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What To Do & Where To Eat On Oahu’s North Shore

If Waikiki is all about jostling the crowds with a mai-tai in hand then the North Shore embodies the art of chill.  After spending three nights in the Outrigger Waikiki, we headed out to explore more of beautiful Oahu.  Driving the coastal roads of Oahu, the ocean is a feast for the eyes.  Our first stop was famed Kualoa Ranch, a private nature reserve that has set this scene for all your favourites from Lost to Jurassic Park.  Here you can do a number of activities from kayaking to horseriding. I chose a 1 hour ATV tour which was lots of fun.  Mr Jetlag gave us a dusty spin through the reserve and we stopped off at various points for some cheesy photos.  Allow just under an hour to get there from Waikiki.

photo of kualoa ranch

Where did we stay?

I booked a beautiful two bed apartment through airbnb, located in Turtle Bay Kulima Estates.  We had access to two small pools and you are a 15 minute walk from the Turtle Bay Resort.  Having spent 3 days in a hotel, I was very pleased to have access to a kitchen and laundry facilities again!

What did we do?

  • We spent nearly an entire day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, a polynesian-themed theme park and living museum. The PCC is divided into six Pacific Island Villages (e.g. Hawaii and Tonga) and each section offers up shows and interactive experiences. In addition to this you can join the evening luau and watch the nightly show, ‘Ha: Breath of Life’.
    With low expectations, we were all pleasantly surprised by how fun the PCC was. There was something for everyone, from learning traditional island games to participating in music shows.  Check the schedule so you can plan your movement around the villages.
  • That said I was rather underwhelmed by Pineapple HQ, aka the Dole Plantation. Perhaps we visited on a bad day but the place was heaving with queues for all the attractions. Well I say attractions but I hardly think a maze and a train tour counts as anything half decent.
  • There are many amazing beaches lining the North Shore. As we were there in summer, we didn’t quite catch the enormous swells at the Banzai Pipeline.  Waimea Bay is a safe spot for families and Turtle Bay is good for snorkelling. Aloha With Love lists out even more options.
  • The hike to Waimea Falls is relatively easy and a pleasurable one for the entire family. You do have to pay but it’s worth it for the stroll through the lush botanic gardens up to the falls. It takes around 30 minutes to hike up to the waterfall. Don’t forget to pack your towels so you can go for a swim. There’s a lifeguard station handing out free life jackets to ensure swimming is safe.
  • Haleiwa Town is a lovely spot for some shopping and a bite to eat. I still don’t understand the huge queues at Matsumotos, you’ll find the famed shaved ice everywhere!
  • There are some nice trails that extend from Turtle Bay Resort. I had wanted to do the Ehukai Pillbox Hike but rain meant the trail was a bit too slippery for us.

Where did we eat?

  • I’m rather partial to a food truck and Hawaii has them a-plenty. On the North Shore, get yourself to Kahuku where you’ll find Giovanni’s Shrimp and Hi-BBQ amongst others
  • Pay homage to the original Sunrise Shack for bullet coffee and smoothie bowls.
  • In the Haleiwa food truck scene, check out Crispy Grindz for a delicious acai bowl and Poke (not sure if that’s the actual name!)
  • As mentioned above, I’ve no idea why Matsumotos generates such enormous queues for their shaved ice! We ate a delicious one from Aokis instead.
  • Lei Lei’s at Turtle Bay Resort serves up excellent food and is a good spot for a fancy-ish dinner (and when I say fancy, I mean a step up from a food truck).  Reservations recommended.


  • Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)


    I spent a day driving around Oahu which was a fun way to explore the island but I’d have loved to linger longer on the North Shore to spend time on those amazing beaches. i hear the Poke is pretty good there too. Thanks for sharing on #Farawayfiles

  • Corey | Fifi + Hop


    Can you believe I’m American and have never been to Hawaii?! Living in New York on the East Coast, the Bahamas and Caribbean are much closer…but I’d love to go to Hawaii some day, and the North Shore sounds pretty fab. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • Bambootreg69

      oh gosh, you must get out there!

  • Bryna - Dotted Line Travels


    I’ve been eyeing up a trip back to Oahu after last visiting it close to 10 years ago, so this is very timely! I’d love to do the ATV tour at Kualoa Ranch and to relax on one of the many beautiful beaches on the North Shore!

    • Bambootreg69

      jealous, I want to go back!

  • Nicky Williams


    We’ve never made it to Hawaii except for a layover on route from NZ to the US. The beaches look just amazing. Thanks for sharing with #fearlessfamtrav.

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