While Oahu’s north shore is known for its massive waves and professional surf competitions during the winter months, this beautiful stretch of coastline has so much more to offer. The main settlement in this area is Haleiwa, which has consistently been voted one of Hawaii’s favorite small towns for years. From the best acai bowls and shave ice in Haleiwa to snorkel spots, secluded beaches and phenomenal hiking, you could spend a year exploring the north shore without visiting the same place twice. Here are 17 places you absolutely must visit.
1. If you need a caffeine fix, head to The Coffee Gallery in Haleiwa.
Once you step inside, you will see the in-house Diedrich roasters where baristas can be found manually roasting small batches of coffee every day. Known for their fresh artisan brews, you must try their Hawaiian Paradise Blend.
2. A quick history lesson awaits you at Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site.
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.
3. For the best snorkeling around, hang out at Shark’s Cove.
Named one of the top shore dives in the world by Scuba Diving Magazine, Shark's cove is an idyllic spot to head underwater and hang out with Hawaii's sea life.
4. Be sure to try one of Hawaii’s favorite foods – the acai bowl – at Haleiwa Bowls.
For the perfect pre-adventure breakfast, Haleiwa Bowls is a must-stop. The small shack in Haleiwa may not look like much, but their acai bowls are to die for.
5. If you’re looking for a short and sweet hike, try the Ehukai Pillboxes.
A short, yet steep climb through the forest – over tree roots and rocks – up to two old military “pillboxes” will surely satisfy your need for nature. And if not, the trails at the top of the hike are beautiful, albeit confusing.
6. Craving a longer, more secluded hike? Try Kealia Trail.
Starting at Gillingham Airfield, Kealia takes hikers on a journey up 2,200 feet in elevation, across 19 switchbacks, to a stunning vista point of the north shore.
7. Check out Laniakea Beach for the chance to hang out with honu.
Often populated by sleeping sea turtles lounging on the shore, Laniakea is affectionately referred to as "turtle beach," and aptly so.
8. For a quick lunch, hit up Giovanni’s Shrimp.
Kahuku is known for a plethora of shrimp trucks, but Giovanni's is by far the most famous - and the perfect spot for a casual lunch while traveling between the north shore's most famous beaches.
9. Do some shopping on Haleiwa’s main drag.
Full of killer surf shops, cute clothing boutiques, souvenir shops and specialty stores, the Haleiwa stretch of Kamehameha Highway is home to some epic shopping.
10. To watch surfers catch some waves, head to Waimea Bay – but only during the winter.
While Waimea Bay is a popular spot for boogie boarding in the summer, it is a haven for surfers of all skill levels during the winter months.
11. A calm waterfall, and serene gardens will welcome you to Waimea Valley.
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.
12. You won’t find better shave ice than at the famous 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!
13. Adrenaline junkies should head to Pacific Skydive Hawaii for an unforgettable experience.
Skydiving might not be everyone's cup of tea, but we'd be amiss if we didn't include one of the best places on the island to get your adrenaline pumping. Plus, check out those views!
14. Best laid back adventure? SUP.
I suggest grabbing a rental from Tropical Rush – you’ll start out on the Anahola River where you can cruise down the river while you get used to the board before heading into the bay.
15. There’s no better secluded beach than Mokuleia.
Mokuleia Beach is so secluded that it was used in filming the first season of Lost. The nearest store and restrooms are more than ten miles away. The bright blue water is almost always choppy, and green sea turtles tend to hang out on the shore during the summer.
16. 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.
17. And finally, watch the sun slowly sink behind the horizon at Sunset Beach.
Because who doesn't want to experience a magical Hawaiian sunset at a beach named for its killer sunset views?