Take a break from sunbathing in Waikiki for a day trip to Oahu’s North Shore, where you can get a feel for a more local way of life on Oahu — the surfer way of life, that is. While not the sleepy, totally undeveloped area it used to be, the North Shore still allows you to enjoy a slow-paced day away from high-rise resorts. Drive yourself along Kamehameha Highway, heading south in order to follow the stops below, which cover an eight-mile coastal route from Sunset Beach to Hale’iwa.
Where the Kamehameha Highway curves around Waimea Bay, turn inland to Waimea Valley, a nature park and historical site that provides the chance to check out more of Oahu’s natural beauty than just the beaches. Explore 150 acres of botanical garden to see native flowers like hibiscus, or walk about three quarters of a mile to a 45-foot-high waterfall, where you can take a cool dip.
59-864 Kamehameha Highway; $16/adult, $12/senior
About two miles south of the Waimea Valley turn-off on Kamehameha Highway, pull over at Laniakea Beach. Also known as Turtle Beach, this stretch of rocks and sand is home to Hawaiian green sea turtles who waddle onto shore to soak up the sunshine. When turtles are in residence, volunteers rope them off so they can enjoy their space, but you can still get close enough for a great photo op. Feel free to ask volunteers any questions about the turtles’ environment and conservation.
Grabbing a paper plate of buttery garlic shrimp from a shrimp truck on the side of the road is a must on the North Shore, especially if it’s your first time, and you’ll see several during your drive along Kamehameha Highway. One of the oldest and best known is Giovanni’s, located about 3 miles south of Laniakea Beach in Hale’iwa -- you’ll recognize the truck by its graffiti-covered exterior and red block letters (there’s also a second truck in Kahuku).
Leave your car near Giovanni’s and walk along this stretch of Kamehameha Highway through Hale’iwa, a small town that acts as a North Shore hub, with surf shops and restaurants that you’ll find quite empty when the waves come in. Most visitors are determined to get their sweet fix at the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice, but skip the long line in favor of a macadamia-nut cookie or an Island Paradise smoothie at Waialua Bakery, a cute, laid-back spot where you can sit on the deck and watch surfers stroll in to refuel after a session in the water.
66-200 Kamehameha Highway