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Day Trip to the North Shore, Oahu

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The island of Oahu has plenty to offer families in the Honolulu area from surf lessons and hiking to luaus. However, one of our favorite ways to spend the day is a trip to the North Shore area of Oahu, which is about a 90-minute drive from Waikiki Beach hotels such as Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s a bit more laid back, less touristy, offers a different side of Oahu, and has some unique sights worth the drive.

Laniakea Beach

Many visitors’ first stops are usually Laniakea or Turtle Beach along the highway. It’s hard to miss with cars parked along the highway and people trying to cross the road. My kids loved watching the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles or Honu relaxing on the sand.

There were conservation group volunteers that made sure no one bothered the turtles beyond the ropes. Unfortunately, the turtles aren’t there year round. They migrate to another island during the winter months.

North Shore Oahu - Hawaiian Sea Turtle

Laniakea Beach on the North Shore, Oahu, is a great place to see Hawaiian Sea Turtles relaxing in the sand.

Haleiwa Town

Haleiwa Town is the North Shore’s gateway. This once sugar plantation town is charming, uncrowded, and has an old town feel that is such a contrast to bustling Waikiki. Its main street is filled with surf shops, boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. The kids were lucky enough to see interesting art pieces at a yard and watch an artist create unique pieces from glass at Haleiwa Art Gallery.

North Shore Beaches

The North Shore is known as the world’s surfing capital. Winter brings waves up to 30 feet. We were there during November and saw some very large waves. Sunset Beach is one of the best places to watch these amazing and fearless surfers tackle the giant waves. My kids could have stayed here all day watching the surfers. The Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach) and Alii Beach Park are also crowd favorites.

There are several miles of beaches and white sands for strolling or playing. Kayaking, jet skiing snorkeling and diving are available, but it’s highly recommended to do these activities during May to September when waves are smaller. Some popular beach areas are Pupukea Beach Park, Waimea Bay and Haleiwa Beach Park. Surf lessons are also offered at some of the beaches.

North Shore Restaurants

One of the main reasons locals and visitors flock to this area is the popular shrimp trucks. Try to get here before noon. The trucks are parked along the highway between Haleiwa and the town of Kahuku. The smell of butter and garlic was so enticing.

Don’t let its appearance fool you. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck didn’t disappoint with their mouth-watering shrimp platters. We’re garlic lovers so we loved these plates. My local friends also recommended Romy’s and Macky’s. For anyone allergic to seafood, there were other food trucks in the area that offered a wide assortment of lunch platters.

North Shore Oahu - Shrimp Plates

Mouth watering garlic shrimp from Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck on the North Shore, Oahu.

For dessert, it really is hard to beat a Hawaiian shave ice. Matsumoto’s has been serving this local treat for 80 years with an assortment of flavors. My kids preferred the rainbow, which was a mixture of all the flavors. Another alternative was Ted’s Bakery at Sunset Beach, which sold delicious chocolate haupia (coconut pudding) cream pie among other pastries.

Dole Pineapple Plantation

We spent our afternoon at the historic Dole pineapple plantation. Families could go in the world’s largest maze where the fastest finishers win prizes. The two-mile, narrated Pineapple Express Train Ride took visitors through the working plantation while learning about pineapples and the plantation’s rich history. My kids also enjoyed feeding all the koi at the onsite pond.

We loved strolling through the gardens and seeing the various kinds of pineapples. Browse around the store for souvenir items like chocolate covered pineapples, pineapple salad dressing and sugarcane sticks. Don’t miss the Dole Whip (soft-serve pineapple sorbet) or Dole Float (Dole whip floating in pineapple juice) for a refreshing snack. Admission to the plantation is free, but tickets must be purchased for the maze and train.

North Shore Oahu - Dole Plantation

Pineapple plants line the walkways of the Dole Plantation.

We didn’t get the chance to visit these sites but they’re at the top our list during a return trip.

Waimea Valley – This tropical botanical garden showcases the island’s flora on trails that lead to Waimea Falls. Visitors can even swim at the falls and life jackets are provided. There are also over 75 reconstructed archaeological sites depicting historical island life for a cultural and educational experience. Activities like lei making, hula lessons, crafts and storytelling are also offered as an insight into the Hawaiian culture.

Shark’s Cove – Its name may sound intimidating, but this rocky bay has been consistently ranked as one of the island’s best spots for snorkeling and diving. The reef is teeming with a variety of marine life for viewing. Families can also play in the tide pools. March through October are the recommended times to visit for calmer seas.

Do you have any activities to recommend at Oahu’s North Shore?

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Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…

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