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Introduction to the North Shore of Oahu

Facts, history, visitor attractions, and general information about the north shore of the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Information about the area from Laie on the northeast side of Oahu to Kaena Point on the northwest side.

General Description

Known all over the world as the Surfing Capital, the North Shore of Oahu spans from Laie to Kaena Point. Laie is home to the Mormon Temple, Brigham Young University and the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hawaii’s most popular paid attraction. Roughly 38 miles from Waikiki, Laie Point is a great place to view the North Shore.

Down the road from Laie is Turtle Bay, known as a prime spot for whale watching and home to one of Oahu’s most isolated and unvisited beaches. Starting at the Makahoa Point, adjacent to Malaekahana State Park, the shore stretches five miles and often has no footprints from prior visitors. West of Turtle Bay is idyllic Kawela Bay, perfect for swimming with a sandy bottom and a coconut-lined crescent shaped beach.

Next is Kahuku, an old plantation-town camp that was established in 1890 when sugar was Hawaii’s largest single source of income. Still in existence at the century-old sugar mill are three of the original steam engines. One dates back to the Civil War and all are in working condition. Surrounding the mill is a shopping complex and close by is the world-famous Shrimp Trucks where visitors have a chance to taste delicious Kahuku shrimp.

From August to February, bird lovers can tour one of Hawaii’s few remaining wetlands at James Campbell Nature Wildlife Refuge. On the free tour, one may encounter endangered native water birds, as well as migratory birds from Alaska and Siberia.

Beyond Kahuku is the gateway to Oahu’s famed surfing beaches. Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, Ehukai Beach and Waimea Bay are famous locations that both the amateur and professional surfer are well aware. Many sites are visible from Kamehameha Highway, yet some remain known only by word of mouth from the local surfers.

During the winter, massive waves pound the North Shore of Oahu, thrilling visitors and kamaaina who come to watch one of nature’s greatest spectacles. During the summer, the roaring ocean turns into a calm body of water ideal for fishing, diving, snorkeling and swimming.

Past Sunset Beach on Pupukea Road is Puu o Mahuka Heiau State Park, a national monument and state historic site, and Oahu’s largest Hawaiian heiau (temple). Believed to have been constructed in the eighteenth century, this heiau was known as an advantageous place for a chiefess to give birth.

Past Pupukea Road lies Waimea Bay, an excellent spot for spectacular surf watching. Across the way are tropical gardens filled with native flora and fauna at Waimea Valley Audubon Center, where any outdoor enthusiast or plant lover could spend an entire day and wind their way to a beautiful waterfall.

Further west is the historic town of Haleiwa, the quintessential beach and surf town on Oahu’s North Shore. This quaint locale is a mecca for beach goers, surfers, fishing enthusiasts, craftsmen, artists, clothiers, visitors and kamaaina. The prevailing architecture style in Haleiwa is paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) style with many of the structures built in the early 1900s. The rustic charm of Haleiwa ("house of the frigate bird") remains, although its roadside stands and hand-painted signs now compete with restaurants and surf shops.

Next to Haleiwa is Waialua, the old sugar mill town that has survived by moving away from sugar and carving another niche market. Waialua Coffee is only grown on Oahu and uses farmlands that once produced sugar. Next to the rusting mill in the center of town is the columned, stately former Bank of Hawaii building. It is now the locally famous Sugar Bar, still the place to be on Sunday afternoons on the North Shore.

Travel down the coastline and see the uncrowded beaches of Mokuleia, which many families use as a picnic retreat and escape from urban life. Devotees of polo attend weekend matches at the Mokuleia Polo Field. For the adventurous, Dillingham Airfield and Gliderport hosts one of the most scenic views of the majestic mountains on Oahu as the gliders soar 5,000 feet high.

The fertile lands of Mokuleia, "isle of abundance", once supported a large population of farmers and fishermen. Ironwood trees are a common sight in this area because the sugar plantations planted and used them as windbreaks. Mokuleia also had several dairies including Dillingham Ranch.

The farthest point west on Oahu is Kaena ("the heat"). Aptly named, this area appears almost barren and desolate. Kaena Point is no longer accessible, even to four-wheel-drive vehicles, but is a great place for a leisurely hike. One of the state’s best examples of coastal lowland and dune ecosystems, it was made a nature reserve in 1983.

The old Oahu Railway Train rounded Kaena Point and stopped briefly to allow passengers to take snapshots of the beautiful Waianae Mountains before continuing eastward toward the sugar fields of Waialua. In 1913, first-class passengers paid $2.80 each for a roundtrip ticket to the sugar plantation town of Waialua and the nearby elegant Haleiwa Hotel. Oahu’s north coast was an endless cane field rustling in the trade wind, and the Waialua Mill smokestack stood out against a blue sky.


During the winter, temperatures reach highs of 79°F and dip to 60°F. During the summer, temperatures range from 86°F to 66°F. For more information about Oahu weather forecasts, please call (808) 973-4381. For surf report information, please call (808) 596-7873.

Sightseeing and Visitor Attractions

Article provided courtesy of the Oahu Visitor's Bureau

See also:
- Attractions on Oahu
- Activities on Oahu

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