If you’re yearning for a tropical paradise with best beaches North Shore Oahu look no further to escape the winter blues. As the temperature drops and snow begins to fall, daydreaming about warm, sunny beach days is only natural. Hawaii, with its consistently fantastic weather during the winter months, offers an ideal getaway. Pack away your heavy coats and boots, and trade them for bikinis and board shorts. For a perfect winter beach experience, Oahu’s North Shore, renowned for its best beaches is the ultimate destination.
During the winter, Hawaii enjoys warm, sunny days and pleasant evenings, making it a perfect destination. This season also coincides with big surf tournaments, whale watching opportunities, and festive celebrations, all infused with the unique island style. Winter in Hawaii is truly special. Forget about cold, gray days, and embrace the sunny weather and warm ocean waters.
So, if you’re considering a winter escape, Oahu, Hawaii is a fantastic choice. To help you make the most of your trip, be sure to check out our Oahu travel guide for recommendations on the best sights and activities to add to your winter itinerary. Now, let’s explore some more incredible things to do on this beautiful island!
Best Beaches North Shore Oahu To Visit In Winter
When it comes to visiting Oahu’s North Shore, there’s a significant difference between summer and winter. The North Shore is internationally renowned as a surfing hotspot, especially during the winter months.
In the winter, you can expect big waves that attract surfers from around the world. However, it’s essential to note that these conditions may not be ideal for swimming or snorkeling during this time. It’s not the best season for beginners to try their hand at surfing on the Best Beaches North Shore Oahu either.
One exciting aspect of being on the North Shore in the winter is the chance to witness surf competitions if you’re lucky. If there are no competitions happening during your visit, you can still watch experienced surfers tackle the waves or simply enjoy the awe-inspiring sight of massive waves crashing against the shore, which can be a unique tourist activity on its own.
So, whether you visit in summer or winter, a day trip to the North Shore from Waikiki can be a rewarding experience. Keep in mind that the high surf conditions can be dangerous, leading to numerous lifeguard rescues, so always be cautious and respect the local advice and warnings.
1. Laniakea Beach aka Turtle Beach
If spotting turtles is a top priority during your visit to Oahu, make sure to include Laniakea Beach on your list of North Shore beaches to explore. While it’s important to remember that wildlife sightings, like turtles, can never be guaranteed, Laniakea Beach is known as a relatively reliable spot for seeing turtles on Oahu.
So, if you’re wondering where to see turtles on the island, give this North Shore beach a try! It’s worth noting that while some visitors may leave Laniakea Beach without a turtle sighting, it’s still a good place to test your luck.
At this beach, there are typically 3 to 4 regular turtle visitors, and your best chance to catch a glimpse of them is often during sunset or just before the sun goes down.
It’s crucial to understand that Hawaii takes the protection of marine life, including turtles, very seriously. Both state and federal laws have designated these creatures as wildlife that must be conserved. Therefore, it’s important not to touch the turtles, and you’re likely to see volunteers at the beach ensuring that everyone maintains a safe distance from these amazing wild creatures.
If you’re passionate about Turtle Beach on the North Shore, you might also be interested in learning more about marine life conservation efforts in Hawaii.
2. Shark’s Cove
When it’s not the winter surfing season, you can generally enjoy safe snorkeling at Shark’s Cove on the North Shore of Oahu.
Shark’s Cove is considered a safer option for snorkeling because it’s nestled in an enclosed lagoon, offering protection from the waves. This feature makes it one of the top snorkeling beaches on the North Shore. However, keep in mind that it’s not entirely sheltered from the elements, so use your best judgment and exercise caution.
Additionally, this area falls under one of Oahu’s marine conservation districts, which means that the marine life here is protected. As you explore this snorkeling spot, you might encounter some unique underwater creatures. Keep an eye out for the humuhumunukunukuapua’a (the Hawaii state fish) and the Hawaiian white-spotted toby, a cute little pufferfish native to Hawaii.
Shark’s Cove has a rocky beach entrance. If you won’t be wearing fins while snorkeling, consider using water shoes to protect your feet from sharp rocks.
