13 Top Things to Do in Oahu’s North Shore

If you’re looking for the picture-perfect representation of a tropical vacation, look no further than Oahu’s North Shore.

This gorgeous area is known for the glitz of its international surfing competitions, but don’t be fooled; there’s much more to this place than just surf and sand!

Beach lovers will rejoice in exploring these stunning coastlines, while nature enthusiasts can take advantage of hiking trails that offer mesmerizing views.

As if all that’s not enough, the Polynesian Cultural Center is alive and well here on the North Shore, so get ready to partake in unique experiences found only in this amazing part of the world!

Ready your camera; here are some of the best things to do in North Shore Oahu.

1. Swim With Sharks

tiger shark underwater
tiger shark

There’s nothing like an up-close encounter with the top predator of the ocean to get your blood pumping.

Shark cage diving is the most adventurous activity in Hawaii, offering the necessary safety while getting you as close as possible to these majestic creatures.

You’ll find an array of tour operators that offer shark cage diving tours in the North Shore.

Swimming along with these ferocious beasts in their natural environment is one of the most exhilarating things you’ll experience in Hawaii.

Want a more in-depth guide on shark diving in Oahu? We’ve got you covered – check out this ultimate guide.

2. See Turtles at Laniakea Beach

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle cruising in the warm waters of Hawaii
HAWAIIAN GREEN SEA TURTLE

Although it’s possible to watch sea turtles all over the Hawaiian islands, most of the time this eye-candy adventure is only limited to snorkels and divers.

Laniakea Beach is dubbed as the turtle beach for good reason — it’s almost a guarantee you’ll spot the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle “Honu”, making it the best place in the world to do so.

Turtles are elusive, shy creatures in most parts of the world, most likely because mankind has a history of hunting them.

At Laniakea Beach, however, this has changed over the years and the green turtles here have been accustomed to coming up close with humans.

3. Go Shopping in Haleiwa

Road sign for the town of Haleiwa oahu
HALEIWA TOWN SIGN

One of the top things to do in Haleiwa is to shop ’til you drop. If the Hawaiian Islands are a beach fanatic’s paradise, then Haleiwa is any shopper’s dreamland.

This small but enchanting town brims with character – an exotic district that’s famed for attracting shoppers from across the globe.

For a small town, Haleiwa boasts a wide range of retail options with most stores being housed in adorable plantation-era buildings.

You’ll get lots of shops, from beachy-chic boutiques, fine jewelry and art galleries, to surf and antiques. The choices are endless and the prices are pretty reasonable.

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4. Snorkel at Sharks Cove

Sharks Cove oahu
SHARKS COVE, OAHU

When it comes to water-related activities, the Hawaiian North Shore is tough to beat — that’s for sure.

Sharks Cove is a top-rated snorkel destination in Hawaii. This beautiful tiny rocky bay is part of Pupukea Beach Park, with clear turquoise blue waters plus an incredible amount of sea life.

The ocean floor is made up of large smooth coral boulders, forming a stunning network of small caves where marine life thrives.

It helps to note that Sharks Cove is located between two big wave surf spots — Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay.

To have a pleasant snorkeling experience, you’ll need to visit on a day when the waters are calmer.

The best time to snorkel in Shark Cove is during the summer months.

The official surf season in Hawaii runs from October to April and the waves peak from December to February.

5. Grab a Snack at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck

When Oahu’s North Shore is mentioned, two things will come to mind — endless sandy beaches and high surf.

What you might not know is that the North Shore is also famous for its shrimp trucks.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is one of the most popular food trucks and oldest in this part of the island, being around for over two decades.

There are two Giovanni’s Shrimp Trucks — one in Kahuku and the other in Haleiwa (both on the North Shore) so you can choose one of them depending on your location.

At first glance, the trucks look like it’s been vandalized with graffiti but as you get closer you’ll notice that nearly every square inch is covered with scribbles and drawings from past happy customers.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is a top pick and their garlic shrimp is to die for — plus it’s conveniently located so you can take a bite to refuel as you tour the island!

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6. Go Catch Some Waves

Surfboards lined up in the rack at famous Waikiki Beach oahu
SURFBOARDS AT WAIKIKI BEACH

One of the finest North Shore activities is surfing, bar none.

With over a hundred amazing surf spots dotted around the island, you’ll agree that Hawaiian surfing is simply a way of life in Oahu.

No matter your skill level, there is a surf spot geared towards your abilities.

Whether you want to challenge yourself or watch the big waves from the safe shores of Oahu, there is more than one way to enjoy the waves.

Every year, tons of surfing fans and crowds of spectators flock to Oahu’s renowned surfing beaches for a glimpse of the best wave riding on the planet.

Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach are just examples of awesome beaches where you can watch or join in the action.

