Ahh Hawaii. One of my favorite places I’ve been so far for sure!
The weather is great, the water is warm and the vibe is chill. Not to mention how gorgeous it is everywhere! Green and serene. Lucious and plentiful. Majestic and awe-inspiring. My experience on the Northern Shores of Oahu are definitely in my element with all of the surfer easygoing attitudes of pretty much everyone there.
We generally avoided the super busy parts of this island as much as possible like Honolulu, Waikiki and the other popular beaches and attractions on the southernish part of the island.
Luckily we got to go with another couple and shared a 2 floor beach house on Pupukea beach. Depending on your budget for lodging, I highly recommend renting an Air B&B. Most of the ones we looked at had a lot of gear stored in them for whatever you might like to do during your stay. That helps a ton when you’re traveling damn near 3,000 miles flying through the air where you pay a small fortune already to do so. Not to mention any extra baggage you think you have to have and pay more for.
What to do on the Northern shore
This isn’t the best food and or restaurant guide as I did have a house to cook a lot of meals myself, so I didn’t go out much to eat but these are a few things I did try. I firmly believe, when on vacay you gotsta let someone else cook for you for the most part of your stay right?
Where we stayed, there was a super convenient food truck park about a mileish down the road that we frequented quite regularly and a grocery store called Foodland right next to it. Groceries are kinda pricey in Hawaii depending on what you want but I still say it’s a little cheaper than eating out for every meal.
- Ted’s Bakery – Kamehameha, Hwy – We got a plate lunch here for breakfast one day that fed me for 3 breakfasts – Huge amounts of food. Not bad but not great.
- North Shore Tacos (food truck, Pupukea ) – You might be thinking like I did. WTF? Food trucks? Blech! But no this one was a hit with us all. Very good food all around!
- The Spot (food truck, Pupukea) – Good food. Friendly service. We sat at their tables and the flies were hellacious but that’s not really their fault now is it?
- Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – Kamehameha, Hwy – Good luck with this one! This shrimp truck is so popular, you cannot even think about going around any time of day when most people think about eating. We made the mistake of going around lunch time one day and the line was so big, I didn’t know where it started and ended. So we didn’t end up eating here, but I put it in because it took up so much of my time that day. I thought about it a lot too. I’m sure it’s good!
- Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican – Haleiwa – The name says it all! Yummy Mexican cuisine and very colorful and festive decor and atmosphere.
- Teddy’s Bigger Burgers – Haleiwa – Oh man! I ate a burger and fries here and let me tell ya, them shits are big and delicious, and I ate waaaaay too much for lunch and ended up taking a nap (big mistake!) so I had to walk that shit off for a while with no dinner that night.
- Haleiwa Joe’s Seafood & Grill – My husband and I ate here as a little getaway as a couple and also to try some of this Islands seafood fare. This place didn’t disappoint either!
- Matsumoto’s – Haleiwa – Shave Ice joint. Busy usually. But worth the wait. Now I know what you’re thinking. Really? A dessert made of ground up ice, some flavoring and ice cream? Yes! So good. Such a treat here and definitely go to Matsumoto’s. I tried my friends from a food truck somewhere else and it wasn’t even as yummy. Their flavoring is the cat’s pajamas!
- Breakers Restaurant & Bar – Haleiwa – Way cool surfer bar that serves local cuisine along with American food choices. We ate here on our last day before heading to the airport.
- Pounders – Polynesian Culture Center – Laie – All I remember was they had a pizza oven covered in pennies that was cool and the fries were phenomenal!
Activities, attractions and what to do
For the amount of time I spent on Oahu I guess you could say I didn’t go do a whole lot. I didn’t get to do everything on my list but I’m okay with that. I firmly believe that a fair share of relaxation time is equally as important. Read on to read about what I did and what to check out.
There’re a lot of things to do for sure, too many to list here.
- Haleiwa North Shore Marketplace – Go shopping! Even if you don’t have the budget to buy, it’s really just fun to look at all the cute shops and buildings here. There are usually some interesting people out and about too.
- Dole Plantation – Wahiawa – Skip it unless you’re taking kids or have an extreme affinity for Pineapple flavored FroYo. It’s a total tourist trap but they do have a train ride for the little ones, the worlds largest maze (kinda fun) and their own little botanical garden. All of these things come at a cost of course and you can also get all things pineapple inside at the shop.
Shark’s Cove – Pupukea – Snorkeling is popular here because the rock and coral formations are perfect for fish to swim into and basically get trapped until the tide comes back in. I could see fish just by sitting on some of the rocks and looking into the tide pools. But check before you head there to see if the tide has come in or if there are rough waves. I can tell you it doesn’t look fun when that happens and it shows because nobody is there when it does.
