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The north shore beaches of Oahu island in Hawaii are known for their fantastic sand and waves, snorkeling and sea turtle spotting, bargain food trucks, and overall laid back vibes.
To be fair, the north shore is no secret anymore, and there’s plenty of tourist traffic here, but it still manages to be one of the more quiet and undeveloped corners of Oahu island, and the wildlife sightings are as good as ever.
Whether you’re a surfer, a snorkeler, or a family with kids, you should definitely check out some of the best north shore Oahu beaches. Here’s a list of our favorites!
North Shore Shark Diving
If you want a unique thrill in Hawaii, you can cage dive with sharks on the north shore of Oahu! This is a popular activity where they take you a few miles out from the coast by boat and let you see sharks up close.
The most popular shark diving tours have a metal cage for protection, and you can see sandbar sharks, Galapagos sharks, and hammerheads.
It’s a snorkeling trip, not scuba diving, so you don’t need any certification (although swimming experience helps). This is a very high rated activity in Oahu!
Book Now: Shark Diving Tour
Best North Shore Beaches
1. Sunset Beach
This is a top spot for watching the sunset on the north shore, which is how it gets its name. However, it’s also a great beach in its own right.
Sunset beach has a long strip of soft white sand that’s perfect for relaxing during the day, and there’s even a photogenic bent palm tree where you can take pictures!
Please don’t climb on this palm tree though, because it’s delicate and we want to keep enjoying it for as long as we can.
The summer waves at Sunset Beach are mellow, while the winter waves are some of the biggest on the north shore. However, you can still relax on the sand even when the water’s not as swimmable.
This beach also has public bathrooms and showers across the street that you can use, with a bus stop and a fair amount of car parking. Don’t forget to check out the nearby food trucks if you’re feeling hungry.
Overall, it’s definitely one of the best north shore Oahu beaches. If I had to pick just one as my favorite, it’d probably be this one.
The sunsets here are legendary, and it’s usually not too crowded!
2. Ka’ena Point
The northwestern tip of Oahu island, known as Ka’ena Point, is only reachable by hiking, but it’s well worth the effort.
This is an amazing place to chill by the ocean, and it’s a wildlife sanctuary so you can see whales, Hawaiian monk seals, and Albatross birds.
There are small sandy beaches along the way, as well as tide pools and a rock arch. It’s definitely one of the best hikes on the north shore.
Ka’ena Point is a 5-6 mile roundtrip hike, but the trail is flat all the way, making it pretty easy overall.
This is one of the more family friendly hikes on Oahu and it’s great for kids, although I’d try to avoid the midday heat. This is also one of the best sunset spots on the whole island.
Keep in mind if you do Ka’ena Point for sunset then you’ll be walking back to your car in the dark, so it’s a good idea to bring a headlight!
Read More: Ka’ena Point Hike
3. Haleiwa Beach
Haleiwa is a historic town in Oahu that serves as the main town center of the north shore. It has a laidback vibe with lots of fun shops and a population of only 5,000 people, although the tourist traffic makes it seem a bit busier.
There are actually three different beaches in Haleiwa. First, you have the main beach, which is a long stretch of sand with mountain views and occasional turtle sightings.
Next, there’s the nearby Haleiwa Ali’i beach, which is smaller but has public restrooms, showers, and a big parking lot right by the beach.
Last, but not least, you can find Haleiwa Beach Park on the east side of the harbor, with a bus stop, showers, and plenty of parking. We also saw sea turtles swimming there.
All three of the beaches in Haleiwa are very nice and worth visiting!
After checking out the beaches in Haleiwa, don’t forget to hit up Matsumoto’s Shave Ice to cool off.
They have dozens of fun shave ice flavors like bubblegum, guava, lemon, and passion fruit, plus add-ons like ice cream, Azuki beans, and Mochi (Japanese rice balls).
This shop dates back to 1951, and they make some of the best shave ice we’ve had anywhere in Oahu, Hawaii!
4. Laniakea Beach
If you’re wanting to see turtles, this is definitely one of the best north shore Oahu beaches to visit. In fact, it’s the single best beach for spotting turtles anywhere on the island.
There’s almost always one or two big turtles here, relaxing and lounging on the sand. We’ve come to this beach many times and always spotted turtles!
Remember to keep a healthy distance from the turtles, because they’re protected under Hawaiian law and it’s illegal to touch them (fines can be anywhere from $1,000 to $10,500 USD).
Aside from the sea turtles, Laniakea is also a pretty nice little beach in its own right, with clean sand and palm trees, although it’s not a very big beach and the shore is too rocky for swimming (unless you’re a turtle).
