5 Things to Love About Oahu’s North Shore

There’s little to not love about Oahu’s northern coast. Not only are there so many things to do in the North Shore. It also has the best food joints, offers magical experiences, and is simply, unbelievably spectacular.


While I was a little disappointed with certain aspects of Honolulu, I was completely smitten with the North Shore. Having practically non-existent upper body strength, I thought it best to make do with just watching the surfers do their thing than joining them and ending up with a head gash. Still, I had an unforgettable visit. To me, there was nothing more incredible than taking a quick dip at Pupukea Beach, enjoying quick bites from the food trucks that litter the area, then sitting on the beach watching the towering waves.

Here are five things I loved most about Oahu’s North Shore.

The Turtles


The Hawaiian Islands are famous for turtle sightings, yes. In fact, watching turtles go about their daily routine on the beaches is one of the best things to do there. There are, however, parts of the islands where such sightings come easier and more naturally. The North Shore is one such place. Laniakea and Haleiwa are two of the most popular spots for sightings, but I didn’t see any when I was there. However, when I ventured out to lesser-known Aweoweo Beach, I was lucky enough to see two of them swimming super close to the shore.


The Waves


Surfing is one of the top things to do in the North Shore. But to be very honest, I have tried surfing and it just wouldn’t take. I decided that I actually prefer paddle boarding—it’s more relaxing, easier to do, and less of a full body workout. That said, I still found the North Shore’s impressive waves very appealing, the powerful, thundering ones as well as the smaller, whitewater ones. I could watch them all day, and fall asleep on the beach listening to them.


The Beautiful Views


The dramatic sky, the ragged coastline and the energetic blue sea… Need I say more?

The Food


Granted, food always seems so much better when enjoyed at the beach. Still, many of the food trucks and joints in the North Shore serve amazing fares, especially those that involve shrimps and prawns. In fact, eating is probably at the top of everyone’s list of things to do in the North Shore. Grab some garlic shrimp, tender brisket and shaved ice to go from the food trucks across Pupukea Beach. And enjoy some garlic & butter shrimp at Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp. Trust me, you’ll be back for more sooner than you might think!


The Vibe

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You’ll fall as much in love with North Shore’s easy way of life and its slow rhythm as its yummy prawns, its majestic turtles and its impressive breaks. You could pretty much do all the things there are to do in the North Shore and have a hectic visit, and yet still feel yourself slipping into its slow rhythm. It’s incredible, very seductive, and probably why so many people from many parts of the world have decided to move there.

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Seven Things You Need to Know About Oahu Before You Go

Oahu is a US destination, and yet it feels like a completely far off place thanks to its Polynesian roots that remain alive and thriving today. This uniqueness, coupled with its impressive mountains and stunning beaches, puts the island (and the rest of Hawaii for that matter) at the top of everyone’s–as pedestrian as this might sound–bucket list.

During our weeklong visit to ring in 2016, we discovered some things about Oahu that many wouldn’t know unless they’ve been there. And we thought we’d share them with you.

Below are some things you need to know about Oahu before your visit:

Boneless Chicken with Brown Gravy and Macaroni Salad at the Rainbow Drive-In (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. The food is really good. Everyone who has been to Hawaii has complained about how underwhelming their local food is. As a result, we kept our expectations low. Much to our surprise, Hawaiian food is actually pretty good if you know where to go. In fact, we ate like kings during our visit. The trick is to skip the Hawaiian fast food chains and go where the locals go. Click here to see our Oahu restaurant recommendations.
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Cinnamon Girl at Ward Warehouse in Honolulu (Photo: Michelle Rae)
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Eden in Love Boutique (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. There’s plenty of shopping to be done. Hawaii may be on the expensive side, but there’s something about walking along beachfront Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu’s main shopping strip, that just gets you in the shopping mood. And it has a lot of our favorite brands – from cheap H&M and Forever21 to the more expensive Kate Spade, Tory Burch and Coach. At Ward Village, there are specialty boutiques like Cinnamon Girl and Eden in Love that sell the most adorable items! And then there are also the Walgreens stores that carry pretty much every single flavor of Mauna Loa and Hawaiian Host imaginable! Needless to say, our bags were twice as full on our trip home.
Surfers at Puaena Point (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. Surfing is THE way of life. Pick any beach in Oahu with good-sized but safe swells and you’re bound to find a surfer riding those waves. It’s to be expected, considering that the now internationally renowned sport originated in Polynesia and has been practiced in the Hawaiian Islands as far back as the 1700s. During your visit, why not do as the locals do? You’ll regret it if you don’t as surfing is one of the most exhilarating and liberating water sports there is. There are several local surf schools by the beach, if you haven’t done any surfing before. Not ready to stand on your board just yet? Body boarding is just as fun!
Sea turtle at Aweoweo Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. Don’t get too close to the turtles. These majestic animals are irresistible, but they are endangered and we should all do our part to preserve their species. Sometimes, people do not realize the difference between a simple touch and going as far as sitting on a turtle’s shell. So it’s best to just avoid getting too close altogether.
Ruins hidden in the woods (Photo: Michelle Rae)
  1. Everything is less than 3 hours away, and yet one week is still not enough. You can pretty much drive around the island in a single day. It’s that small. But that doesn’t mean that a week is enough to explore and experience the whole island. There’s just too much to do from the busy streets of Honolulu to the quieter and more adventurous North Shore and everything in between. We stayed for a week and tried to pack in as much as we could, and we still missed a lot of stuff! Stay for two weeks or more!
  1. Everybody drives at 35 miles an hour! When you come from a big city like LA, the island’s slow pace might be a little hard to get used to. People certainly take their time doing stuff. This includes service at restaurants and driving. So if you’re used to doing things fast, you need to bring plenty of patience with you.


