There are a few truths about the populations on Oahu: Waikiki is too crowded and the North Shore is too crowded, as well. And while Waikiki is a place worth escaping, as it’s a metastasizing pocket of tourism, much like a swollen appendix, the North Shore is a lovely, must-see destination.
I had always wanted to see the North Shore in winter, when the waves flex and stand like skyscrapers, all to a repetitive, collective gasp haunting the land. But I was on the island in summer, when the seas are blue and flat and filled with families, which was a different perfect considering I was traveling with one, (more specifically, my own).
The Best of Hawaii’s North Shore in the Summer
Let us begin with the food, as there are a few not-to-be-missed eating experiences along that coast. On our first go-around, we had missed all of them because we opted to eat at the Hukilau Cafe from the movie Fifty First Dates, (but more on that in a future post). Nevertheless, we did stop at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck on our second visit, and perhaps better than the shrimps were the iced lattes served on the lot at another stand. (I also heard great things about Ted’s Bakery, but on account of a second bad eating move on my second loop around the island, we missed Ted’s, too.)
When not eating, most of our time on the North Shore was spent either at the beach or in the town of Haleiwa. I could wax poetic about picturing the seas transform from a sheet spilling toward the horizon to those winter giants intent on rampaging the land, or marvel at the moments I spent floating with my daughter in those precious days that I will one day look back upon with nostalgia and longing. But, I’ll spare you. Let me begin and end with a few points about the beaches of the North Shore:
1). In the summer, any beach will do. They are all beautiful. Unless, you’re a surfer and you have a great need to see the canvas of the Pipeline and the other famed waves.
2). Get to the beach early or late, as parking is limited. Or take the bus and forget the car.
3). It’s worth repeating: Don’t waste one of your meals on the food trucks at the beaches, when you could eat much better truck food farther down the road.
Now onto Haleiwa. It’s a quaint town with plenty of shopping. But best are the stores that present their ode to surfing. Between the handful of studios and shops, waves are presented at every time of day and across every medium, from canvas to photograph to three-dimensional display. One shop in town, which sells t-shirts is more like a museum than a retail outlet. (In fact, I can’t even confirm that they sold t-shirts because I didn’t once notice their products. I spent all my time gazing upon all of the surf memorabilia and trophies and ancient boards on display.)
Our time on the North Shore felt incomplete and looking back, if I were to do it all again, I would have skipped Waikiki completely and made my base in the North, where the food is good, the waves are legendary, and the crowds are much more tolerable.