When it comes to the best North Shore Oahu beaches, there’s no shortage of breathtaking beauty and exciting activities. Located on the captivating Oahu island in Hawaii, United States, these beaches are renowned for their pristine sands, ideal waves for surfing, excellent snorkeling opportunities, and chances to spot graceful sea turtles. Moreover, the area boasts a delightful selection of budget-friendly food trucks and maintains a laid-back atmosphere.
While it’s true that the North Shore is no longer a hidden gem and attracts its fair share of tourists, it retains its status as one of Oahu’s quieter, less developed corners. Wildlife enthusiasts will be delighted to know that the opportunities for wildlife sightings are as abundant as ever.
Whether you’re a seasoned surfer, an avid snorkeler, or a family seeking kid-friendly adventures, you absolutely must explore the best North Shore Oahu beaches.
To help you get started, here’s a curated list of our favorites!
North Shore Shark Diving
For a truly unique thrill in Hawaii, consider cage diving with sharks. This popular activity takes you a few miles off the coast by boat, where you’ll have the extraordinary opportunity to observe sharks up close.
The top shark diving tours provide a secure metal cage for protection, allowing you to witness the grace of sandbar sharks, Galapagos sharks, and majestic hammerheads.
Timing: Shark diving tours typically operate in the mornings, often departing around 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM. This early departure time is to maximize the chances of shark sightings when they are more active. However, it’s essential to confirm the exact departure time with the tour operator when booking.
Ticket Cost: The cost of shark diving tickets can also vary based on factors such as the length of the tour and the inclusions (e.g., transportation, refreshments, photos/videos). On average, you can expect ticket prices to range from $100 to $150 or more per person. Some operators may offer package deals or discounts for groups, so it’s a good idea to inquire about any special offers.
Notably, this is a snorkeling excursion, so scuba diving certification isn’t required (although some swimming experience can be beneficial). It’s no wonder that this is a highly rated and thrilling activity in Oahu!
Best North Shore Oahu Beaches
Sunset Beach, aptly named for its breathtaking sunsets, is a top destination on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. However, this beach offers much more than just a picturesque evening view.
With its expansive stretch of soft, white sand, Sunset Beach is the perfect place among the best North Shore Oahu beaches to unwind and soak up the sun during the day. A particular highlight is the iconic bent palm tree, providing a photogenic backdrop for memorable pictures. Please remember to treat this delicate palm tree with care, ensuring it remains a cherished part of the landscape.
Sunset Beach is famous for its seasonal waves. In the summer, the waves are mellow and ideal for swimming, while the winter months bring some of the North Shore’s most massive waves, attracting surf enthusiasts. Even when the water is less suitable for swimming, the beach remains an excellent spot for relaxation.
Conveniently, public bathrooms and showers are available across the street, making it easy to freshen up after a day at the beach. Additionally, you’ll find a bus stop and ample parking nearby. And if hunger strikes, don’t forget to explore the nearby food trucks for a taste of local flavors.
In summary, Sunset Beach is undeniably one of the best North Shore Oahu beaches. In fact, it’s often a favorite among visitors and locals alike. With its legendary sunsets and generally less crowded atmosphere, it’s a must-visit destination on Oahu’s North Shore.
Nestled at the northwestern tip of Oahu island, Ka’ena Point offers a serene escape that’s only accessible by hiking, but the journey is well worth the adventure.
This coastal haven is a paradise for those seeking tranquility by the ocean. What sets Ka’ena Point apart is its status as a wildlife sanctuary, providing a unique opportunity to witness nature’s wonders. As you explore, keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales breaching the surface, Hawaiian monk seals basking in the sun, and graceful Albatross birds soaring overhead.
Throughout the hike, you’ll encounter small sandy beaches, inviting tide pools, and a remarkable rock arch, adding to the allure of this natural wonderland. The trail itself spans a manageable 5-6 miles roundtrip and remains relatively flat, ensuring an accessible journey for hikers of various skill levels.
Families with children will find Ka’ena Point to be one of the more family-friendly hikes on Oahu, although it’s advisable to avoid midday heat. Additionally, Ka’ena Point boasts one of the island’s best spots to witness a mesmerizing sunset, making it an ideal choice for an evening adventure.
However, if you decide to experience Ka’ena Point at sunset, keep in mind that you’ll be retracing your steps back to your vehicle in darkness. To ensure a safe return, consider bringing a headlight or flashlight for added visibility.
Ka’ena Point’s pristine beauty and diverse wildlife make it a hidden gem on the North Shore of Oahu, and an experience you won’t want to miss.