Basically, this is a place to stop for awhile, not stay. Parking is pretty scarce too, so you’ll want to arrive early. The best time to see turtles seems to be from around 11 AM to 3 PM, when they like sunning on the beach.
5. Waimea Bay
In the summer, Waimea Beach is popular for its jumping rock. In the winter, this bay is a world famous surfing spot with huge waves up to 40 feet high (12 meters).
There are bathrooms, showers, and a fair sized parking lot right next to the beach, although it tends to fill up easily, which leaves you with street parking up the hill.
If you want to do more exploring, you can also check out the nearby Waimea Valley, which has an easy hiking trail with a waterfall and botanical gardens.
6. Aweoweo Beach Park
This is a beautiful family friendly beach that’s a bit of a hidden gem, just west of Haleiwa.
It’s a small, quiet beach park that has bathrooms, showers, handwashing sinks, and a picnic area with a drinking fountain. This is a neighborhood beach, so it’s limited to street parking only.
Aweoweo Beach has nice, soft sand and occasional sea turtle sightings. Overall, it’s one of the best north shore beaches, and it’s perfect for a family BBQ or something similar!
7. Shark’s Cove
This is a little cove that’s well known for its tide pools and snorkeling opportunities. Good water shoes are highly recommended here.
Don’t be scared off by the name — you aren’t likely to run into any dangerous sharks here, although the cove does have plenty of fish, turtles, and other marine life to see. You may occasionally see a black tip reef shark swimming through the underwater lava tubes, but they’re usually shy and harmless to humans.
There are public showers and restrooms in the parking area for Shark’s Cove, plus a fair amount of parking spots, and you can find some food trucks across the street.
The summer months are generally the best time to visit the cove because of calmer waves and gentler waters. Animals to see include parrot fish, eels, trigger fish, and more.
Remember to give plenty of space to the fish and coral, and take only pictures, so everyone can continue to enjoy this place for many years to come!
8. Ehukai Beach / Banzai Pipeline
This is one of the most famous surf spots in the world, so lots of people come here to watch the pro surfers riding the giant waves in the winter.
For the most impressive waves, you’ll generally want to visit between November and February. Don’t try to swim at this time if there are warning signs, because the water can be dangerous.
Ehukai Beach sits across the street from the Sunset Beach Elementary School, and there are lots of public bathrooms and showers to use, so that’s handy.
If you want to do some short trekking, check out the nearby Ehukai pillbox hike, which has nice ridge line views of the north shore from above, as well as a couple of old military bunkers (‘pillboxes’) that you can explore.
9. Turtle Bay
This is a nice man-made bay that’s also home to the comfy Turtle Bay Resort, which is actually the only resort on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
You don’t have to be a hotel guest to visit the beach, and parking is free for outsiders, although hotel guests will have more opportunities to see turtles, as well as the sunrise and sunset.
Turtle sightings are common on this beach! Just remember to give them plenty of space so they can do as they please. Overall, it’s a nice beach and never too crowded.
The Malaekahana State Recreation Area has a long beach with white sand and almost no people. It’s totally different from the crowds at Waikiki.
Technically this beach is located on the northeast corner of Oahu, so it’s separate from the other north shore beaches on this list, but it’s still easy to visit if you’re driving to the north shore from the windward side of the island.
This is a great place for a family camp or day picnic. The beaches are nice, the facilities are good, there’s lots of parking, and everything is totally quiet.
It’s free to visit the beach, but camping permits are required to stay overnight. They’re easy to get and the prices are reasonable. For supplies, you can find a Foodland shopping center and Ace Hardware in nearby La’ie. Enjoy!
11. Hukilau Beach
This is another beach on the northeast side of Oahu, about 15 minutes’ drive from the other north shore beaches in this travel guide.
Hukilau Beach Park is just a short distance from Malaekahana, and it’s another quiet, family friendly beach with soft white sand. Waves are medium size, and the beach has plenty of space with very few people.
Overall, even though it’s technically located outside of the main north shore area, this is a great beach to visit while driving north from the windward side of Oahu!
Map Of The Best North Shore Oahu Beaches
Here’s a fun map of some of the best beaches on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. All of these beaches are free to visit!
You can click the icons on the map to get more info on each point of interest, but keep in mind some of the locations on this map may be approximate.
Best Oahu Tours
Where To Stay In Oahu
More Hawaii Travel Tips
Thanks for looking! I hope you enjoyed this list of the best north shore Oahu beaches in Hawaii. There are so many nice beaches on this side of the island.
Don’t forget to check out my complete list of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii!