For Oahu vacationers that are staying in Honolulu or Waikiki, the North Shore might sound like an out-of-the-way place. And in truth, it is. I mean, it is the opposite side of the island. And if you don’t plan on renting a car, then the trip north can sound daunting. Or at least time consuming. Especially if you’re hoping on The Bus. Although Shark’s Cove on the North Shore is only 40 miles away from Waikiki Beach, it takes over an hour travel time to get there, since the average speed limit is 35mph.

But there are handfuls of reasons why the North Shore is worth the trek. Although I’m focusing on just one of these reasons for this post, a few more that come to mind are the shrimp trucks in Kahuku, witnessing Pipeline in the wintertime, snorkeling Shark’s Cove, moseying through old Haleiwa town and watching a sunset at Sunset Beach.

But one place that stands as reason alone to visit the North Shore is Waimea Valley.

This landmark is deemed cultural, historical and extremely significant for Hawaii and for many local people. Once an ahupua‘a (land division that stretches from the mountains to the ocean), Waimea Valley was home to native Hawaiian people, plants and animals and provided fertile soil for planting and fresh water for survival.

The Valley and neighboring land was also a place of worship and religious practice, sustenance, sacrifice and revered beauty. Even foreigners of that time saw the Valley as more sacred than other sites on the island. Captain Cook’s crew set anchor in Waimea Bay in 1779 and second mate William Ellis painted Waimea Valley, depicting it as a blessed landscape.

Today, Waimea Valley offers visitors a variety of things to see and do. From exploring the natural landscape and learning about the history to hiking the terrain and enjoying a weekly farmer’s market, this destination is “where Hawaii comes alive”. And I highly recommend you jump in your rental car, scooter, shuttle or bus and make your way north to Waimea Valley.

Here’s a little more about what Waimea Valley offers:

Thursday Farmer’s Market- When the Haleiwa Farmer’s Market was shut down on Kamehameha Hwy, it was decided that they would relocate to Waimea Valley. Taking place every Thursday from 3pm till 7pm, you can listen to live music while browsing through the eclectic booths and enjoying the outdoors.

This farmer’s market boasts more than just fruits and veggies. You can find sunrise shell jewelry, koa wood cutting boards, bath and body care, pareos and clothing, macadamia nuts, fresh baked goodies, plants, floral bouquets and more here. Plus, the food booths offer some of the tastiest flavors while utilizing local produce and fresh ingredients. Try Amy’s Kitchen for some awesome Thai food cuisine!

Waimea Falls- Entrance to see the waterfall is $15 for adults and $7.50 for kids age 4 to 12. Take a leisurely walk through the botanical gardens and stop to take in the surroundings. You’ll see century-old banyan trees, native plants, fresh water streams and flowers that will amaze the senses. 1.5 miles round trip, this walk is along a paved and well-maintained pathway and offers tons of visual entertainment.

Before you arrive at the waterfall, be sure to snap a few photos on the bridge. This is the best photo opp for a picture of you with the falls! Anyone is welcome to swim in the fresh water pool at the base of the tumbling water, however you must wear a lifejacket and there are lifeguards to ensure you do. If swimming isn’t your thing, sit back and relax to the sound of the beautiful waterfall, or take photos along the perimeter. It is a stunning sight to behold.

The Proud Peacock- Originally opened in 1976, but then closed down and then newly reopened this year (in June 2014), this restaurant is popular among locals and visitors alike. (If you visit Waimea Valley you’ll quickly understand why they call the onsite restaurant ‘The Proud Peacock’.) Chef Andy Dalan brings years of culinary expertise to the menu, plus diners can enjoy live music every evening that helps to create a cozy and lively ambiance.

If you’re just looking for a cocktail, the newly designed bar area has a tavern feel to it and offers draft and bottled beer, specialty cocktails and a variety of wine. The Proud Peacock is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for dinner from 5 to 10pm with a Happy Hour from 5 to 6pm and Sunday brunch from 10am to 2pm.

Hiking and Eco Tours- Choose between North Shore EcoTours or Hawaiian Hiking Company for a variety of adventures. Get off the beaten path with local guides who know the Valley like the back of their hand. Hop in an off-roading vehicle and navigate through dense forests, past ancient heiaus (Hawaiian temples) and witness incredible viewpoints. Or, take a step back in time and join Hawaiian guide Hoku Haiku as he shares not only his knowledge of Waimea Valley, but also his insight into Hawaiian history, culture and wildlife. The New York Times named quoted Hoku as a “veritable cultural encyclopedia”, so you’re really in for a treat with one of his hikes!

Waimea Bay- This public beach is one of the most popular on the North Shore. It is also one of the most famous waves in the world, plays host to a highly revered big wave surf contest (The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau invitational) and is one of the most beautiful beaches to swim and snorkel at during the summer months.

With an easily accessible parking lot, fresh showers, restrooms, picnic tables, barbeques and a lifeguard tower, Waimea Bay is a wonderful beach to visit during your stay on Oahu. You can enjoy a morning swim with dolphins in the summer, whale watching in the winter and spring, beach parties during 4th of July and other major holidays, sunsets in the evening and rock jumping all day long. Waimea Bay is the ultimate place for a beach day and offers tons to do for families and couples on vacation.

Summer Concert Series- The Second Annual Concert Series took place this past summer on June 21st, July 19th and August 3rd. Visitors and locals alike brought picnic blankets and chairs and spread out on the beautiful green lawn to listen to local sounds from musicians like Jerry Santos, Brother Noland, Led Kaapana, Eddie Kamae, Imua Garza, Kalei Gamiao, Brittni Paiva, Timi Abrigo, Jeff Au Hoy and Eddie Palama.

This is a great time to sink into the local way and relax in the tropical beauty of Hawaii. Plus, when you purchase a ticket to the concert, you receive free admission to the Falls during the same day. So next year, you might want to plan your visit to Waimea Valley around one of their Summer Concert Series and get a 2-for-1 deal!

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