awe of the waves, watching professional surfers tackle this legendary surf break.
5. Shark’s Cove is one of the best spots on island to snorkel in the summer.
Sharks Cove is known for its crystalline water, impressive sea life, positively enchanting tide pools, and epic snorkeling. Despite it’s name, you won’t find dangerous sharks in this protected cove: the picturesque snorkeling spot received its name from a popular story that says the outline of the reef outside the cove looks like the silhouette of a shark from above. However, the area surrounding the cove is home to white-tipped reef sharks.
6. Take a detour up the mountain to check out Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau.
Located on a hillside overlooking Waimea Bay, this heiau – an ancient Hawaiian temple – is the largest on the island, and might have been constructed as early as the 1600s. In the late 1700s, during a period of political upheaval, it is suspected that there was human sacrifice at the temple, perhaps to encourage war success.
7. Next up, we’re headed to the famous Waimea Bay and Valley.
While Waimea Bay is a popular spot for boogie boarding and a nice family beach day in the summer, it is a haven for surfers during the winter months — it is even the site of the infamous Quicksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, perhaps the most famous surf event in the world.
An area of historic cultural significance, Waimea Valley is not only home to a charming waterfall perfect for curious kiddos, but also contains 35 distinct plant collections, with one of the most impressive collections of Polynesian plants in existence.
8. Hang out with sea turtles at Laniakea Beach.
Often populated by sleeping sea turtles lounging on the shore, Laniakea is affectionately referred to as "turtle beach," and aptly so. The beach is almost always crowded with tourists looking for honu, but it is a worthy stop — especially if seeing a Hawaiian green sea turtle up close and personal is on your bucket list.
9. You’ve finally made it to Haleiwa. Time to do some shopping!
Voted as the state’s favorite small town by HAWAII Magazine, Haleiwa seems like a world away from bustling Waikiki. This sleepy surfer town on Oahu’s north shore has a laid-back vibe and charming aesthetic, but also luxuries like killer beaches, mouthwatering restaurants, art galleries galore, adorable shops, and stellar vacation rentals.
10. All that exploring has sure made you hungry — let’s grab dinner from Opal Thai Food.
This Haleiwa gem is closed Sundays and Mondays, but every other day of the week, you will find some of the best Thai food for miles.
11. You can’t forget dessert — shave ice from Matsumoto’s!
Located in the historic surfing town of Haleiwa, is this famous shave ice shop. What once began as a small grocery story has transformed into so much more — t-shirts, souvenirs, snacks and, of course, their famous shave ice. On a hot summer day, the store produces more than 1,000 shave ices.
12. Finally, end your day with a picturesque sunset over the Haleiwa Harbor.
Is there truly a better way to end an epic scenic drive than with a vibrant Hawaiian sunset?