- Hale'iwa – the busiest and most popular town on the North Shore, with some of the better restaurants and shopping
- Kahuku – pretty non-descript, but a great place to stop off for lunch, get gas, or pick up supplies
- Laie – similar to Kahuku, with a few more facilities
The North Shore is a relaxed, laid back area, with a much slower pace than in Honolulu and Waikiki. The beaches are wonderful but very popular, especially when the surf is up! (Note: The North Shore beaches are extremely dangerous for novice swimmers and surfers in the winter when waves can reach as high as 50 feet (15 m). Drownings are common — obey the lifeguards!)
The North Shore is located almost diametrically opposite Waikiki. As a result, there are two ways you can get to the North Shore; one is longer but is mostly on freeways; the other is shorter but winds along the coast. Each takes about the same time (about one to one-and-a-half hours).
Route 1: Take Interstate H-1 ewa (west) to Interstate H-201 (also called state highway 78). Take H-201/78 until it re-joins H-1 near Aloha Stadium. Continue on H-1 to the interchange with Interstate H-2 (exit 8A). Stay on H-2 until it ends in Wahiawa, and continue through the Schofield Barracks area. You will be on Highway 99, Kamehameha Highway. Follow Kamehameha Highway to Haleiwa. To progress further up the North Shore, continue on Kamehameha Highway (which changes number to Hwy 83 at Haleiwa).
Route 2: Take Interstate H-1 ewa (west) to Likelike Highway (highway 63). Follow Likelike Highway through the Wilson Tunnel to Kaneohe; then take the exit for Kahekili Highway (Hwy 83). Kahekili Highway becomes Kamehameha Highway at Kahaluu and winds along the coast through the towns of Kaaawa, Punaluu, Hauula, and Laie.
Kamehameha Highway (Hwys 99 and 83) is the main road through the area. There is a bypass around Haleiwa called Joseph P Leong Highway which is useful in avoiding the two lane road through Haleiwa. (However, consider following the signs for Haleiwa town to take in the small-town atmosphere of the main town on the North Shore.)
- Waimea Valley. Has a wide range of flora and fauna. There is also a beautiful waterfall at the end that you are allowed to swim under (bring your swimsuit). The walk is easy on a paved road; no stairs to climb. $15, Children $6.
- Kualoa Ranch, 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, ☎ . This privately owned ranch is home to the most beautiful and sacred spot on the island. Tours by bus or atv's are available through the lush and epic tropical landscape, which just sort of has to be seen to be believed. It's a popular filming location — Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, Lost, and many others have used it as a backdrop. 1 hr ATV tour, $60.
- 1 Polynesian Cultural Center, 55-370 Kamehameha Highway (from Honolulu, Hwy 63 Likelike Highway to 83 Kahekili Hwy/Kamehameha Hwy, about 20 mi NW of Kaneohe), ☎ , toll-free: . Laie. Monday-Saturday, 11AM-8PM; individual attraction hours vary, see website for details. Hawaii's most popular paid tourist attraction, the Polynesian Cultural Center offers something found nowhere else: the opportunity to experience the culture not just of Hawaii, but also of seven other Polynesian island groups, all in one place. Recreated traditional villages of Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Fiji, the Marquesas, Tahiti, Tonga, and Rapa Nui offer educational exhibits by native islanders, some of which can be hands-on. Award-winning Horizons evening show offers Polynesian entertainment. Basic admission $50, $38 children, includes cultural center and evening show. Ali'i Luau package $80/$56 includes luau and basic admission. Parking $5. Other premium packages available. Discounts for Hawaii residents and U.S. military.
- The Banzai Pipeline is one of the most famous surf sites for professional surfers from all around the world. The best time to witness it is in the winter, when the waves can reach up to 30-40 ft (9-12 m) high. Don't attempt actually surfing it unless you're a very experienced surfer.
- Hale'iwa Historical town— You may recognize the location as being the site of a former television series called 'Baywatch', but this more than 100-year-old historic town offers more than that. Many of the buildings are on the State Register of Historic Sites, and the rustic old building that dot the town are simply charming.
- 2 Pu'u o Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site. Located off Pupukea Homestead Road (Highway 835) from Kamehameha Highway (Highway 83) across from Pupukea fire station. This is the largest heiau (religious site or temple) on O'ahu, covering almost 2 acres. The name is translated as "hill of escape".
- Waimea Valley Audubon Center, 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa (across Kamehameha Hwy from Waimea Bay Beach Park). daily 9:30AM-5PM except 1 Jan 25 Dec; 9:30AM-3PM on Thanksgiving Day (4th Th in Nov) and 31 Dec. Formerly known as Waimea Falls Park, the National Audubon Society received a contract from the City and County of Honolulu to operate the site as a nature preserve. The preserve is home to endangered moorhen and a botanical garden with both endemic Hawaiian plants and other plants from around the world. A 0.75-mi (1.2 km) hike on paved trails leads to the centerpiece of the park, Waihi Falls, where visitors can swim in the pool at the base of the falls. $8; $5 seniors, military, and children (4-12); discounts for Hawaii residents.