  1. Waikiki Beach is great, but you can do better. Waikiki Beach is probably the most touristy beach on the island, probably because it’s the most accessible. And while it’s nice and affords a beautiful sunset, it’s certainly not the best beach on the island. We actually visited a number of beaches during our trip and have a few favorites. Do your research before you go, and you might just find one that not a lot of people know about.


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Hawaiian Food Sucks? Think Again!

Over a plate of Pork Belly Bao, Lobster Shumai and a gigantic bowl of Ramen, we looked at each other in amazement. This is what it’s like to eat in Hawaii? My wife and I had been warned over and over. “Enjoy getting away, love the beaches, take advantage of the slower pace but don’t expect much of the food.” While not your typical Hawaiian food, Lucky Belly serves Asian Fusion Cuisine that you’ll only find on Hotel Street in the heart of Honolulu’s Chinatown. The hour-long wait is worth it.

Lucky Belly (Photo: Michelle Rae)

One of the distinctive features of the food culture in Hawaii is its unique combination of Polynesian, American and Asian cuisines (with some Portuguese influence). There are restaurants for Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Filipino cuisine but aspects of all those cuisines have been integrated into Hawaiian food such as the plate lunch, which takes the idea of the Japanese bento box, keeps the rice, but substitutes a scoop of Macaroni Salad and a protein for the rest.

In Waikiki, there is one restaurant that specializes in the plate lunches that is right up the street from the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Beach. Rainbow Drive-In’s menu is dominated by the plate lunches where you can get BBQ Beef (highly recommended), Fried Chicken among other options with rice and Macaroni salad. After we were done clearing 75% of our food, we came down with what one local termed “Polynesian Paralysis”.

Rainbow Drive-In (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Rainbow Drive-In (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Another import that you’ll see in particular abundance on the North Shore of Oahu are shrimp trucks and stands. These places serve something special that is also found in the Philippines, Garlic & Butter Shrimp. On a lonely highway, halfway between Turtle Bay Resort and the Polynesian Culture Center sits Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp. If you love your shellfish, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place or a more authentic destination to indulge.

Romy’s in the North Shore (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Romy’s in the North Shore (Photo: Michelle Rae)

DSCF1815All the aforementioned restaurants are fantastic creations unique to Hawaii but to get something a little more traditional, one should start at Helena’s Hawaiian Food. From Pipikaula shortrib to Kalua Pig and Luau Chicken, picking a favorite is not easy. Other Hawaiian offerings include Poke, the closest approximation to which is Sashimi, and Poi, admittedly an acquired taste that will separate the tourists from the locals. Don’t forget to enjoy the complementary Haupia for desert. If you’re having Hawaiian food for the first time, skip the cheap fast food restaurants and start at this James Beard winning restaurant. Oh, and bring cash.

Helena’s (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Hawaii also offers some unique options for desert. The ubiquitous shaved ice can be found just about anywhere and comes with multiple flavors, such as most fruit flavors and the more exotic Li Hing Mui, and can be served with sweetened condensed milk or a scoop of ice cream. The other must have desert in Hawaii is the Malasada or Portuguese Donut. Leave room for Leonard’s Bakery at least once or five times during your trip. Unlike most donut shops, you will order off a menu, not a display, for the Malasadas that they’ll make fresh. When you bite into these little clouds of joy, you’ll notice that they’re a little less dense and softer than a regular donut. To top it all off or to start your day, skip Starbucks and head to Island Vintage Coffee for the coconut-flavored Island Latte. And while you’re there, grab some Kona Coffee to take home.

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Leonard’s (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Leonard’s (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Leonard’s (Photo: Michelle Rae)


Helena’s Hawaiian Food. 1240 N School St., Honolulu, HI 96817 | www.helenashawaiianfood.com/
Lucky Belly. 50 N Hotel St., Honolulu, HI 96817 | http://www.luckybelly.com/
Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp. 56-781 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, HI 96731 | www.romyskahukuprawns.org/
Rainbow Drive-In. 3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 | www.rainbowdrivein.com/
Island Vintage Coffee. Multiple locations around Oahu | www.islandvintagecoffee.com/
Leonard’s Bakery. 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816 | http://www.leonardshawaii.com/


Hotel Recommendations

Park Shore Waikiki Hotel. 2586 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 | www.parkshorewaikiki.com/
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. 92-1185 Ali’inui Dr, Kapolei, HI 96707 | resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-hawaii-resort/
Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk. 201 Beachwalk St, Honolulu, HI 96815 | http://www.embassysuiteswaikiki.com/

Soaking Up the Sun: My Favorite Beaches in Oahu

When it comes to gorgeous beaches, the Pacific archipelago and youngest state wins. In Hawaii, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the irresistible pull of the ocean. This I can attest to, having spent a week exploring Oahu to ring in the New Year.