Haleiwa, a historic town on best North Shore Oahu beaches, serves as the vibrant heart of this coastal region. With its relaxed ambiance and a population of just around 5,000 residents, Haleiwa exudes a welcoming small-town charm. However, the steady stream of tourists can make it appear more bustling than its quaint population suggests.
Haleiwa boasts not one, but three distinct beaches to explore:
- Main Beach: This is the primary attraction, offering an extensive expanse of sandy shoreline framed by picturesque mountain views. Keep your eyes peeled, as you might be fortunate enough to spot turtles while enjoying the scenery.
- Haleiwa Ali’i Beach: Located nearby, this smaller beach comes with added conveniences such as public restrooms, showers, and a spacious parking lot right by the shore. It’s a practical choice for beachgoers seeking comfort.
- Haleiwa Beach Park: Situated on the east side of the harbor, this beach park provides easy access with a nearby bus stop, showers, and ample parking. Here, too, you might encounter the graceful presence of sea turtles as you bask in the sun.
All three of Haleiwa’s beaches offer a delightful seaside experience, each with its unique charm and amenities. Exploring them is a must during your visit to the North Shore of Oahu.
After a day of beach-hopping in Haleiwa, be sure to indulge in a sweet treat at Matsumoto’s Shave Ice. Since 1951, this iconic shop has been crafting some of the finest shave ice on the island. Choose from a wide array of fun flavors like bubblegum, guava, lemon, and passion fruit. Enhance your treat with delightful add-ons like ice cream, Azuki beans, or Mochi (Japanese rice balls). It’s a perfect way to cool off and savor the flavors of Hawaii’s culinary history.
For those eager to witness the majesty of sea turtles, Laniakea Beach stands out as one of the premier destinations on best North Shore Oahu beaches. In fact, it’s widely regarded as the single best beach for turtle spotting anywhere on the island.
Here, you can almost always find one or two magnificent turtles peacefully lounging on the sandy shores. Having frequented this beach multiple times, we can attest to the reliability of these turtle sightings.
However, it’s important to remember that these remarkable creatures are protected under Hawaiian law. It’s strictly illegal to touch or disturb them, with fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,500 USD for violations. So, while the temptation to get closer to these gentle giants may be strong, we must respect their space and adhere to the regulations that safeguard their well-being.
Beyond the enchanting sea turtles, Laniakea is a lovely beach in its own right. It features pristine sands and swaying palm trees, creating an idyllic setting. However, it’s worth noting that the beach is not particularly large, and its shoreline is rocky, making it less suitable for swimming (unless, of course, you happen to be a turtle).
In essence, Laniakea is a place to pause and immerse yourself in the wonder of these magnificent creatures. Keep in mind that parking can be quite limited, so it’s advisable to arrive early. The best time for turtle sightings typically falls between 11 AM and 3 PM when the turtles enjoy basking in the warm Hawaiian sun.
Waimea Bay, a captivating beach among the absolutely must explore the best North Shore Oahu beaches, offers a dynamic experience that changes with the seasons.
During the summer months, Waimea Beach becomes a magnet for thrill-seekers drawn to its iconic jumping rock. This natural platform invites beachgoers to leap into the refreshing waters, adding an element of adventure to their day in the sun.
Come winter, Waimea Bay transforms into a world-renowned surfing mecca, luring surfers from around the globe. Towering waves, some reaching up to a staggering 40 feet high (approximately 12 meters), provide the ultimate challenge for those seeking the thrill of conquering these monstrous swells.
Convenience is key at Waimea Bay, as it offers amenities such as bathrooms, showers, and a reasonably sized parking lot right next to the beach. However, it’s worth noting that parking spaces tend to fill up quickly, often leading to street parking up the nearby hill.
For those with a penchant for exploration, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the nearby Waimea Valley. This enchanting destination features an easy hiking trail leading to a picturesque waterfall and botanical gardens. It’s a delightful addition to your Waimea Bay adventure, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the North Shore.
In essence, Waimea Bay offers a diverse experience that caters to both thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts, making it a must-visit destination on the North Shore of Oahu.
Aweoweo Beach Park
This is a beautiful family friendly beach that’s a bit of a hidden gem, just west of Haleiwa.
It’s a small, quiet beach park that has bathrooms, showers, handwashing sinks, and a picnic area with a drinking fountain. This is a neighborhood beach, so it’s limited to street parking only.
Aweoweo Beach has nice, soft sand and occasional sea turtle sightings. Overall, it’s one of the best north shore beaches, and it’s perfect for a family BBQ or something similar!
