Day 3 – North Shore

Day 3 – North Shore

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

Updated 1/12/2019: added more activities

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).


There are a lot of things to do out here. Because of all the distance in between them, you can consider this a day to just pick and choose what to do. At the very least, you can enjoy the drive around the island and enjoy a novel meal here and there :).

Polynesian Cultural Center (All Day Activity)

Entrance to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Kahuku,

More Info

Polynesian Cultural Center

  • 11:45 am – 9:00 pm, Monday-Saturday
  • General Admission: $50 child/$65 adult
  • Package Ranges: $70 – $195 child/ $90 – $240 adult
  • General Admission includes:
    • Immersive cultural experience in 6 villages
    • Huki: A Canoe Celebration
    • La’ie & the Temple Visitors Center Tour
    • “Go Native” hands-on activities
    • Canoe rides
    • “Hawaiian Journey” cinematic experiences

The Polynesian Cultural Center PCC is of the few major attractions on the island, along with Sea Life Park in Hawaii Kai and Coral Crater in Kapolei. The visit includes scenery, shows, education about the populating of the Polynesian islands and wayfinding, performances, and more. It’s a full day visit, mainly because of all the exciting evening shows they have. You could pay general admission too and spend half a day here browsing around.

In terms of cost, the general admission allows you access to the bare minimum of things, and you can buy food or go to luaus or special shows by paying extra. Or you can buy a package and have things like a tour guide. The higher packages also include a “Circle Island Tour”, which means they’ll take you around and show you spots on a bus in the morning, then take you to the PCC when it opens at noon.

Tip: like other amusement parks, they will charge a lot higher for food, drinks, and souvenirs, because they know you are here for the day.

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)

Matsumoto Shave Ice: The longest line for shave ice EVER

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.

Visit Haleiwa Town

Near the North Shore, you can take a slight detour to visit Haleiwa, a town built for surfers. Here, you can find small shops, places to eat, and you can buy souvenirs. There are actually a lot of tourists that pass through here everyday!

One of the stores in Haleiwa town. Photo credit: Anthony Quintano CCBY

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. 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.

  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. 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.

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