We are excited to present our list of the Top 10 North Shore Adventures on the Island of Oahu! Are you ready to go beyond the big city of Honolulu and experience paradise at its’ most beautiful?
Stop 1: Polynesian Cultural Center
We begin our list of great North Shore adventures at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which sits near the far northeast corner of Oahu. Arrive at the Center as soon as it opens to explore our recreated village we call the “Islands of Polynesia”. In the early evening you can enjoy an authentic Luau or a sumptuous indoor buffet. If you like, you can even stop by the Hukilau Marketplace to visit local food trucks and a variety of stores providing everything from souvenirs, to aloha wear, home decor, fine jewelry and so much more. Finally, you will be amazed as you watch the award-winning evening show HA: Breath of Life! Currently open every day but Sunday and Wednesday from 12:45pm – 8:45 pm – but we suggest you check the website to confirm as times change during high season)
This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to dive into six amazing Polynesian cultures. We start with an afternoon spent exploring unique island villages representing Hawaii, Aotearoa, Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga, plus an impressive display of statues from Rapa Nui (Easter Island). You can try some hula, experience the powerful warrior dance called the Haka, beat some drums, learn how to start a fire with two sticks, try your hand at fishing, throw spears and so much more. And that’s just the beginning!
As the evening approaches, you are invited to attend our Ali’i Luau with live entertainment and an amazing buffet of Hawaiian themed dishes. This is not your typical luau; this is an opportunity to experience authentic aloha set in a beautiful lagoon with a waterfall and flowering plants.
Or you can relax at the Gateway Buffet, the biggest and best buffet on the island. Try poke, a local raw fish dish where the meat is so tender, and so delicious. Enjoy various popular local foods, including roast, chicken, pork and even vegan selections, beautifully selected fresh fruit and vegetables, soups, our famous purple taro rolls, and some truly spectacular desserts.
End your visit attending the award-winning HA: Breath of Life, our evening presentation filled with dance, song, history, and fire! Standing ovations are the norm at this show – so get ready to be impressed!
Stop 2: Gunstock Ranch
Saddle up, and traverse through the open pastures at Gunstock Ranch while enjoying gorgeous ocean views and a breathtaking Hawaiian sunset. Experience the wildlife of Hawaii up close through an authentic and personally guided tour.
Gunstock Ranch sits on the north side of a culturally rich section of the island filled with legends, history and cultural significance. The tradition continues as the owners of the ranch work to provide their guests with a variety of activities, including the opportunity to plant a native tree in honor of a loved one. The views are spectacular, and the staff will give you an experience you will remember for years to come.
Zip-line from a height of over 2,400 feet from 8 world-class dual lines, 2 rappels, 3 sky bridges, and other exciting unique surprises at Climbworks Keana Farms in Kahuku. Grab ahold of this unique opportunity to zip-line from our North Shore mountains towards the glistening ocean.
Come to the largest zipline on the islands, where you will not only enjoy the ride, but the sites, the history and the team the Climbworks has assembled to show you the way. With 8 world-class dual lines, 2 rappels, 3 sky bridges, a even an opportunity for an ATV ride, your 3-hour adventure is sure to be a highlight of your vacation. It’s a perfect activity for the adventurous spirit, but make your reservations early, because they fill up FAST!
Another feature is the working Keana Farms, where local produce is grown and distributed to local businesses and eateries. You can take a tour, and learn more about the unique fruits and vegetables that thrive in our hot, volcanic paradise.
Stop 4: Kahuku Fruit Stands
If you are looking for fresh fruit or a cold coconut to drink under the hot Hawaii sun, then don’t forget to put the Kahuku Land Farms Stands on your itinerary! Located along Kamehameha Hwy and next to Kahuku farms, these local-run booths feature a variety of fruits, vegetables, and treats. We recommend the Li-hing pineapple or the lumpia, which is a fried banana. Pro tip: Make sure to bring cash!
Stop 5: Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach’s name evolved from promotion back in the 1920s as one of the best spots to view breathtaking sunsets in Hawaii islands. This spot on the beach is a surfer’s paradise. It is one of Oahu’s best surf breaks (along with the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay), and it is home to most world-class surfing contests, including the Triple Crown of Surfing in 1983 that few other beaches claim.
From November to April, big waves and shore breaks are more appropriate for the professional surfers during the winter months. Don’t forget to bring a pair of binoculars to see the surfers from afar. However, when the tide is relatively flat in the summer months from May to October, Sunset Beach gives the best scenery for fantastic snorkeling and is ideal for swimming. You will witness colorful fishes and thrive of marine life. And the best part is viewing endless beautiful sunsets.
If you are looking for a perfect beach gateway, look no further and stop at Sunset Beach and enjoy the beauty it provides.
Stop 6: Ted’s Bakery
Indulge your senses with delicious homemade pies, cakes, and delectable plate lunches at the award-winning and renowned Ted’s Bakery. Come try what locals recognize as the best chocolate haupia on the island for over 20 years!
Once a gas station with some snacks thrown in for good measure, Ted’s Bakery officially opened in 1987. They are famous for a very good reason – some of the most amazing cream pies in the world. People from around the world have fallen in love with their pies, and many make sure that Ted’s is their first stop on their way to a day on the North Shore. During the COVID Pandemic, Ted’s hunkered down and turned their sites to sell their pies to local grocery stores and eateries. It helped them not only to survive, but to thrive.
Lucky you, because they are back up and running their full menu, which of course centers around their baked items, but don’t overlook their delicious breakfast and lunch selections. The locals will tell you….It’s all ono (good)
Stop 7: Shark’s Cove
It wouldn’t be a list of iconic North Shore Adventures if we didn’t include the majestic and popular Sharks Cove. Here you’ll find a perfect place for the entire family to experience snorkeling in the protected lagoon. But be sure to keep your eyes on the ocean when the winter swells roll in.
Shark’s Cove got its name not because of the lagoon, which is a perfect snorkel spot, but because of the gorgeous bay to its right that looks like a shark bite from the sky above. The lagoon is for beginners and those who just want to take it easy. In the summer, the bay is also a great place for most snorkelers, with an opportunity to see hundreds of colorful fish, and possibly even turtles and occasionally a spotted ray. But no touching! That’s gonna cost you a stiff fine – and for good reason. These animals are protected and they are loved. So look, but no touchy, please.
Once the winter months arrive and the waves get rolling, it’s best to stay far away from the deep-end of this popular spot. It is very deep, very rocky and absolutely difficult to navigate. But boy is it awesome to sit on the beach and watch those waves crashing on the large reef wall surrounding the lagoon. Summer or winter, it’s a great place to visit.
Stop 8: Historic Haleiwa Town
Full of history and culture, Haleiwa is a popular stop on the North Shore, and for good a reason! Some of its attractions include one-of-a-kind shopping, delicious local food, and beautiful beaches.
This sleepy little town started as a grand hotel built just before the start of the 1900s. A train track was built that circumvented the western coast, up and around Kaena Point and along the North Shore, ending in front of the famous Haleiwa Hotel.
Later it became known as a surfer’s hangout, and was THE place to see and be seen in the surfer community during the 60s and 70s. It helped that it was close to the big waves of the North Shore and had a great historical downtown with shops, eateries and places to hang out.
Throughout the years, Haleiwa Bay has served as a perfect spot to take surfing lessons, snorkel with the local turtles and work on a tan.
No longer ‘sleepy’, Halewai has numerous eateries, a large marina, and the famous Matsumoto’s Shave Ice (see below) that almost always has a line of people anxious to try one of their popular concoctions with ice cream, evaporated milk. and rainbows of fruit syrup over a handmade snowball!
Stop 9: Matsumoto Shave Ice
Matsumoto Shave Ice, located just 8 minutes from the North Shore, in Haleiwa on Oahu is rich in history! an eight-minute drive to the north shore, is popular for its shave ice flavors. Fine and soft like fresh powder snow drizzles with rainbow-bright syrups every bite melts in your mouth!
Matsumoto Shave Ice is a family-owned company established in 1951. It all began with a dream of Mr. Matsumoto and his wife, Helen. The dream was to open their own business and purchase a home for his family in Japan and for themselves. The Matsumoto couple started with the grocery store. And after the birth of their third daughter, the Matsumoto family needed to expand their business to support their children and family needs.
With the perfect location along Oahu’s beautiful North Shore, a decision was made to start selling shave ice. The warm weather, big waves, and small-town feel brought people from across the globe to this quaint store to purchase shave ice cascading with homemade syrups.
To cool off on a hot day, visit the Matsumoto Shave Ice and try one of their authentic and popular flavors!
Stop 10: Kaena Point Trail
We end our list of North Shore Adventures you don’t want to miss with this popular 5.6 mile North Shore hike. Keana Point Park is situated on the north west corner of the island of Oahu and takes a little over 2 hours to complete. It is an out-and-back trail to the famous Kaena Point, which is a state registered bird sanctuary. At the point, you will be met with gorgeous views that will make the whole journey worth it! If you’re lucky, you might even spot some whales, harbor seals or other sealife (please remember, turtles and seals are legally protected, so look, but do not approach)! This is a hike the whole family can enjoy and it is open year-round. Pro tip: Bring lots of water, sturdy hiking shows and a hat for shade!