Oahu’s famous North Shore offers lots of activity and tour experiences

Mar 15, 2021 | General Information

The North Shore of Oahu is famous for its huge waves. Between November and February, Waimea Bay, Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) and Sunset Beach are great places for visitors to watch big wave surfing. During this time the beaches of the North Shore host the world’s premier surfing competitions. But the more than 7 miles of coastline along Oahu’s North Shore offers visitors much more than watching surfing pros battle towering waves.

Just an hour’s drive from Waikiki, the town of Haleiwa is the start and finish for much of the action and fun on the North Shore. Laidback Haleiwa is filled with surf shops, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and lots of visitors…and the legendary Matsumoto’s Hawaiian Shave Ice.

Haleiwa also is the starting point for surfing lessons and most other activities on the North Shore including snorkeling with sharks, dolphins, possibly whales and other pelagic fish. Beginner surfers most likely will go to Puaena Point in Haleiwa Beach Park where the waves are friendly. When the water is calm, body surfing in Waimea Bay and snorkeling in the reefs around the Bay can be really good.

The North Shore is a great place for surf and paddle board lessons offered by some of the best schools in Hawaii. The gentle waves off Waikiki usually get the most praises and attention for beginners. The majority of surfing schools are located on Oahu’s southern shores and Tom Barefoot’s Tours includes some of the best ones. But the North Shore also is a great place to learn and practice surfing and other watersports including sailboarding and kayaking.

About halfway between Waimea Bay and Banzai Pipeline is a small, protected bay called Sharks Cove. This is an ideal place for snorkeling during the summer months when the North Shore waters are calm. The bay at Sharks Cove is about 8-15 feet deep and offers an abundance of coral and sea life. Summer and fall months also are ideal times to cruise in a sailing catamaran for several hours along the picturesque North Shore coastline to Waimea Bay. Between mid-December and May, several cruises along the North Shore include whale watching.

Haleiwa Harbor also is the departure place for tour boats heading for 9’ x 8’ shark cages. In previously years, shark cages were placed along old crabbing routes where boats disposed on unwanted dead fish that attracted hungry sharks. Sharks still show up when they hear motorboats. Mostly harmless Galapagos and Sandbar sharks visit the cages but during 20 minutes in one of the cages you might also spot a Tiger or Hammerhead shark.

Understandably most visitors looking for fun or adventure on the North Shore focus on watersports and the coastline. But the North Shore of Oahu also is home to one of Hawaii’s most beautiful ranches and enjoyable ranch experiences. Gunstock Ranch offers horseback rides, eco-tours, and off-road scenic excursions above the North Shore. They also offer unforgettable pony rides for kids ages 2-17. Combining watersports along the North Shore and trail rides on Gunstock Ranch provides a very special family vacation experience.

The North Shore provides one of Hawaii’s most scenic and exciting aerial adventures by helicopter. Either closed- or open-door helicopter tours of Oahu’s North Shore cover Turtle Bay, Kahana Bay, Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, the Ko‘olau Mountains, Sacred Falls, Kaneohe Bay, the famous North Shore surf breaks, and maybe even landing on a mountain ridge for a scenic photo op.