When you’re vacationing on Oahu, make sure to plan a day exploring the north shore because it depicts a totally different personality of this bustling island. The drive alone is worthwhile in itself, but aside from the natural beauty, there are plenty of fun and different things to see while traveling to and from the north shore. If you’re staying in Waikiki, there are two ways you can access the opposite side. Either head east and drive along the coast, or head west and cut up the center of the island through Wahiawa. It really doesn’t matter which way you start out because if you plan to circle the north shore, you’ll hit all the pit stops either on your way in or on your way out.
Enjoying Oahu’s countryside counterparts is like adventuring to another island. The differences between Waikiki and Haleiwa are vast, and the drive gives you a perspective of the island that you wouldn’t otherwise see. We’ve created a list of a few of the must-see pit stops during your north shore adventure. From famous beaches and breaks to world famous shrimp trucks to boutique shopping and more, be sure to check these points of interest off your Oahu bucket list!
Chinaman’s Hat- Located on the northeast side, a small island named Mokolii, but more commonly referred to as Chinaman’s Hat got its name from its unusual shape. Home to shearwater birds, this islet can be explored by kayak, but is mostly just enjoyed from afar at the beach shores. This is one of most popular spots for pictures on Oahu and provides a fabulous backdrop of Hawaii’s tropical scenery.
Tropical Farms (Mac Nut Farm)- Beginning as a roadside stand, Tropical Farms has now expanded to a beautiful property overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Open to visitors, this charming little farm offers tours, gifts, and some of the freshest macadamia nut and coffee samples around. This is a great place to stock up on Hawaiian goodies for gifts or stop off for some local style refreshments. You’ve never tasted macadamia nuts quite like the kind that Tropical Farms grows and seasons!
Kualoa Beach Park- Offering a great view of Chinaman’s Hat, Kualoa Beach Park is a fun place for a family picnic or a quick beach stop off. With large grassy areas, public restrooms, and calm waters, Kualoa is the ideal location for photos providing a beautiful white sand beach with a stunning backdrop of the Koolau Mountains. This beach was also popular for the ancient Hawaiians to frequent, as whale bones were known to wash up on the shores. These bones were saved and only worn by ali’i (Hawaiian royalty) and were used as jewelry and body décor.
Shrimp Trucks- These world famous shrimp trucks are scattered along the drive from Kualoa all the way through Haleiwa. While some are better than others, they all sell tasty shrimp cooked up in local flavors. Somewhat of a novelty, these shrimp trucks create a quirky ambiance that many visitors love. Order a shrimp plate to go and eat it on the beach, or enjoy the outdoor tables right near the truck.
Pipeline- One of the most renowned surf breaks in the world, Pipeline is calm during the summer months and firing during the winter. But even if you see Pipe when there are no waves, it’s still a sight for sore eyes. The reef formations below are visible from the surface and the sand stretches for miles in either direction. While walking the beach near Pipeline, you’ll see some of the famous pro houses that line the beach such as the Volcom House, Billabong House, and Redbull House.
Laniakea- Also known as Turtle Beach, this spot is a breeding and feeding ground for Hawaiian green sea turtles. You can find them basking in the sand or swimming through the water, just be careful you don’t get too close. It’s a large fine for bothering these protected creatures, so remember to enjoy them from a respectful distance. Laniakea is also great for swimming and snorkeling and is the first sandy you’ll see when driving from the Wahiawa route.
Haleiwa- This quaint little town features unique eateries, boutique shopping, live music, art galleries, coffee shops, and more. Stop off for some refreshing shave ice at President Obama’s favorite store (Matsumoto’s) or grab margaritas at the popular Cholo’s Mexican Restaurant. With a blend of local life, you can find outdoor stands that sell anything from conch shells to pareos to wind chimes and coconut souvenirs. Offering lots of variety, Haleiwa is a charming town that is reminiscent of old Hawaii.
Green World Farms- A small coffee farm located in Wahiawa, Green World Farms offers visitors more than just a daytime pick-me-up. With large indoor and outdoor dining areas, visitors can order a cup of coffee and a light snack at the bar and enjoy it in the ambiance of this property. Great souvenirs and good coffee make for a wonderful pit stop to or from the North Shore!