- Surf! It's what gave the North Shore its reputation, and still one of the main reasons to come here — Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Banzai Pipeline are some of the most well-known. Take extreme care, however, if you aren't a very talented surfer. Pipeline in particular is one of the most harrowing; on a day with big waves the super shallow reef can be deadly if you wipe out.
- 1 Snorkel. There is some fine snorkeling at Shark Cove in Pupukea Beach Park. While not as big as Hanama Bay on the south side of island, you also won't have to deal with the smothering crowds. Be sure to snorkel over to the deep channel where the ocean enters the cove to feel the surge as the water moves in and out.
- Kualoa Regional Park - Located along the Northeast side of the island, this beach is rarely crowded and has a great view of the offshore island, Chinaman's hat, so called this due to its resemblance of the peasants chapeau worn by rural Chinese. With Kualoa mountains in the background you might feel you are in the movie Jurassic park, due to the fact that Kualoa range is where much of the footage took place. Also this area was considered sacred by ancient Hawaiians due to the whalebones that would wash on shore that would be used for valuable tools and jewelry.
- Kahana Bay Beach Park - Located along the Kamehameha Highway adjacent to Ahupua'a O Kahana State Park between Kaʻaʻawa and Punaluʻu. This beach cove is nestled at the very bottom of the Kualoa mountains and is often over looked by people traveling up the coast due to the outlining of pine trees along the beaches edges. With its seclusion, calm waters and plenty of shady spots for those not fond of the too much sun, you can obviously see why this is one of Oahu's best kept secrets.
- Sunset Beach - Located off Hoalua Street and Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore. Named to promote the area's spectacular sunsets, this white sand beach is one of the longest running beaches on Oahu, stretching 2 mi (3 km) in length and between 200-300 ft (61-91 m) in width at some spots. Home to several internationally renowned surfing contests, including the Triple Crown of Surfing since 1983. A bike path runs from Sunset Beach to Waimea Bay - a great way to spend the day exploring the hidden spots that you cannot see from the main road. Bike rentals available at Paradise Baby Co. (adult and childrens bikes).
- Ehukai Beach Park - Also known as "Reddish tinged water", this also home of the famous Banzai Pipeline. In the winter months this beach features 30-40-ft (9-12 m) waves, when the swells are high, and frequented by many of the worlds best surfers. Part of the triple crown surf tournament, I would stay out of the water in the winter months unless you are familiar with the surf, due to the fierce breaking waves and strong undertow. However in the summer months the calm ocean makes a good spot for swimming and a good sandbar. Always check with a life guard at this beach before entering the water.
- Hale'iwa Beach Park - Located in the Historical town of Hale'iwa fronted by a narrow brown sand beach. While its shallow, rocky ocean bottom does not attract many swimmers, the park is well-used by canoe paddlers as a training and regatta site, by kayakers as an access point to the bay, and by surfers who ride the waves at Pua’ena Point.
- Mokule'ia Beach Park - Mokulēʻia means "isle (of) abundance" in Hawaiian. Located on the northwestern tip of the island, this long white sandy beach is frequented by many of the local Hawaiians for its enticing windsurfing conditions and nice fishing spots.
- Three Tables - This beach located off the Kamehameha Highway, North Shore, between Sharks Cove and Waimea Bay. Part of the Pupukea Beach Marine Sanctuary, this popular dive area is named for three table-like sections of reef that can easily be seen during low tide.
- Waimea Bay Beach - Located along Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore, Waimea means "red water" in Hawaiian. Waimea Bay is one of the most famous big wave surf sites in the world. Waves breaking on the north point of the bay often reach heights of 25 feet, attracting many of the best riders in the international surfing community. During the summer months the wide sand beach at Waimea is a popular swimming and snorkeling site. Part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District.
- Ted's Bakery, 59-024 Kamehameha Hwy (Near Sunset Beach, a little north of Pupukea), ☎ . Ted's is a North Shore institution, and if you haven't stuffed yourself with their homemade pies and delicious and filling breakfasts and lunches, you might as well have just stayed home. The mahi sandwich and fried shrimp are particularly tasty.
- Foodland, 2 locations - Pupukea and Laie. This supermarket chain has 2 branches on the North Shore, and is the likely candidate for self catering. Expect prices to be significantly higher than the mainland.
- Shrimp Trucks are spread along the Kamehameha Hwy, and are great places to stop off for lunch. The ones around Kahuku are some of the more popular.
- Pizza Bob's, 66-145 Kamehameha Hwy, ☎ . Haleiwa. An American/Italian restaurant on the north shore in Haleiwa which is popular for both families on day trips and local surfers after their session. They use all locally farmed ingredients which makes their food quite special. A typical entree is around $10-12.
- Matsumoto Shaved Ice (Matsumoto), 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy Haleiwa Hawaii. Matsumoto Shaved ice. Shaved ice is a tasty treat. Try it with sweet azuki beans!
- 1 North Shore Surf Shop, 59-063 Pahoe Rd (Across the highway from Shark Cover and Pupukea Beach Park), ☎ . Surfboard, wetsuit, and snorkel gear rental along with assorted souvenirs.
Turtle Bay near Kahuku is the biggest and most well known place to stay, but there are many condos and rentals available as well.
Although North Shore seems like a laid back, safe place, one should always exercise caution after dusk. Native islanders can often be protective of their island, tourists should be respectful at all times.