After your snorkeling adventure, you can refuel by visiting the food trucks located near Shark’s Cove. These food trucks, situated right across from the snorkeling area along the North Shore’s main road, offer delicious North Shore food options, including Hawaii’s best fish tacos. So, you can satisfy your hunger after your underwater exploration.
3. Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay Beach Park on the North Shore is a prime spot for surfing, especially during the winter months when the waves are epic. But when summer rolls around and the waves calm down, it’s a great place to wade in the water and even do a bit of snorkeling.
However, as with any beach on Oahu, it’s essential to exercise caution. One reason to be careful at Waimea Bay is that the shoreline can quickly drop off when you’re in the water.
Now, if you’re looking for things to do near Waimea Bay, here are a couple of suggestions:
- Puu O Mahuka Heiau: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Puu O Mahuka Heiau. It’s not only a chance to explore some Hawaiian culture (a heiau is an ancient Hawaiian temple), but you’ll also be treated to stunning views of the North Shore. It’s just a short drive off the main road, only a few minutes from Waimea Bay. You can make it a quick stop for some fantastic North Shore scenery before heading to the beach.
- Waimea Valley: If you’re a fan of botanical gardens and waterfalls, be sure to check out Waimea Valley. It’s a nature park, offering a lovely stroll through lush greenery. The paved trail through the park leads to the beautiful Waimea Falls, which you can consider a mini Oahu waterfall hike. This visit also provides insights into Hawaiian culture, featuring a Hawaiian ancient living site and a small heiau near the park’s entrance. Plan to spend about 1-2 hours exploring the park. It’s conveniently located just a few minutes from Waimea Bay.
4. Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach offers a wide expanse of sand, providing an ideal spot for relaxation. This beach boasts nearly white sand, making it one of the beautiful white sand beaches on Oahu. It’s also renowned as another North Shore surfing hotspot in Hawaii.
Now, if you’re looking for things to do near Sunset Beach, here are a couple of recommendations:
- Ehukai Pillbox Hike: For stunning aerial views, don’t miss the Ehukai Pillbox Hike. This hiking trail leads to a scenic overlook where you can enjoy panoramic vistas of the North Shore’s captivating beaches. The trail begins at Sunset Elementary School, just a short drive from Sunset Beach.
- Sunrise Shack: If you’re a fan of fresh fruit, a visit to the Sunrise Shack is a must. They serve up delicious fruit smoothie bowls, and their organic coffee is a favorite. Keep in mind that it might be a bit pricey, but consider it part of your Hawaiian experience. You’ll find this charming shack located along the roadside, only a few minutes from Sunset Beach.
5. Kuilima Cove
Kuilima Cove sits at the far north point of Oahu, right where you’ll find the Turtle Bay Resort.
If you’re on the hunt for another great snorkeling spot with a lovely beach, Kuilima Cove is worth checking out. It’s particularly attractive for those visiting during the winter months. Due to its location, the bay is relatively sheltered, which means there’s less of an impact from strong waves, making it a safe choice for snorkeling, especially for beginners.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a guest at Turtle Bay Resort to enjoy the snorkeling here. There’s public access to this beach, so it’s open to everyone.
If you’re staying in Waikiki, which is the main tourist hub on Oahu, getting to the North Shore might require a bit of planning. It’s best to treat it as a day trip or incorporate it into a circle island road trip around Oahu. Renting a car is a convenient option, and the drive to the North Shore takes about an hour. Keep in mind that traffic on the North Shore can be a bit slow since it’s just one lane in each direction.
Another option is taking the bus from Waikiki to the North Shore, but be prepared for a journey of about 2 hours one way. If you don’t mind a longer bus ride and enjoy walking, it’s a viable option. I took the bus to the North Shore myself!
For those who prefer a more eco-friendly approach, you can also rent bicycles on the North Shore, often available near the food trucks close to the Shark’s Cove snorkeling spot.
And there you have it—some of the best beaches on the North Shore to consider for your trip to Oahu!
