Let’s take a road trip for the day. These recommendations are based on driving from Waikiki Beach across the island of Oahu to the North Shore. The times are up to you but Go Hawaii recommends traveling on a weekday when it’s not so busy. The earlier you head over, the more time you have for shopping, eating, and fun under the Hawaiian sun.
TIP: Download the Shaka Guide App for their Legendary North Shore Loop (8-10 hours)
If you want to make the most of this Shaka Guide tour — start early. Whether you dip in and out of the app for tips or use it as an actual tour guide in your car, it’s a valuable resource to own. I opted for the latter. It didn’t always work with my rental car’s radio due to technical problems. But, if it had worked, it would have been so worth it to have heard more about the stops while on the drive.
My North Shore Road Trip
This Oahu itinerary focuses on what to do if you have a day to spend touring the island, starting from the south and making your way over to the North Shore. It takes about an hour to traverse the 40 miles to Banzai Pipeline from Waikiki Beach. Come take a drive with me, and experience some of Hawaii’s finest establishments on the way.
The scenic views on the road trip to the North Shore are within itself a reason why there are guides and apps made to assist tourists while they drive it. It’s safe and practical during these times when social distancing has become sort of the new norm. I felt at ease in my car as I listened to local stations glancing out my window at the rows and rows of fresh produce grown under the blue skies. I took a wrong turn before my intended first stop and accidentally found a Leonard’s Bakery Mobile off of H-1 near the Pearlridge Center (you are welcome). It was my lucky day. I stopped and said, “I could be upset that I took the wrong turn, but there’s NO LINE at this truck.”
When I got back on the H-1 to head to the H-2, I stopped off at the Dole Plantation, and let’s say if you are there during peak season, get ready to hunt for parking. Pick a lane and wait for the person who is leaving and follow them. Get it.
North Shore Soap Factory
What is it? Why is it there? The sugar mill dates back, way back. It’s almost a century old. The old sugar mill has been refurbished into the North Shore Soap Shop Factory. It has local charm, organic products, and friendly people. They provide tours of their facility and give details about their product. In addition, they have historical artifacts in their store to view, so it feels like you’re visiting a museum.
Waimea Valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty. It’s also a culturally significant location. Locals call it The Valley of the Priests because of its religious importance. Look out for pohaku (stones) paying homage to Kuúla, the fishing god. The waterfall at Waimea Valley is a must-see. This green and pleasant landscape is full of native flora, and is educational and extremely low-key.
The North Shore is renowned for its waves, and you will enjoy the best surfing conditions in the winter. The winter season is from November through May. It’s important to have fun but also remember to be safe.
If you are lucky enough to be in Hawaii when the surf is up, it is truly a sight to behold. Remember to check the weather to confirm what’s what. There is no shortage of sights that will provide you with a good forecast for waves.
Here are three beaches to check out to see some big wave action:
Banzai Pipeline or Ehukai Beach
Banzai Pipeline gets its name from the surfers who ride the barreling waves that curl like a pipe. Every year, prestigious events take place here. However, you can see surfers testing their skills against the pipe all throughout the winter when the waves are up. People come from all over the world to see these surfers in action. The pipe is smokin’ with surfers looking to win the competitions. It takes incredible skill to surf these waves and it is truly a sight to behold.
As the name suggests, Sunset Beach is not only a great place for surfers to catch a wave, but it offers a scenic end to a day too. Originally called Paumalü, which means “taken by surprise” in Hawaiian, legend has it that it’s named after a woman attacked by a shark as a punishment for disrespecting the reef. It’s a two-mile stretch of khaki-colored sand.
Waimea Bay is a white sand beach that looks beautiful from far away. But, during the winter months, the shore break can be fierce. Be sure to check the signage and stay safe. A good place to get a view of Waimea Bay is Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, a state landmark. Thrill-seekers are advised to take a 20-foot cliff dive from the rocks. Only do so if you see other people jumping in.
This is a stop you can make at the beginning or end of the road trip to the North Shore. I chose to have dinner and explore Haleiwa Town before heading back to Waikiki Beach. Haleiwa Joe’s does not take reservations and is not open for lunch. They open at 4:30 pm, and the line outside starts at 4:00 pm during high season. The Mahi (dolphinfish) was so fresh it fell off the fork, and the service was timely. It’s worth the buzz. I’d try to go on a weekday to eliminate even more of a wait if possible.
If the wait is too long or you want to eat lunch during your road trip to the North Shore, Kua’aina is another option that won’t disappoint. Want a burger in Hawaii? Open since 1975, it’s the oldest running food establishment in Haleiwa.
A third option if you want to have a picnic at the beach is to pick up some local favorites. By the way, spending the afternoon at the beach relaxing is a pretty good way to do it. So here are three options for your plan.
