Sharks Cove, part of the Pupukea-Waimea Marine Life Conservation District.

Sharks Cove is part of the Pupukea-Waimea Marine Life Conservation District, a mile-long protected shoreline and the best area for snorkeling and shore diving on the North Shore. Photo © Thomas Shahan, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Surf, sun, and beaches—the rural North Shore is all about leaving behind the city and tapping into the laidback atmosphere. Just remember, O‘ahu’s North Shore can be very different depending if it’s summer or winter.

  • Drive up the H-2 freeway, through the central plateau. You’ll be able to see the extent of O‘ahu’s agriculture base—pineapple fields as far as the eye can see. Head directly to the Pupukea-Waimea Marine Life Conservation District, the best snorkeling on the North Shore. Whether you post up at Waimea Bay, Three Tables, or Sharks Cove, or visit all three, you’ll be amazed at the underwater beauty of the area. Snorkeling is best in the summertime.
  • If it’s winter during your stay, check out the waves at Waimea Bay, Pipeline, or Sunset Beach. They attract professional surfers from around the world. The action is spectacular, especially once the waves get really big.
  • Stop in at Ted’s Bakery for lunch, local style, or head out to Kahuku, just a few miles farther north, and visit Kahuku Superette for some of the best poke on the island.
  • Outdoor activities are the hallmark of the North Shore. If you’re daring, try skydiving in Mokule‘ia. If staying on land suits you better, there are two outfitters that offer horseback rides in the verdant mountains above the North Shore beaches.
  • During the summer, you can also spend the afternoon stand-up paddling the ‘Anahulu River in Hale‘iwa Town or try a shore dive at Sharks Cove or Three Tables.
  • For dinner, try Hale‘iwa Joe’s if you’re in Hale‘iwa town. If you’re closer to the northern tip of the island, stop by Turtle Bay Resort and have a great meal at the local favorite, Lei Lei’s.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.