While I love fall in Seattle, it starts to get a bit drab the closer we get to winter. My family and I wanted to do a vacation this year in November to help beat this as well as celebrate my birthday somewhere special, so we chose Hawaii. While my kids had never been before, I had been once to the Big Island, so we decided to go somewhere different this time and explore all the things to do on North Shore Oahu.
The north part of Oahu is much more remote than the southern part of the island, which is why we chose it. When I visited the Big Island before, I loved that many parts weren’t crowded, so we were looking for a similar feel on Oahu.
We found exactly that when looking for what to do on North Shore Oahu, so per usual, I wrote a guide to our adventures so you can recreate our trip when you’re looking to plan your next vacation.
Travel Tips for Visiting the North Shore on Oahu
You’ll need to rent a car to get around the northern part, so you’ll want to book that in advance. We used Costco Travel for the first time, and I was really pleased with the affordable prices and discounts, such as adding my husband as a driver for no extra charge.
All the roads are well-paved in this area, so feel free to get whatever vehicle you’d like (we got a Jeep to take the top off) as long as you have enough space for your group.
When you first look at a map of the north side, it doesn’t look like there’s much in the way of stores or restaurants, but we found plenty. The city of Laie itself has a McDonald’s, grocery store, and gas station, and a few minutes south is the city of Hauula, which has Long Drugs and a market. We stocked up on snacks and supplies at the beginning of our trip here.
Where to Stay on North Shore Oahu
There are several places to stay in the north part of the island, but I recommend booking a stay at Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore. This is in the city of Laie and is an ideal base for your visit to Oahu, especially if you’re looking for a quieter area to stay in. They were kind enough to host us, and I was so glad we ended up staying there.
Some of the benefits they have are:
- Bistro in the lobby that serves coffee, breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Large pool and hot tub to enjoy outdoors, including a one-foot section for little ones (my kids particularly loved this at night)
- Right next to the Polynesian Cultural Center, making it easy to visit for a day or two (you have in-and-out privileges if you want a nap or break)
Their location also can’t be beat, as it’s right across the street from the beach. They have their own private beach, so you don’t even have to drive to visit a beach.
We stayed for sunrise every single morning, which was by far my favorite part of the trip (similar to when I was on visiting the Big Island). After, rinse off at the faucet outside the hotel and go in to enjoy breakfast.
They also have a ton of pool and beach equipment to rent for really affordable prices. We could rent chairs, an umbrella for the beach, and a boogie board, which was nice not having to pack our own or buy some on the island temporarily (making your Hawaii packing list even shorter). There were also plenty of lawn games to play, which was a hit with our family.
While the hotel is very family-friendly, plenty of couples also enjoyed their trip there.
Best Things to Do on the North Shore of Oahu
There are plenty of things to do on Oahu on the North Shore – here are some of my favorites so you can make your own north shore Oahu itinerary.
1. Learn About the History of Hawaii
I always aim to spend some time learning about the history of a place when I visit, and I didn’t know much about Hawaii’s history, to be honest. That’s why I loved seeing the Polynesian Cultural Center, where you can learn about the different countries people came from before landing in Hawaii.
We watched dances from Tonga and heard traditional music from Fiji and Tahiti, which my kids loved. There are tons of activities to do, such as taking a boat ride down the river or getting a temporary tattoo. While we spent one day here, you could easily break it up into two if you wanted to spend time in each area.
One of our top activities was taking ukulele lessons while here, which was so fun. My toddler even convinced us to buy him his own kid’s ukulele after, as he loved it so much.
I also loved that there were plenty of food options here. We stopped at Pounders for lunch before starting our day, a restaurant just outside the village. There are also various food trucks to cater to any craving you might have.
2. Attend a Luau
While it may seem that everyone you know goes to a luau, there’s a good reason for that. It’s a fun way to try traditional Hawaiian food while listening to stories about the island.
Even if you’ve been to one before, each one is entirely different, so I recommend booking a luau when looking for things to do on North Shore Oahu. I went to one when I was visiting Kona and that was very different from this one.
The luau we attended was at the Polynesian Cultural Center, so we could go back to our hotel for an hour to relax, change, and then head back for dinner. We were each greeted with a giant (non-alcoholic) pina colada in a pineapple and then filled our plates at the buffet.
The staff then put on an entertaining show mixing stories and songs about Hawaii. They even had a part where they invited all the “keikis” (kids) on stage, and my oldest was brave enough to go up there and learn the dance they taught them. I was so proud of him!
3. Eat at One of the Food Trucks in Kahuku
Kahuku is about 10 minutes north of Laie, and we came upon it during our exploration. They have about a dozen food trucks in the same area, which is convenient when traveling with a group who may want different things for dinner.
