Off The Beaten Track: Oahu’s North Shore

25 July 2016
Read Time: 4.2 mins

Trying to sum up the North Shore of Hawaii’s island of Oahu is like trying to describe surfing to someone who doesn’t swim. It’s near impossible to capture the full spectrum of beauty and adventure that the Hawaiian Islands hold in both its landscape and its people.

There are so many incredibly unique customs and products that call Hawaii home, such as the lei, hula dancing, the shaka, Hawaiian pineapple and most important of all the Spirit of Aloha, which is in fact a law. The ‘Spirit of Aloha’ statute governs its people and visitors to have a, “coordination of mind and heart within each person...Each person must think and emote good feelings to others.” Now how’s that for a law!

This “Spirit of Aloha” is no more obvious than on the North Shore where the landscape remains untouched by the highrise buildings that make up the southern facing Waikiki shore, making it the perfect island escape.

 Waialua Bakery acai bowl and paper cookie holder bucket list. Waialua Bakery's handy cookie wrapper to-do list. Image: Sam Aldenton.



The absolute best way to tackle Oahu’s North Shore is in a car. Don’t make it just any car either. Make that a convertible because you’re in Hawaii and why not?
Everything is better in a convertible. Except for your hair, ladies take note. Personally I went for a VW Beetle and it made cruising along the Kamehameha Highway a whole other experience, like something out of a movie. Definitely worth paying the extra dollars for.


The Billabong Pipe Masters happens from December 8-20 and this surf competition is the final leg of the 2016 World Surf League Championship Tour. So if you’re in Hawaii around this time and are a fan of the sport, then why not stay where all of the surfers will be hanging out on lay days? Turtle Bay Resort is where most of the surfers and event organisers stay because it’s close to the competition and a beautiful resort smack bang on the beachfront complete with a tennis court and golf course.


Waialua Bakery

No trip to Hawaii, let alone the North Shore, is complete without a trip to Waialua Bakery. There are so many out-of-this-world food spots on the North Shore however this is the one I would return to almost everyday. Whether it was a fresh acai bowl, a deliciously filling smoothie, a giant avocado burger or the dollar cookies (a must), each day there was something fresh and flavoursome to try.

 Old school Shave Ice food truck. Shave Ice truck opposite Shark's Cove. Image: Sam Aldenton


Other must try spots are:

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck;
Matsumoto Shave (Hawaiians spell this without the ‘d’) Ice and;
Foodland across from Shark’s Cove -a grocery store where all the locals get their fresh poke (the Hawaiian raw fish salad).



Shark’s Cove

Beat the throngs of tourists at Hanauma Bay and snorkel like a local at Shark’s Cove, a great spot that’s just opposite some of the island’s best food trucks. I’d recommend Pupukea Grill food truck for its famous fish tacos.

Waimea Bay

Head to Waimea Bay for an especially pretty beach steeped in history --the beach’s first lifeguard was native Hawaiian and champion big wave surfer Eddie Aikau, a legend in Hawaiian culture -- and to watch the locals launching themselves off of the famous Waimea Bay Jump Rock.


Waimea e suas grandes ondas #sqn #jump A video posted by Marcella Carvalho (@marcellamcarvalho) on

Waimano Falls Trail

Another hidden treasure is the Waimano Falls and bonus is that there’s no cost besides the petrol used to get here, unlike the tourist-heavy Waimea Falls. Make sure you wear your running shoes as it’s a pretty steep hike down to the falls and even more so to get back up again but 100 percent worth it.

Freediving with Sharks

A once-in-a-lifetime experience is to dive with sharks, this is usually done within the confines of a cozy and protective metal cage. Shark conservationist Ocean Ramsay has taken that up a notch and is guiding visitors and locals off Oahu’s North Shore to swim with galapagos, sandbar, and tiger sharks….without a cage. This activity is definitely not for the faint of heart and qualifies as one of Hawaii’s most thrilling adventures. Those looking for something not so intense might consider the dolphin swim adventure available with Sea Life Park Hawaii.


The beautiful @ninadobrev #ninadobrev diving with my favorite sandbar shark @bullyshark_ photo by @juansharks with @oneoceandiving Fun, fearless, super sweet, intelligent, ridiculously talented, & she likes sharks & marine life too! #perfect ... The wonderful beautiful @ninadobrev #freediving with a school of over 22 sharks with marine conservation photographer & shark expert @juansharks of @oneoceandiving #pelagicshark #sharkresearch and #sharkconservation program in #hawaii #oahu Nina impressed me so much, with her enthusiasm, fun, down-to-earth, live life to the fullest personality but what I really admire was her kindness & respect of the sharks the ocean and concern for their plight and willingness to even volunteer to help speak up for them & help raise awareness. Aloha with fellow divers & friends @hillaryharley @cheeklane @markkassen @adamjlock & @k21harris Right now is such a critical tipping point for sharks with such low populations and they have little to no protection still. They need all the help they can get if we are going to save them. Please join us & #helpsavesharks They are vital components to healthy balanced marine ecosystems, the ocean, & environment. #speakupforthosewithoutavoice #savesharks #savetheocean #waterinspired @waterinspired stop #sharkfishing ban #sharkfinsoup #NinaDobrevFreedivingwithsharks #freediveforsharks #marineconservation #sharkresearchandconservation #happyhawaii #internationalsharkproject #helpsavesharks

A photo posted by OceanRamsey, Ocean Ramsey (@oceanicramsey) on

Experience an epic Hawaiian Sunset

Watch the sunset and surfers from the beach at Banzai Pipeline, home to one of the world’s most famous surfing breaks and to the Vans Triple Crown and Billabong Pipe Masters surf competitions. Only a very small amount of surfers are experienced enough to tackle this wave so it’s a real treat when you get to see the best surfers in the world taking his gnarly reef break on.



One of the most raved-about Luau experiences in Oahu just so happens to be on the Hawaiian North Shore. The Polynesian Cultural Center Tour is a complete Polynesian educational experience finished off with a traditional Hawaiian luau buffet dinner. This is the full package, and not to be missed.


There are several cute little boutiques on Hawaii’s North Shore that are great for finding a treasure to take back home. The shops around Haleiwa are especially great for picking up a souvenir that you wouldn’t find in the more touristy Waikiki. Stop by San Lorenzo Bikinis for the perfect Hawaiian cut bikini, Mila By The Sea for a great assortment of boutique clothing and Surf N Sea for one of the North Shore’s longest running surfwear shops founded back in 1965.

 A Shark's Cove sunset on North Shore Taco's straw umbrella lined restaurant. A Shark's Cove sunset reflects on North Shore Tacos' food truck restaurant.


Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Hawaii.

Sam Aldenton

Sam Aldenton is a Flight Centre travel writer, digital content creator (read: takes photos/videos with her iphone and sometimes a real camera) and former retail and youth trend forecaster. When she's not off discovering the world’s best pizza (an obsession picked up from her 4-years in New York), she makes her home in Brisbane, Australia. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @samaaldenton.