- Seashell hunting – any beach really – My favorite! Seriously, one of my favorite things to do whilst I’m out on the desert at home is looking for pretty, cool and interesting rocks. Seashell hunting is just like that but on a beach, in beautiful Hawaii. Need I say more! Free natural souvenirs! Now some people say you shouldn’t take these home because it places some sort of bad juju on you. But I am not superstitious at all! So it’s all good as long as you can fit them all in your luggage and whatnot.
- Artwork wall at Pupukea Beach Park – While you’re looking for seashells on this beach, just meander over towards Shark’s Cove / tide pools way and check out the artwork on this wall. It’s really something I think.
- Walk to Hidden Beach – Haleiwa – Beautiful hidden beach coves with the best seashells! Just West of the Mokuleia Beach park are some “hidden” beaches that are more secluded and less populated if at all. I had a lot of fun exploring around here, but in my excitement and also complete stupidity I didn’t think to keep the sunblock on and I got Lobsta red! It kinda put a damper on my sun loving activities for a couple days.
- Polynesian Culture Center – Laie – Another sort-of tourist trap but they have the Hukilau Marketplace with shops and eats. They also have a large Luau available but I didn’t partake in this part of it. This place is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints. Which kind floored me when discovering Hawaii is full of Mormons. Coming from Utah where that state is considered the Mormon capital of America. So don’t expect to drink alcohol at this Luau.
- Waimea Valley Botanical gardens – Haleiwa- Take a stroll through the unique and beautiful gardens and learn more about the Hawaiian culture here. Make sure you walk up to the waterfall and pool you can swim in if you’re in the mood. There’s also a little place to grab lunch if hunger strikes. If you purchase a ticket for the Toa Luau here, you can get this portion free but it has to be the same day the Luau is
- Toa Luau – Waimea Valley – Oh yeah! My favorite part of the trip. Other than seashell hunting of course! This is a more intimate and small Luau which is what appealed to me from the beginning. When we went they had only been up and running for about 6 months so they were fairly new. They had everything running smoothly as if they’d been doing it for years, but with the enthusiasm of a new team. You begin the evening with several ancient Polynesian culture traditions and ceremonies that you get to be a part of. You can make coconut milk, braid your own head band, grind at some taro root and more. The host was funny and sarcastic. The food was a great variety and delicious and the drinks were nice and strong. The entertainment was so good I got chills and a little emotional I must admit. They treated us like family. Our friends booked right a long with us but their daughter grabbed a hot clothes iron and burned her little hand pretty bad, so they didn’t go. No refunds of course. We explained why our three other people booked with us weren’t there and they felt so bad that they sent us with to go boxes of everything for all three people and…AND the special souvenir you’re only supposed to get with the VIP package. What a great group of people really! Highly recommended!
- Farmers Markets – You gotta check out a farmer’s market or two. Especially if you’re fortunate enough to have your own kitchen like we did. We went to one on Kamehameha Hwy and got some delicious fresh native fruits and cut up coconut. They may look a little shady but apparently it was all good!
- Tropical Farms, Macadamia nut farm – Kamehameha Hwy – These guys had all of the macadamia nut flavors you could wish for and more – like Kona coffee’s and souvenirs and what have you. It was pretty crowded with tourists when we went, but I’m glad we did. The Kona coffee dusted macadamia nuts were to die for!I took an unopened package home in my checked luggage hoping TSA wouldn’t jack my shit. They didn’t, so luckily I didn’t have to sob into my pillow when I got home.
- Pearl Harbor – Honolulu – And of course there’s this. You really just kinda have to do. Another tourist trap of course but interesting. It’s a great way to kill time if needed. Like we did after we checked out and was waiting to go to the airport on our last day. Redeye flights are a bitch! If you wanted to see all of the attractions here and maybe take a tour to learn even more, be prepared to pay a decent amount for it.
Damn you Hawaii! Why are you so expensive?!
If you’re thinking about going just save up and go already! Or just go and never come back. That’s what our cleaning lady professed to us when she showed up a little early on our last day. The humidity is a little hard to get used to especially if you’re from a very dry area like Utah. Disturbing words like moist, swamp ass and sticky come to mind. And then there’s volcanoes on some of the neighboring islands. Volcanoes are a super destructive awesome way to make an island bigger and all, but that shit is frightening. Luckily we were hundreds of miles away on Oahu where we couldn’t even see smoke from the volcano jackin up peoples shit over on the Big Island. Got a lot of texts and facebook messages that week though asking if we were alive and okay.
This is the second time we vacationed somewhere and a natural disaster hit that we narrowly escaped. But that’s for another post……