Exploring Oahu - The North Shore
The North Shore - A Land of Dramatic Disparities
I lived in Oahu for three years and explored every inch.
The North Shore of Oahu is an amazing place. It has a small town surf atmosphere, and world class surfing competitions. It attracts celebrities and millionaires, and has homes on the beach that would be condemmed in most other states. There is a charm and a danger to this stretch of beach that is intriguing and enticing.
Hale'iwa (Hall-eee-ava) is the gateway town to the North Shore when a person comes from the Leeward side of Oahu. It is basically a one street town, with many little surf shops and shops selling "shave ice." This is a Hawaiian term for sno-cone, notice the lack of a "d". It must be on purpose because every place that sells it does not include the "d." The absolute best place to eat in Hale'iwa is Pizza Bob's. They have great pizza, great customer service, just fabulous all around.
Banzai Pipeline In the Winter
The North Shore is known for it's fabulous beaches. These include Waimea Bay, Three Tables, Sharks Cove, and Sunset Beach. All of these beaches are located on the Kamehameha Highway (Ca-may-ahh-may-ahh). What most people don't know is the dramatic changes in the beaches throughout the year.
In the summer, North Shore beaches are glassy and smooth, as seen in the above photo of Waimea Bay (Why-a-may-ahh). In the winter months the waves are huge, usually upwards of 20 feet high and as tall as 50 feet high. This is when all the surf competions come into down. This makes the North Shore into a traffic nightmare, but the surfing is fun to watch. It obviously is not a good place to swim or snorkel during these months, so a family should chose where they stay on Oahu carefully depending on the month. The temperature doesn't really vary but the waves do. The south shore tends to be mild year round.
Waimea Bay often attracts thrill seekers. If you look closely at the picture you will see people standing on the rock. They are preparing to jump off into the water. Also, please note that everyone on the beach is staying close to shore. Waimea Bay has a huge dropoff and the currents are fairly strong. Also, the snorkling in Waimea Bay leaves a lot to be desired. I once spotted a sea turtle out there after looking at lots of sand and no fish for a very long time.
If you continue down the Kamehameha Highway you will see Three Tables on your left, it is a small beach with three distinctive rock formations, that explain it's name. The snorkling here is outstanding. Down just a little further is Sharks Cove. This is a deeper area to snorkel and it is amazing. There are also sea caves here for the adventurous, be careful!!!
Even further down the road is Sunset Beach. It has a large parking area and a ton of beach area to explore compared with Three Tables and Shark's Cove. The area from Waimea Bay to Sunset Beach is known as Pūpūkea (Poo-poo-kay-uhh). The famous Bonzai Pipeline is also within this stretch, off 'Ehukai and Banzai beaches.
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
You're Going to Have to Trust Me on This One
After you leave Sunset Beach keep yours eyes open on the left hand side (ocean side) of the street. Stop at this crazy truck.
The Absolute Best Place to eat in Oahu is Giovanni's Shrimp Truck. When you drive along the North Shore you will pass a lot of shrimp farming, where you can buy live shrimp. Giovanni's may be a truck but it is the most fresh shrimp you have ever tasted, cooked perfectly every time. Amazing. Order the scampi. It's kind of pricey (for a truck), about $12 a plate last time I checked, make sure you bring cash. The lines and the waits are typically long. They have set up a tent with picnic tables for people to eat under.
You will get two scoops of rice with lemon and scampi sauce on them along with about a dozen shrimp. At this point you will reach a level of food euphoria that is unparalleled in Oahu, and maybe planet earth.
Polynesian Cultural Center
Polynesian Cultural Center and BYU
As you reach the end of the North Shore you will come across the Polynesian Cultural Center and Brigham Young University. The Polynesian Cultural Center is owned by BYU and employs many of the students there. It is in La'ie (Lay-eee). They have a luau there, which every visitor too Hawaii should see. The pig cooked in an underground oven (imu) is amazing. I don't reccomend the poi (rhymes with boy). It's an acquired taste that I never acquired. The money earned goes towards scholarships for the students. This is the number one paid attraction in Hawaii.
The North Shore
So that's it, the North Shore, a land of extremes. No matter the season it's a valuable place to visit when you visit Oahu. So please, get a rental car, get out of Honolulu, and explore!
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