7. Get Refreshments at Matsumoto Shave Ice

In Hawaii’s tropical climate, a fluffy generous portion of ice topped with mouth-watering syrup is a perfect treat after a long day of surfing, snorkeling or lounging in the sun.

Matsumoto started serving dessert on this island since 1951 when the treat exploded in popularity among surfers and hippies.

Their ice-topping options range from the traditional and ordinary syrups like strawberry and lemon, to more unusual flavors like sweetened condensed milk and azuki beans.

Over 6 decades later, this delicious treat is spread across the world and is among the best things to do in Oahu.

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8. Watch the Sunset

Hanauma Bay sunset oahu
Hanauma Bay sunset

When they say the sun sets differently on Oahu’s North Shore, they are not kidding! If you’re after a truly spectacular show, then Sunset Beach is the place to be.

It’s no exaggeration – when the sun rays light up the sky in dazzling shades of pink and purple, it feels like being whisked away to a parallel world.

So grab your beach towel and head on over – you won’t regret it!

9. Waimea Valley Park

Waimea Falls tropical waterfall in Waimea Valley park on Oahu
WATERFALL AT WAIMEA VALLEY

Waimea Valley Park is host to over 5000 kinds of subtropical and tropical plants, and there’s a 45-foot waterfall on-site where you can go for swim!

The scenery is breathtaking here and you might have a special encounter with some free-roaming roosters and peacocks along your stroll.

10. Go Ziplining

If you’re a thrill-seeker then you’ll be pleased to know that there are loads of fun, fast and exhilarating ziplines spread across the North Shore of Oahu.

CLIMB Works at Keana Farms is a popular option, offering 8 side-by-side zipline tour overlooking the beautiful ocean and lush plantations.

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11. Go Horseback Riding

If you’re looking for a unique way to experience the stunning, azure beauty of Hawaii’s Pacific coast, then a horseback ride with North Shore Stables is just the ticket!

Take in some incredible views as you traverse the winding trails that stretch out into the horizon.

With a knack for safety, this guided tour allows everyone age 10 and up to participate.

Climb up on your trusty steed and take off on an adventure you won’t soon forget – and bring your camera to capture all of those beautiful tropical vibes!

12. Visit the Dole Plantation

View at pineapple field in Dole Plantation in central Oahu
PINEAPPLE FIELD, DOLE PLANTATION

Pineapples are almost synonymous with Hawaii. During your visit, you’ll notice the fruit being showcased on t-shirts, signboards, jewelry and…pretty much everything.

If you want to experience the magic of the fruit plus its significance in Hawaii, then you’ll want to plan a visit to the Dole Plantation.

Situated in Central Oahu, it’s one of the most visited places in Hawaii and simply an experience you can’t miss.

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13. Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie Oahu
POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE

One of the best things to do in North Shore Oahu is to check out the Polynesian Cultural Center.

This is where you can completely immerse yourself in the island culture and life. Experience Hawaiian music, dance, and ancient games.

If you’re looking to travel through time and experience centuries worth of history then this would be one of your go-to activities.

Traveler Tip: If you buy tickets 10 days in advance, you can save 15% off the regular admission price.

14. Relax on the Best North Shore Beaches

Waimea Bay view Oahu Hawaii
WAIMEA BAY, OAHU

When you think of Hawaii, you think of great food, amazing culture, and breathtaking beaches.

Nothing beats a lazy day lounging around without a worry in the world, sipping on a Mai Tai….or okolehao, whatever you’re into.

Waimea Bay is the biggest and most famous of the bunch featuring towering waves of more than 30 feet.

If you’re looking for something more secluded and want to catch some waves, check out the Gas Chambers beach.

In the North Shore area, set your Google Maps to Ehukai Beach Park. Once you reach there, walk about 1/4 mile north and you’ll reach the Gas Chambers.

Another lesser-known beach is Kuilima Cove, located on the east side of Turtle Bay Resort.

This beach is one of the best places to go snorkeling and because it is so quiet, parking is super easy to find.

Nothing beats relaxing on the beach and most of us will agree that this is one of the best free things to do in Oahu’s North Shore.

15. Go Paddleboarding

Stand-up paddleboarding down a scenic river on Oahu’s inviting North Shore is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Whether you are already an experienced paddler or completely new to the sport, there are lesson packages for all experience levels.

You’ll be guided as you hone your balancing and maneuvering skills with attentive tips from the instructor.

Paddle along and spy bright fish and turtles from among tranquil coves—all while enjoying this classic Hawaiian water activity with unique views of varying landscapes and beauty!

Final Thoughts

There’s no shortage of things to do in Oahu’s North Shore.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a shopper, foodie, surfer, thrill-seeker, sunset-chaser, or just like to chill out. The North Shores of Hawaii is a paradise for all!

We hope this guide has helped you discover some of the best things to do in the North Shore of Oahu.