Day 3 – North Shore

Day 3 – North Shore

Explore the North Shore, the “country” part of the island.

The North Shore has big waves.Photo by Kelsie DiPerna
The North Shore has big waves.Photo by Kelsie DiPerna

About Today’s Plan

Oahu is the most developed of all the islands in Hawaii, but there’s still plenty of nature to be seen on this island. in the North Shore. The drive out there and back takes a long time (~2.5 hours total), so I recommend trying to do as much as possible in one day. Many of the paid activities mentioned here also offer pickup service, so consider using their service instead of driving.


The main thing you need to do is to arrange your transportation. This means getting a rental car and knowing which sites you’re going to visit. There’s one main road out there (Kamehameha Highway), so it’s probably impossible for you to get lost. Don’t take the bus out here. Not only are buses infrequent, but there is also a lot of distance between sites.

Driving Instructions: Waikiki to North Shore

If your rental car has no GPS, here’s basic driving information for getting out of town and into the North Shore:

  1. Get onto the H-1 freeway, west-bound. To get there, I suggest going all the way up Kapahulu Avenue (where the zoo is). You’ll see the on-ramp shortly after you pass under the H-1 freeway.
  2. You’re going to be driving on the freeway for a long time. Follow all signs (but not exits) that say “Aiea” or “Pearlridge.”
  3. Get on the H-2 freeway. The sign while be on the right.
  4. Take the “Wahiawa” exit.
  5. You’ll be driving past a town and a lot of pineapple fields. Your road will become Kamehameha Highway.
  6. Keep driving and you’ll eventually come to a fork where you can go left to detour through Haleiwa town and Haleiwa Beach Park or go right on Joseph Leong Highway and head straight towards Waimea Bay.
Here’s a drawing of the route, via Google Maps.

Items to bring?

Your swimsuit, toiletries (if you plan to stay at a beach), a beach towel, and snorkel equipment (if the water is calm and if you plan to snorkel at Shark’s Cove). Also, if you do plan to snorkel or surf, you might want to consider getting a GoPro camera.

A Local's Advice

Winter = monster waves. During winter, waves become monstrous on the North Shore and several surf competitions are held here at Waimea, Banzai Pipeline, and Sunset. If you visit the North Shore during winter, you might want to stay out of the water. Instead, bring binoculars and watch people ride waves and wipeout (see video).


The Dole Plantation and “The World’s Largest Maze”

More Info

Dole Plantation
• 9:30a – 5:00p, daily
• 808-621-8408
• maze: adults $6, kids $4
• World’s largest maze, over 3 acres

On your way to the North Shore, you can stop at the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa. There is no admission fee, but the place is a tourist trap. Skip the gift shop, vendors, and food court. There is still some things to see:

  • It’s a mini pineapple museum. You can pay for a tour guide, but there is actually plenty to see and read about for free here. You’ll be very surprised when you learn how pineapples grow.
  • Home of “The World’s Largest Maze.” It’s not exciting to walk through a maze (you’re supposed to find 6 checkpoints in the maze), but the one time I went, I thought it was entertaining, in a “touristy” way.
  • They’ve got “Dole Whip.” This is a popular, soft-serve ice-cream that is served at Disney Land and Disney World. I’ve had friends tell me that they stop by the Dole Plantation just for the Dole Whip.
Photo by Luke H. GordonIt’s a-maze-ingly difficult, isn’t it? (no more puns from me, I promise)

The longest line for shave ice EVER: Matsumoto Shave Ice

More Info

Matsumoto’s Shave Ice
• 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy
• 9am – 6pm, daily
• 30+ flavors
• 3 sugar-free flavors
• there’s usually a line
• really busy on weekends

One of the most popular things to do in the North Shore is to get shave ice at Matsumoto’s Shave Ice. Their servings are quite big, so you should consider sharing with a friend. Matsumoto’s is in Haleiwa town, which is on Kamehameha Highway before you reach the shore. To get here, just stay on Kamehameha Highway and don’t take the entrance onto Joseph Leong Highway. It will be on your left side.

Waimea Bay Beach Park

Waimea Bay is one of the spots for competitive surfing during the winter season, when waves become monstrous. It is also a great beach to relax at. There is a big, 30-foot rock that people like to jump from when the water is calm.

A Local's Advice

Thinking of jumping off “The Rock?”
1. Ignore the sign that says “Don’t climb the rocks.”
2. Get in line and watch other people jump.
3. When it’s your turn, wait for a wave to come and time your jump so that the wave cushions your fall. If you jump too early, you may touch sand.
4. Jump forward so that you land away from the rock and far away from where the next jumper will land.
5. Don’t go jumping if the water is rough and waves are pounding against the rock.

Photo by Andrew K. SmithThe “Jump Rock” at Waimea Bay. It’s not too high – only 30 feet.

Parking is very limited at Waimea Bay. There are about 20 stalls at the beach park itself. Nearby is $5 parking for Waimea Falls. Up the road are several more parking spots on the road’s shoulder.

Tour the country-side on a horse

More Info

Happy Trails Hawaii
• 59-231 Pupukea Road (Haleiwa)
• 808-638-7433
• 8am – 5pm, daily
• 1.5hr = $79, 2hr = $99
• reservations required!

If you grew up in the city like me, you’re probably amazed every time you see a live animal (that is not a stray cat or a dirty pigeon). For us city folk, horse-riding can be a fun, new experience. Happy Trails offers horse-back rides through the Waimea Valley area. They use tame, retired polo horses, so you know the horses aren’t going to throw you off the mountain.

4 thoughts on “Day 3 – North Shore

  1. Thanks for this post! Against google map’s suggestion, we followed your alternate route back to town at 3pm-which is rush hour. No traffic, and BEAUTIFUL VIEWS!!!! Took us about 1.5 hours, which is partially because we were driving so slow to see everything. Thanks again.

  2. Thanks for sharing this original post with us! I enjoyed reading it! Overall, browsing this entire blog is a real enjoyment for me!

  3. Wow, I see that your trip was very breathtaking. My dream is to be there one day. Thank you for all the details of the trip.

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