Going With The Flow on the North Shore of Oahu

Oahu’s northern coastline is both relaxing and energizing By: Marty Wentzel
Pupukea Beach Park is a popular North Shore snorkeling spot. // © 2010 HTA/Tor Johnson
Pupukea Beach Park is a popular North Shore snorkeling spot. // © 2010 HTA/Tor Johnson

Web Exclusive

Learn more about Hawaiian Airlines’ new in-flight meal menu

The Details

Oahu Visitors Bureau

Ocean sports publicist Jodi Young Wilmott has traveled to almost every continent with a rideable wave, but she has chosen Oahu’s North Shore as the place to live and raise a family. Why?

“The North Shore is a microcosm of Hawaii at large,” said Wilmott. “It is defined by the ocean, dramatic landscapes and a steady flow of new and interesting faces. The climate is perfect, and the air is clean. Big waves, inspiring mountains and star-studded night skies remind me to enjoy the wonders of life.”

Oahu visitors can easily discover that same North Shore magic by driving just one hour from Waikiki. A magnetic mix of past and present, the North Shore is a tight-knit community where people plan their day around the surf and locals count on seeing a good friend or two at the grocery store. Since there is just one major hotel in the area — Turtle Bay Resort — clients can weave themselves into the community with ease and indulge themselves in its unique gifts.

“The North Shore appeals to clients who like laid-back destinations but still want access to activities, from boutique shopping and surf lessons to eating at a locally owned restaurant,” said Oahu Visitors Bureau (OVB) senior director of sales and marketing, Noelani Schilling-Wheeler.

As its name implies, the North Shore’s most obvious draw is its shoreline. Each year starting in October, enormous waves lure professional surfers to meccas such as the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay for contests like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which starts on Nov. 12. Year-round, the area plays home to such hang-ten headliners as Sunny Garcia and Michael Ho.

The waters turn calm in the summer months, transforming the North Shore into a coveted place for Oahu snorkeling. One of the most popular spots is Pupukea Beach Park, a marine preserve accessible to anyone with a snorkel, mask and fins.

On land, the North Shore charms clients with its main town of Haleiwa, a hamlet that is at once hip and funky where visitors can take their time exploring clothing boutiques, art galleries, surf shops and mellow eateries. In the former sugar town of Wailua, an historic mill has been transformed into a hub of local businesses where visitors can buy locally made soaps, chocolate, coffee, natural sodas and other distinctive products.

When it comes to attractions, the North Shore’s variety fits right into the landscape. In Waimea Valley — an 1,875-acre haven of history, culture and botanical wonders — clients can walk to a waterfall, dance the hula, make a lei and learn about the rich legends and lore of the area. The Polynesian Cultural Center calls to clients with eight authentic island villages, hands-on activities, entertaining exhibits and live shows in a picturesque setting.

At the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, bird lovers can tour one of Hawaii’s few remaining wetlands during the non-breeding season of October through February.

For adventurers, Oahu’s great outdoors guarantees a good time. Dillingham Airfield helps clients rise above it all during glider and biplane rides. Hawaii Shark Encounters allows them to observe galapagos and sandbar sharks in their natural environment approximately three miles off shore, all from the safety of a cage. Wild and windswept Kaena Point calls to hikers with its timeless island landscapes. The outdoor fun continues with golf, horseback riding, biking, big-game fishing and lessons in surfing, stand-up paddling, scuba, kayaking and kite-surfing.

Locals are quick to point out that the North Shore tastes as good as it looks, too. Clients can dig into a slice of homemade pie at Ted’s Bakery, savor fresh shrimp from the carry-out trucks of Kahuku, buy some locally raised corn at one of the area’s roadside stands and satisfy appetites at casual haunts such as Cafe Haleiwa, Kua Aina and Matsumoto’s, the famous shave ice vendor.

Taking all of this into consideration, the OVB has been promoting the North Shore as both easygoing and exhilarating. At the same time, it has taken the term locals use for the North Shore — the Country — and put it into a marketing catchphrase for the entire island: Town and Country.

“Although the North Shore is off the beaten path, it’s only one hour away from Honolulu, which is a cosmopolitan city with award-winning restaurants, museums, luxury hotels and a vibrant night life,” said Schilling-Wheeler. 

But for Wilmott, there’s no place like home.

“When people visit the North Shore, here’s what I recommend,” she said. “Take off your watch, loosen up the schedule, relax, respect the locals and the environment and enjoy the ride.”

Adventure Travel JDS Africa Middle East JDS Destinations