The North Shore’s famous banyan tree has been used as a backdrop for television shows and films, including “Lost” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
Feature image (above): Kawela Bay is frequented by numerous green sea turtles, and they are easily spotted when kayaking or paddleboarding. // © 2014 Shaka Kayaks
Oahu’s North Shore is often equated with epic waves and world-renowned surf competitions, but the windward side of the island has much to offer less gutsy explorers as well, including families traveling with children of all ages. North Shore sights are spread across 7 miles of beach and acres of offshore land, and it isn’t always easy to spot tranquil coves or scenic jungle groves from the Kamehameha Highway. The following are five great sights to get family adventures on the North Shore rolling.
A maze of roots, tunnels and shadows, the North Shore’s famous banyan tree (also on Turtle Bay Resort’s land) is a sight to see — even parents can’t help but zigzag through this incredible organism. Once used as a set for the television show “Lost,” the shaded grove under and around the goliath tree is a good stop for a picnic lunch or a short play break for the younger travelers. The tree is tucked just behind Kawela Bay, making it easy to hit both locations in one afternoon.
The shrimp trucks that line the North Shore’s main highway are beloved pit stops for locals and visitors alike — and its highly recommended to eat at a few of them, so you can join the ongoing debate about which one is best — but Kahuku Superette has the fine distinction of serving some of the greatest poke that has ever been cubed. In the back of this understated market, visitors will find a laid-back fish counter renowned especially for its shoyu ahi poke mixed with a homemade secret sauce. There are other options as well, including the fan-favorite tako poke, which is made of octopus.
“More for that grab-and-go lunch, Kahuku Superette is just your classic old-school corner store, and a must-go when on the North Shore,” Taylor says. “This is the best poke in all of Hawaii. We get it to go and take it to the beach, or we grab it after a day on the water. It’s a real, local-style thing to do.”
Kawela Bay is one of the quietest beaches on the North Shore, and it’s a great place for sea excursions of all sorts. Rock-star wave catchers can paddle out near the point for great surfing while those just getting their sea legs can try out kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding closer to the sand. And the protected bay doesn’t just welcome people — dozens of green sea turtles, who come for the freshwater run-off and easy waves, are frequent guests, too. Kayaking in a glass-bottom boat, which is one offering through local company Shaka Kayaks, is a good way to cruise the waters and spot the gentle giants.
To access the bay, visitors can walk 20 minutes due west on the trails that lead from Turtle Bay Resort. It’s also possible to park on Kamehameha Highway and take the path that cuts through the trees, though this entry point may be hard to find.
“Keiki” means “child” in Hawaiian, and the Keiki Pool near Turtle Bay Resort is an ideal landing spot for parents toting toddlers or infants to the beach. The natural pool was created in 1946, when a tsunami created new bedrock that still protects this small stretch of shore to this day, keeping the water extremely calm. It’s so serene that a resident monk seal regularly rests here to give birth to her pups, so a sighting of this endangered species is another possibility at this idyllic cove.
“If there’s more than one family here, that’s a rare day,” says Mark “Skip” Taylor, an experience creator with Replay Destinations who has spent many months out of the year working at Turtle Bay Resort. “You can comfortably have a toddler splashing around in the shallows, no matter how big the waves are that day.”
Bear in mind that the pool is about a 10-minute walk from Turtle Bay Resort’s public parking lot, so packing light is recommended.
Matsumoto Shave Ice
This North Shore institution hardly needs an introduction, and no Oahu family itinerary list is complete without it. Open since 1951, the quiet store in the town of Haleiwa claims to serve up about 1,000 shave ice orders on a warm day, and that’s no surprise if you’ve been witness to the line that often snakes out the door.
Sweet, sticky syrups are made in-house and come in a range of flavors, from standards such as cherry and strawberry to locally relevant tastes such as lilikoi, or passion fruit. Avoid long waits by visiting at off times — kids are sure to love shave ice for breakfast, right?