Like every island in Hawaii, Oahu is like a patchwork of beaches – all gorgeous, all accessible to the public (no private beaches here), all completely enticing. Still, no two beaches are alike, and I’ve come to love some more than others.

Here are, in my humble opinion, seven of the best beaches in the island of Oahu.


Hanauma Bay

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Hanauma Bay (Photo: Michelle Rae)
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Hanauma Bay (Photo: Michelle Rae)

The clear blue-green water of Hanauma Bay is home to a vast coral reef that shelters over 400 species of fish as well as some Green sea turtles. At $7.50 per person plus the cost of parking and snorkel sets (if you don’t own them), you can spend all day snorkeling in this volcano-formed conservation area, making it a cheap yet memorable snorkeling experience. What’s more, a large part of the bay is shallow, so it’s perfect for the not so strong swimmers.

The occasional Jellyfish or Portuguese man o’ war will sometimes stray into the bay, so keep an eye out and be careful. And don’t stand on the coral reefs – how would you feel if someone walked all over your apartment?


Ko Olina Lagoon

Ko Olina Lagoon (Photo: Michelle Rae)

It’s hard not to love everything Disney has created, so naturally I had to check out the Aulani Resort, nestled in the resort area of Ko’Olina about 30 minutes west of Honolulu. Unsurprisingly, the resort was wonderful – the rooms nice, the pools lovely and the spa incredible; but some of my best experiences were at the lagoon. Semi-protected, its tranquil water is great for families with kids, beginner paddle boarders (my son mastered paddle boarding within minutes) and young snorkelers. At the beach, beach chairs and umbrellas are readily available for convenience.


Aweoweo Beach

Sea turtle at Aweoweo Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Sea turtle at Aweoweo Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Aweoweo Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Looking for turtles in Oahu’s legendary North Shore? While Laniakea and Haleiwa are more famous, I prefer the lesser-known Aweoweo Beach, especially for turtle sightings. This stretch of sand in Waialua is not just beautiful, it’s also less crowded, quiet and mostly tourist-free – this means you’re less likely to deal with people more interested in taking selfies with the turtles than actually living the moment.

Please stay at least 6 feet from the turtles. They’re not there for your amusement.


Pupukea Beach

Pupukea Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Pupukea Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Also in the North Shore across the street from a roadside gathering of food trucks (another must-stop while in Oahu) is Pupukea Beach. It’s home to Sharks Cove, which stays relatively uncrowded what with nearby Waimea Bay drawing most of the traffic, where you can snorkel in relatively calm waters. The marine life isn’t as diverse as in Hanauma Bay, but it’s free and the water is warm and shallow.

Grab some garlic shrimp, tender brisket and shaved ice to go from the food trucks across the street, and find a nice, quiet spot at the beach. Don’t forget your flippers if you’re snorkeling, Sharks Cove is pretty rocky.


Puaena Point Beach

Surfers at Puaena Point Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Puaena Point Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Show off your beach bod and rub elbows with surfers and model-types at Haleiwa Beach’s neighboring Puaena Point Beach. Thanks to its great yet small waves, this is where newbie surfers go to learn the craft and practice. But you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy this spot; sometimes it’s enough to just stay on solid ground and watch all the action.

Puaena Point Beach has some pretty stunning photo opportunities too, so bring a camera and snap a few.


Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Waikiki Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Waikiki Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

Yes, it’s extremely touristy. But there’s a good reason why people flock to Waikiki. Actually, there are a few. It’s easily accessible, first of all, so if you’re staying in or near Honolulu’s main tourist strip – Kalakaua Ave – a day at the beach is just a few minutes’ walk away from your hotel. Second, it’s got some great waves for surfing as well as a semi-protected area (Kuhio Beach Park) for shallow waters. And third, it has some of the best sunsets in Honolulu. Pack a picnic, head out in the afternoon and stay to enjoy the setting sun.

Stay at Park Shore Waikiki across the street from Kuhio Beach Park. The family-friendly hotel not only provides complimentary use of beach towels and beach chairs, it also boasts guest rooms with a stunning, unobstructed view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.


Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)
Lanikai Beach (Photo: Michelle Rae)

It’s one of Oahu’s most popular beaches, which means that it can get pretty crowded, but Lanikai is still one of our favorite swimming spots in Oahu. We cannot get enough of its calm, shallow waters and soft, fine sand, both of which make up for the fact that finding a parking spot can be a pain. While this is far from being a surfing spot, it’s perfect for paddle boarding or simply floating around on a swim tube.


(Originally published on Huffington Post)

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