Updated: Dec 27, 2021
The truth is that every corner of this place puts a smile on my face, and another truth is that nothing compares to the North Shore. That's it, I've said it. When you arrive here, you can feel it, it's different. If there's one place on the island where you truly experience the aloha spirit, to me, that place is the North Shore.
We spent 10 days total on this trip, and we stayed half the time in a hotel in Waikiki, the other half at a friend's house in Haleiwa. And even on those days that we stayed in Waikiki, we drove to the North Shore. Maybe it's because it reminds me of my home country, maybe it's the simplicity. You absolutely don't need anything other than bikinis and shorts. You don't even need flip flops.
Wake up early in the morning. Grab an açaí bowl. Go check the surf. Spend the day at the beach. Go snorkeling. Eat a food truck. Watch the sunset. Sleep. Repeat. That was our routine and boy do I miss it already.
What to See and Do
Haleiwa, this charming, historic surf town in the North Shore of Oahu, is my favorite place on the entire island. As the gateway to the North Shore, aka the surfing capital of the world, Haleiwa is located about 1 hour drive from Waikiki, and yet a totally different world. Here you'll find food trucks, gift shops, surf stores, restaurants, bars and easy access to world class waves.
Make sure to stop by the famous Haleiwa sign! Ps. there's actually 2 signs: one is a surfer girl and the other is a guy. They are close on opposite sides of the road (Google maps has exact directions).
Hike: Waimea Falls Park & Botanical Garden
I wouldn't really call Waimea Falls a hike because it's more of a walk through a gorgeous botanical garden where lots of movies and tv shows were filmed (Jurassic Park, Lost, Hunger Games are just the names out of the top of my head). The trail is just about 1 mile and you can jump right in the water once you reach the waterfall (life vests are mandatory).
Open daily between 9 am and 5 pm
General Admission is $18 per person
Turtle Bay Resort & Beach
You don't need to be a guest at Turtle Bay to enjoy the beach over there. In fact, their little bay is one of the best places to snorkel in the North Shore. They also have a bar with nightly music greatly known for local cocktails.
Hike: Peace Pillbox Trailhead is located behind the Sunset Elementary School and it will take you about 30 min to get to the top. The pillbox offers a beautiful viewpoint of the world famous Pipeline waves. I recommend hiking on a day with big swell so you can see the huge waves breaking one after the other.
Beaches / Surfing Spots
There's not much to do other than go to the beach and surf around here. Depending on the time of the year there can be huge 15ft+ swells or the water can be completely flat (Winter time is when high surf hits the North Shore and Summer months are flat).
Don't paddle out unless you're an experienced surfer that knows the place and is used to these waves. Also, respect for locals goes a long way - in & out of the water.
These are some of the beaches and surfing spots worth checking during your visit:
Waialua Bay (snorkel)
Pua`ena Point Beach Park (great for beginner surfers and there's a super fun tree swing)
Laniakea Beach (lots of turtles here - must keep a distance of 3 meters from animals)
Three Tables Beach
Sharks Cove (best snorkel I've done on Oahu)
Off the Wall / Backdoor / Banzai Pipeline
Where to Eat / Drink
Here's a list of places to go but if you don't have a lot of time, don't miss The Sunrise Shack, Ted's Bakery and Pupukea Grill!
Haleiwa Beach House
Uncle Bo’s Haleiwa
Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican
Ted’s Bakery (one of the most traditional, North Shore gem)
Island Vintage Coffee
Crispy Grindz (Brazilian snacks and açaí)
The Sunrise Shack (best açaí ever)
Visiting Hawaii was always a dream to me. I had a picture in my head of what I imagined it to be, the translation of a tropical paradise. My husband even more, he grew up worshipping the waves he saw in surfing magazines. With that being said, our hopes were very, very high. I must say, Hawaii exceeded our expectations in more ways than we thought possible, as it reminded us of a place we both know very well, the place where we grew up, the northern coast of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hawaii became even more special because suddenly, it felt like going back home.
This trip made it clear to me how we don’t need much to be happy. It’s not about the things you own, it truly is about the unforgettable moments you live. Walking barefoot, eating açaí and swimming in the turquoise ocean with the love of my life is what paradise means to me.
I came back inspired by the islands and the true love and respect the Hawaiians have for their land. I want to discover more of the beauty that this big world holds.
Mahalo Hawaii, we’ll be back very soon.