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North Shore: Day Trips and Tours from O'ahu
While Honolulu and Waikiki get most of the attention, and rightfully so, North Shore is a must-visit for any traveler to Oahu – the most popular Hawaiian island for visitors – thanks to its diverse selection of things to do.
An Oahu North Shore day trip is a comfortable drive straight up the middle of the island, making it the ideal getaway for anyone looking to experience the quieter side of Oahu away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Here is all you need to know about the North shore, one of the most fascinating destinations for day trips in Oahu.
Where is the North Shore located in Oahu?
Oahu's North Shore is located on the northernmost part of the island – a long stretch of coastline (over 11 picturesque kilometers) that begins at Kaena Point and continues until Turtle Bay near Kahuku Point.
Not too far from Waikiki and Honolulu, the region is home to some of Oahu's most famous beaches, historic sites like the Polynesian Cultural Center, scenic hiking trails and the Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District – a snorkeling haven.
North Shore by car
A breezy, scenic drive, the most common and fastest route to the Oahu North Shore from anywhere on the southern coast is straight up the island's Kam Highway (Route 99).
The journey takes approximately an hour from Waikiki to Haleiwa, making it the perfect day trip destination.
If you're driving from the southwest side of Oahu you'll want to take the Queen Liliuokalani Freeway towards the east until it meets up with the HI-750 S/Kunia Rd.
For those staying on the island's east coast, you can make your way inland to meet up with the Kam Highway. This option heads through the middle of the island – typically the most direct route, and takes about 45-60 minutes.
You can also opt to head straight up the coast along state route 33. While the journey will be longer (closer to 90 minutes) and full of twists and turns, it's considered one of the most scenic drives on the archipelago.
North Shore by bus
From the Ala Moana Center in the main area of Honolulu, the 52 and 88Abuses run relatively frequently (every 30-60 minutes) and make multiple stops along the way.
You can hop off at whichever beach or attraction you'd like to explore first, so you can choose to marvel at places like the North Shore Beaches, Turtle Bay Resort, and Polynesian Cultural Center. Considering the stops, it's about 2-3 hours in each direction.
For the more scenic coastal route you can jump on the 60 bus from Waikiki to North Shore.
Guided tour to the North Shore
Another option for getting to the North Shore without all the hassle out of planning logistics is to book a guided tour. With an experienced guide leading the way, you can learn all about the history, culture, and natural beauty of the North Shore as you go.
Most North Shore day trips include transportation from Waikiki in an air-conditioned vehicle, stops at popular beaches and lookout points, and free time for activities like swimming, shopping, and surfing.
Some even include a stop at the famous Polynesian Cultural Center – one of Oahu's top attractions – or a guided tour of the Dole Plantation.
What is the typical itinerary of a North Shore day tour in Oahu?
Starting with convenient pick-up in Waikiki or Honolulu from your hotel, most Oahu North Shore day tours head straight up to the coast. The first stop is usually at one of the lookout points along the way, where you can snap some photos of the spectacular views of Oahu's coastline.
Then, it's on to visit popular beaches like Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline, or Waimea Bay, where waves can reach up to 15 meters high when it's blustery – depending on the tour you choose. You might also spend some time at the Halona Blowhole and Cove or pop into the Kahuku Sugar Mill.
After some time spent swimming, sunbathing, shopping or surfing, you will usually stop for lunch at one of the North Shore's local food trucks or cafes.
In the afternoon, there's usually more time for exploring before heading back to Honolulu – although some tours may include stops at the Dole Plantation or the Polynesian Cultural Center.
What kinds of tours are available to go to the North Shore in Oahu?
Whether you're on a budget and looking for a more DIY approach, or you prefer the ease and convenience of having everything organized for you, there's definitely a North Shore tour option that will fit your needs.
Guided Transport Tour to Oahu North Shore
This is the simplest and usually most affordable type of tour, where you're just paying for transport to and from the North Shore. You'll be responsible for your own activities and lunch, but the tour guide will take care of the driving and logistics.
Day tour to the Oahu North Shore with Activities
Besides visiting infamous beaches like Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay, you'll also visit art galleries and shave-ice stands in Haleiwa Town and stop to admire the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles at Turtle beach.
North Shore Circle Island Adventure plus Snorkeling with Turtles
If you choose this North Shore Circle Island adventure you can expect to stop at Kaimana Beach to visit a WWI Memorial, the Diamond Head Beach Lookout, Eternity Beach and Laniakea Beach. Here, you'll also get to snorkel amongst Hawaiian green sea turtles.
Oahu North Shore plus Hanauma Bay Sightseeing Tour
See the famous beaches, go hiking or kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and swimming, and check out gorgeous waterfalls like Waimea Falls along the way.
Day trip to the Oahu North Shore plus Dole Pineapple Farm Tour
Focusing less on nature and more on culture, this option gives travelers the chance to dive deep into the local Dole Pineapple Plantation.
You'll learn about the history, significance, and harvesting processes of island pineapple (tasting included), and also visit the Old Waialua Sugar Mill and the North Shore Macadamia Nut Company – a great choice for foodies.
Full Day Customized Oahu North Shore Private Tour
Choose your own adventure with hassle-free pickup and drop-off from your accommodation anywhere on the island. This private tour option allows you complete freedom to customize your itinerary and activities for you and your group.
How much does a tour to the Oahu North Shore cost?
The cost of a tour to the Oahu North Shore will vary depending on the type of tour you choose.
A more basic transport-only tour will be relatively affordable, at around US$75 per person. An all-inclusive tour with activities and lunch included will be more expensive, at around US$150.
Private tours cost around US$700 per group, for up to 24 people.
What will you see and do on a North Shore day tour in Oahu?
Some of the most popular activities on North Shore day tours in Oahu include exploring the famous beaches, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, hiking, and swimming.
If you're interested in history and culture, your tour might include stops at the Dole Pineapple Plantation, Polynesian Cultural Center, or the Old Waialua Sugar Mill. If you're a nature lover, you might wander to waterfalls like Waimea Falls or kayak through the mangroves.
The more straightforward transport tours will take you up the middle of the island along the Kam Highway to the town of Haleiwa, giving you time to explore at your own pace.
On the other hand, the all-inclusive tours will usually include stops at places like Turtle Beach, Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay, where you'll have the chance to jump in the water, hike, or just relax on the sand.
When is the best time to visit the Oahu North Shore?
Thanks to its year-round sunshine, there really isn't a bad time to visit the Oahu North Shore.
The summer months are when you'll find the most tourists, so if you're looking for a more laid-back experience, consider visiting in the fringe seasons. For the biggest waves, visit in the wintertime.
Don't forget to bring sunscreen.
Bring a towel, swimsuit, and change of clothes if you're planning on getting in the water.
Wear shoes that can get wet and muddy, if you're going on a hike.
Bring cash for any food trucks or stands, you might want to stop at along the way.
Pack snacks and drinks, especially if you have young children with you.