Winter Accommodations in Oahu
If you’re planning a winter getaway to Hawaii, your choice of accommodation is essential, especially when it comes to having direct access to the beach. Our Makaha vacation rentals offer prime beachfront locations, ensuring that the ocean’s beauty is just steps from your doorstep. These accommodations in Oahu feature one or two bedrooms and fully equipped kitchens, making them perfect for those long, sun-soaked days by the shore.
For another beachfront option, consider our Oahu vacation rentals in the Ko Olina community. Situated on an exclusive waterfront property, you’ll discover four beach lagoons with beautiful crescent-shaped white sand beaches. The calm waters here are ideal for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding. Plus, you’ll have access to a range of amenities on-site, including a golf course, shopping, dining, swimming pools, spas, and a marina. With the choice of a condo, beach villa, or private home, Ko Olina is a highly sought-after community for your Oahu stay, whether you’re seeking a romantic retreat or a family-friendly destination.
Staying in sunny West Oahu provides the perfect balance between enjoying the island’s top attractions and escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. When you’re ready to explore, Oahu’s best attractions are just a short drive away from your tranquil beachside haven.
Things to Do in Oahu
Winter Whale Watching:
- Best time for whale watching in Oahu is from mid-December to April.
- Migrating whales return to Alaskan waters during this season.
- While you may see whale spouts from the shore, boat excursions offer a closer experience.
- Most tour operators use equipment to listen to whale songs and increase the chances of sightings.
- Dolphin pods are often seen during these excursions.
- Consider Ko Olina Ocean Adventures for a highly-rated whale watching tour.
- Oahu offers various water-based winter activities.
- Enjoy boogie boarding, surfing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.
- Gear rental is available for all skill levels.
- Lessons are provided for beginners.
- Activities are suitable for travelers of all ages.
- Explore the island’s diverse terrain with adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.
- Hike to lush waterfalls and go horseback riding along picturesque mountains.
- Experience the thrill of parasailing over Waikiki.
- Discover hidden sights from a helicopter tour.
- Zip through tropical forests on a thrilling zipline adventure.
- Explore off-road trails with an ATV ride.
- Oahu offers a range of ways to enjoy the island beyond its coastline.
Must-Try Foods on Oahu
Hawaiian Cuisine Highlights:
- Gatherings in Hawaii are known for offering abundant and delicious food.
- A wide variety of cuisines, including fresh seafood, Pan-Asian, and Native Hawaiian dishes, are available.
- Don’t miss the chance to try these popular Hawaiian dishes during your winter visit to Oahu!
- Pronounced poh-keh.
- A beloved Native Hawaiian dish, traditionally prepared with diced raw ahi tuna, sea salt, seaweed, and limu.
- Modern variations include options like spicy tuna and wasabi mayo.
- Often served as a side dish at gatherings.
- Many restaurants now serve poke bowls, turning it into a main meal with white rice.
- Some of the best places to try poke can be found in island supermarkets, like Foodland.
- Fresh Catch, a restaurant with multiple locations, offers over 20 varieties made fresh daily.
- Grab some poke to go and enjoy it with a view at the nearest beach.
- Hawaii’s favorite noodle dish, served in a steaming bowl of broth.
- Ingredients typically include char siu, green onions, wonton, Spam, Portuguese sausage, choy sum, kamaboko, and fried eggs.
- Ideal for cooler evenings when the sun is setting.
- Top saimin eateries on Oahu include Palace Saimin and Shige’s Saimin Stand.
- Part of the fun is trying various locations to find your personal favorite.
- A must-try dessert in Hawaii, distinct from regular snow cones.
- Shave ice is made from thinly shaved ice, resulting in a smoother texture.
- A wide array of flavors and combinations, from rainbow-colored to those with a scoop of ice cream at the bottom.
- Matsumoto’s on the North Shore, in business for nearly 70 years, is a popular spot for shave ice.
- Island Snow is another favorite; consider adding a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream at the base of your chosen flavor.