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Mention Oahu's North Shore, and most visitors think of its famous beaches with professional surfing contests in winter's massive waves, or the calm seas of summer attracting swimmers, snorkelers, divers and beachcombers on long white strands.
But the island's northern coast has plenty of other offerings besides surf and sand. Check out these five great reasons to spend a day — or more — on Oahu's North Shore.
HaleiwaA classic hang-10 town, Haleiwa sports an easygoing vibe. Crowds line up at Matsumoto Shave Ice and other snack shops. Boutiques sell colorful clothes. Galleries share local art. Haleiwa Surf Museum displays vintage boards and videos. Casual eateries range from Kua Aina for burgers and fish sandwiches to Jameson By the Sea Restaurant for fresh seafood. Coming soon: Haleiwa Store Lots, which will be composed of retailers with laid-back charm.
Horses, Gliders and SkydivesAdventures await in Mokuleia, a community on the far western tip of the North Shore. The Hawaii Polo Club presents rousing Sunday afternoon matches as well as Monday-through-Saturday guided oceanfront rides on polo ponies. At nearby Dillingham Air Field, Honolulu Soaring offers glider rides providing bird’s-eye views of the entire region, while Skydive Hawaii encourages travelers to take the leap on tandem dives.
Polynesian Cultural CenterFresh from a multimillion-dollar makeover, this North Shore mainstay engages guests with the culture of the South Pacific. Natives of New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Rapa Nui, Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga share their customs in hands-on fashion. At its Ali’i (royal) Luau, visitors are treated to traditional dishes and Hawaiian entertainment. The center’s elaborate nighttime show titled “Ha: Breath of Life” culminates in a blazing fire knife dance.
Shrimp TrucksThe North Shore town of Kahuku is home to aquaculture farms full of shrimp. Area food trucks specialize in these right-out-of-the-water delicacies, sauteed in butter and garlic and served with a side of rice and a wedge of lemon. Popular stops include Giovanni’s, operating out of a converted bread truck from 1953. Fumi’s is notable for its fried coconut shrimp. Romy's Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp sells sweet corn for an extra taste of local freshness.
Waimea ValleyOutdoor lovers and culture buffs rave about this attraction, rich in natural and historical delights. Thousands of tropical plant species thrive in Waimea Valley’s 150-acre arboretum and botanical garden, while many native and endangered birds call the valley home. A 45-foot waterfall draws swimmers and photographers. Ancient archaeological sites add further meaning. Crafts, hula, games, music and storytelling inject a special sense of place to this Oahu North Shore treasure.