- Huli Huli Chicken — Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken serves it, and so do others around town.
- Poke — you can get this diced raw fish dish at the local supermarkets — amazing!
- Fresh fruit (hi vegans!) — Kuilima Farm Stand across from Kawela Bay sells the likes of coconut and star fruit.
- Last but certainly not least is shaved ice, and the local legend is Matsumoto’s. Somehow, the ice cream they put on the bottom (yes, this is how you must get it) makes for some magical combination of ice and ice cream that is worth the inevitable line you will have to deal with.
The road trip to the North Shore was eventful and certainly one I’d like to repeat. I didn’t do half of the things I’d like to, and each stop took me longer than the average person. Why? I take too many photos. If you’re a slow road-tripper like me, then plan to break up your drive and take multiple trips. The shopping and sightseeing could be one day, and the beaches could be another. I will have everlasting memories of driving up to and back from the North Shore; the first glance of the ocean as you pass the pineapple fields is a happy place. The mountains, the ocean, it is all part of the journey.
34 thoughts on “Oahu Itinerary: Road Trip to the North Shore”
Wow looks like you had a great trip! The beaches look so nice and the valley truly beautiful. Got to love a good road trip!
Thanks for putting the toolkit and pono pledge on my radar. I haven’t visited Hawaii yet, it is high on my travel wish list. And I am bookmarking this itinerary so I have a point of reference for my trip. Haleiwa Joes reminds me of some places I have visited on my travels when asking locals where they eat. Generally when I see a long line I know it’s a good sign. (Although I always like the comfort of having a reseveration!)
This looks like my dream road trip! I hope to go with my husband and daughters one day.
Hawaii is such a gorgeous state. We went there once, but we stuck mostly to the area surrounding the resort. I’d love to do a road trip next time.
Ooh! The Dole Plantation seems like a delicious stop. I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I hope to someday!
This is one unforgettable trip. We can find plenty of delightful pockets of nature, scenic lookouts in this place.
I lived in Pearl City for 5 years and these are such great memories. I remember taking my family to Dole Plantation. The pineapples were so good there. There is no comparison at all to what we eat here in the States. There is so much to see in Hawaii.
It sounds like you had a really lovely trip. Hawaii is somewhere my husband and I really want to visit. I’d be interested in exploring the beaches.
I need to get back here. My husband and I went years ago and we’ve always wanted to return. It was so much fun.
This is amazing, I will keep these in mind if we go the same road trip in the future. Thank you for sharing!
Time for a trip to Hawaii. The Dole Plantation would be a place that I would need to visit.
I love everything you shared! Pinning for my next Hawaii trip!
Lots of beautiful landscapes to go to! The food looks tempting as well 🙂
I really enjoyed reading the Oahu itinerary for your road trip to the North Shore. The food looked amazing. Also the pineapple maze sounds like so much fun. I have seen some great dole whips too but I have to say that one topped them all.
Dole Plantation looks fun to visit. I wanna try their pineapple maze and I will surely visit their gift shops.
This road trip to the North Shore is one of a kind. There are so many beautiful places to visit and fun activities to try. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Wow! That looks like a really amazing and a wonderful road trip. I would love to experience this!
ALL of this!!! I want to go see all of this. The Dole Plantation looks amazing. I bet the pineapples taste better in Hawaii too.
Thanks for sharing this, I would love to visit Oahu.
Oahu is a beautiful place.
I would definitely want to visit Waimea Valley and see some of those exotic flowers and beautiful waterfalls!
Waimea Valley looks like a great place to visit. I do love to visit places of natural beauty. Those donuts sound amazing!!!
This looks like an epic North Shore road trip. I would love to experience this with my hubby and the girls.
It’s a great time. The Shaka Guide app was a great introduction to the island too. Have fun!
Oh wow sure looks like a fun road trip to go on, great experience, the bakery looks amazing!
It was a great road trip. I would highly recommend tasting a malasada while visiting Oahu.
Leonards Bakery is a must. Thanks for reading!
I would love to visit Hawaii someday. It sounds like there is a lot of great places to explore there. Your trip looked wonderful!
Oahu’s North Shore sounds like a wonderful place to visit with delicious food and beautiful sceneries to check out.
I dream of visiting Hawaii when air travel is back to normal. Oahu is a beautiful island and there are so many exciting things to see, and experience. I would love to drive around the island and enjoy more local scenes.
This is the way to see the island. The locals will appreciate the support and you will get to see Hawaiian culture.
Thanks for your message,
wow! What a magical place! I would like to be there at least for a week!
I hope you get to go. Message us with any questions and we will be sure to answer them.
I would like to go to Hawaii so badly 🙂 Your trip looks awesome, all the photos are stunning. Not mentioning these donuts ! Gosh, my mouth is watering just from reading about them.