Nestled along best North Shore Oahu beaches, Shark’s Cove may sound intimidating, but rest assured, it’s a haven for aquatic enthusiasts rather than a shark-infested danger zone.
This little cove is renowned for its captivating tide pools and exceptional snorkeling opportunities. If you plan to explore its underwater wonders, be sure to bring along some good water shoes for added comfort and safety.
Despite its name, you’re unlikely to encounter any menacing sharks here. Instead, Shark’s Cove offers a vibrant aquatic world teeming with fish, turtles, and various marine life. Occasionally, you may spot a black tip reef shark gracefully gliding through the underwater lava tubes, though they typically shy away from humans and pose no harm.
Convenience is a priority at Shark’s Cove, with public showers and restrooms available in the parking area. Finding a parking spot is relatively straightforward, and you’ll also discover a selection of food trucks conveniently located across the street.
The summer months are generally considered the optimal time to visit the cove, thanks to calmer waves and gentler waters. While snorkeling, keep an eye out for colorful parrotfish, elusive eels, striking triggerfish, and an array of other aquatic treasures.
Respecting the delicate balance of this natural wonder is essential. Be mindful to maintain a respectful distance from the marine life and coral formations. Remember the golden rule: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” This way, generations to come can continue to revel in the beauty of Shark’s Cove.
Ehukai Beach / Banzai Pipeline
Ehukai Beach, famously known as the Banzai Pipeline, stands as one of the planet’s most iconic surf destinations. Here, crowds gather to witness professional surfers conquer colossal waves during the winter months.
For an awe-inspiring display of nature’s power, the ideal time to visit is typically between November and February. It’s crucial to heed warning signs during this period, as the water conditions can be treacherous, making swimming ill-advised.
Ehukai Beach is conveniently located across the street from Sunset Beach Elementary School, offering visitors easy access to public bathrooms and showers, enhancing the overall beach experience.
If you’re in the mood for some short but rewarding trekking, consider exploring the nearby Ehukai pillbox hike. This trail treats you to picturesque ridge-line vistas of Oahu’s North Shore from an elevated perspective. Along the way, you’ll encounter a pair of historic military bunkers, known as ‘pillboxes,’ which provide an intriguing glimpse into the area’s past.
Whether you’re an avid surfer, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking an unforgettable spectacle, Ehukai Beach / Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu promises an exhilarating experience you won’t soon forget.
Turtle Bay is a delightful man-made bay that plays host to the inviting Turtle Bay Resort, the sole resort gracing the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
What sets Turtle Bay apart is that you don’t need to be a guest at the resort to enjoy the pristine beach it offers. Parking is free for those coming from outside, making it accessible to everyone. However, guests of the resort have the advantage of more opportunities to witness the natural wonders of the bay, including turtle sightings and the breathtaking beauty of both sunrise and sunset.
Turtle Bay lives up to its name, as encounters with these gentle marine creatures are quite common on this beach. To ensure the well-being of the turtles, it’s essential to provide them with ample space to go about their activities undisturbed.
Overall, Turtle Bay Beach is a serene and inviting destination that seldom gets overcrowded. Its tranquil ambiance and the chance to commune with nature make it a must-visit spot on Oahu’s North Shore.
The beach behind Turtle Bay Resort, in particular, is a popular hangout for sea turtles, offering a unique opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
Escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and discover the serene beauty of Malaekahana, located within the Malaekahana State Recreation Area. This hidden gem boasts a lengthy stretch of pristine white sand, offering a stark contrast to the bustling crowds at Waikiki.
While technically situated on the northeast corner of Oahu, Malaekahana is not far from the other renowned North Shore beaches on this list. It’s easily accessible when driving from the windward side of the island.
Malaekahana is an ideal destination for a family camping trip or a peaceful day picnic. The expansive beaches exude tranquility, and the facilities are well-maintained. Ample parking ensures convenience, and the overall ambiance is one of utter serenity.
Visiting the beach is entirely free, making it an accessible destination for all. However, if you wish to stay overnight, camping permits are required. Obtaining these permits is a straightforward process, and the fees are reasonable. For any necessary supplies, you’ll find a Foodland shopping center and an Ace Hardware store in the nearby town of La’ie.
So, whether you’re seeking a day of relaxation or a night under the stars, Malaekahana promises a peaceful escape where you can bask in the natural beauty and tranquility of Oahu’s northeastern shores. Enjoy your visit to the best North Shore Oahu beaches!