I saw Italian, Thai, and frozen yogurt trucks, to name a few. We got frozen yogurt one night for dessert and came back on our last day to get poke at Ry’s Poke Shack (highly recommend it, plus it was on Netflix’s Street Eats!).
Various picnic tables with shade are set up all over, so you can grab a seat for lunch or dinner and get to know your neighbors. We came here several times, as it was one of the more convenient things to do on the north shore of Oahu.
4. Try Local Beer at Kahuku Beer Garden
In the same area where the food trucks are is a beer garden, where you can conveniently bring any food you buy to eat here. Many parts of the North Shore are Mormon-owned and thus dry, so this was one of the few places where we could find alcohol.
They’re also very kid-friendly, so bringing the whole family when we needed time to relax after a busy day was nice.
5. Zipline Through a Farm
Adventure lovers will absolutely love zip lining at CLIMB Works Keana Farms. This scenic three-hour tour takes you flying over a working agricultural farm, and you’ll even get to sample some of the food they grow. Our group took one zip line that ended with a bowl full of macadamia nuts, and we had to crack them ourselves to open them.
You’ll also take an ATV through the farm to get to one of the lines and walk over sky bridges. One line requires you to rappel yourself up to the top of the platform. I loved how different each line was and how unique this experience was compared to some I’ve done in the past. You can read other reviews here.
6. Golf at Turtle Bay
You’ll want to book a tee time on Turtle Bay’s golf course if you love golfing. This beautiful course is right next to the ocean, so you’ll have amazing views.
It’s also fun to stop in this area to see the famous hotel and the surrounding area, which has been used for dozens of films over the years. Some of these include “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “Lost,” and more, which is a fun thing to do on North Shore Oahu for movie lovers. After exploring, stop at Lei Lei’s Bar and Grill for lunch or dinner.
7. Watch the Sunrise at the Beach
There is no better way to start your day in Hawaii than by going to the beach. We got up every morning and headed straight to the beach to watch the sunrise.
Hawaii sunrises are stunning, so make sure to bring your camera. By the end of the trip, we were actually bringing our coffee and breakfast with us so we could spend even longer enjoying the morning at the beach. This became one of our favorite things to do on North Shore Oahu.
8. Go on a Hike
There are many things to do in North Shore Oahu, including a network of hiking trails around Turtle Bay. With over 12 miles to explore, you’ll love getting in some exercise here.
There are also nearby hikes, such as the famous Waimea Falls, which ends in a beautiful waterfall, or Ehukai Pillbox Hike, which has views of the water at the end and WWII bunkers along the way.
9. See a Famous Banyan Tree
When I first saw this Banyan tree as an attraction when looking for what to do on North Shore Oahu, I wasn’t sure how it could be that exciting, to be honest. We pulled off at the side of the road, took a few pictures, and then were on our way.
However, I later learned that it’s been in many movies, and likely one or two that you’ve seen, such as “Lost” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It was fun to look these up online and see screenshots of the very place we’d just gone in shows and movies.
10. Boogie Board
I’ve boogie-boarded a few times in Seattle, but it’s not that enjoyable with how cold the water is. However, Hawaii’s warm water was a game changer, and I wanted to be in the water for hours with this north shore Oahu activity. After my toddler saw my husband and me doing it, he decided to try it and loved it!
This is the perfect thing to do on the north shore of Oahu for kids or those who aren’t quite ready for surfing (although I hope that will be my next adventure when I return).
11. Visit the Town of Haleiwa
We took a little road trip of north shore Oahu one day and ended up in Haleiwa. This is a fun surf town with a casual feel to it and one of the only main cities in the north part that have chain stores/restaurants (hello, Starbucks!). We got a handful of souvenir stores here at some of the smaller boutique shops.
It was my birthday when we were here, so my husband picked Haleiwa Beach House to treat us all, which was an amazing choice. It’s an open-air restaurant with ocean views and delicious seafood choices, making it one of the best things to do in north shore Oahu when you need a break from exploring.
12. Visit Laniakea Beach for Seat Turtles
Laniakea Beach is known as Turtle Beach, as you can see dozens of sea turtles come to the beach if you know when to visit. Unfortunately, we got here too early, as I later learned that 11 am to 1 pm is the best time to see them (I think we were here around 8 am). Maybe they come for lunch at this time – that’s what we told our kids at least.
There are also tons of beaches along this stretch full of locals hanging out for the day and surfing. It’s fun to pull off along the main road and watch some impressive moves.
Which one of these things to do on North Shore Oahu are you most excited about?