Oahu north shore beaches are a huge draw for outdoor enthusiasts visiting the island.
Featuring world-famous waves in the winter and somewhat calmer conditions in the summer, Oahu’s north shore beaches offer both beauty and things to do.
Spending time at the north shore beaches is one of the best things to do in Oahu!
A surfing mecca in the winter, Oahu’s north shore is home to the Seven-Mile Miracle, a series of world-class surf breaks that draws the best surfers on the planet to prove their prowess.
While surfing is the dominant winter activity at many North Shore Oahu beaches, in the summer you may be able to swim or snorkel when conditions permit.
And year round, you can soak in the sun on the sand, take a stroll, observe marine life, or watch the sunset.
Sunset Beach, Ehukai Beach (the Banzai Pipeline), Pupukea Beach, Waimea Bay Beach, and Haleiwa Beach are some of the most popular beaches on the north shore of Oahu.
Nature lovers will enjoy the beauty at any of the Oahu north shore beaches, but a stop at Laniakea Beach to (hopefully!) see some Hawaiian green sea turtles is a must!
We’ve visited the north shore beaches both in the summer and the winter, and photos do not really capture the wild beauty of the shore, especially the awesome might of the winter waves. You have to visit and watch the show in person!
In this article, we’ve rounded up the very best Oahu north shore beaches, with information on how to visit. We also have a map of the best beaches on the north shore.
And now, let’s get started discovering the top beaches on the north shore of Oahu!
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Best Beaches on the North Shore of Oahu
1. Sunset Beach Park: One of the Prettiest Oahu North Shore Beaches!
One of the most popular beaches on Oahu’s north shore, Sunset Beach is simply gorgeous. It is one of the top beaches in Oahu, period.
Sunset Beach State Park is located right along the Kamehameha Highway, and it’s a long stretch of beautiful golden sand fringed with vegetation.
In the winter, Sunset Beach is known for its epic waves, and you will likely see expert surfers riding the waves if you visit when the surf is up. The beach hosts an annual surfing competition as well, part of the Triple Crown of Surfing.
If you visit in the winter months, you’ll likely see signs warning you not to enter the water, because the waves are too dangerous for swimming or snorkeling.
But in the summer, when the waves are usually much calmer, Sunset Beach is a popular snorkeling spot. The reef here is home to many species of colorful fish.
Winter or summer, the sunsets at Sunset Beach are spectacular. And the beach features a few bent-over palms that make it lovely for photography!
Sunset Beach is lifeguarded during the day, and there are restrooms and showers. Parking is available across from the beach and along the side of the highway.
If you plan to visit, we have a complete guide to Sunset Beach Park on Oahu’s north shore!
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
2. Ehukai Beach Park: The Famous Banzai Pipeline
Right next to Sunset Beach is one of the most famous Oahu north shore beaches: Ehukai Beach or the Banzai Pipeline. It’s one of the most renowned surfing spots in the world!
The Pipeline is actually a reef in the ocean where the waves break. We saw a sign on the beach pointing to it!
In the winter, Ehukai Beach hosts many surfing competitions, including the Triple Crown of Surfing. It’s a great beach to watch the best surfers in the world take on the massive walls of water, sometimes as high as 40 feet.
It gets super crowded on competition days though, so plan to arrive early if you want a parking spot reasonably close.
In the summer, the waves are much calmer, even suitable for swimming. Always check with the lifeguard on duty if you plan to enter the water though!
Ehukai Beach is great for a beach stroll any time of the year, and for sunbathing.
You’ll find restrooms and showers at Ehukai Beach Park, and the beach is lifeguarded. There is a parking lot, but it tends to fill up early.
3. Shark’s Cove / Pupukea Beach Park
Pupukea Beach Park is one of the best snorkeling spots on the north shore of Oahu in the summer! Not in the winter though, because the waves can be huge here in the winter months.
Located off Kamehameha Highway, Pupukea Beach is one of a string of Oahu north shore beaches you have to visit. There are food trucks across the street too!
Close to shore, the waters are usually very calm in the summer, making Pupukea Beach Park a family-friendly spot. It is usually crowded so arrive early.
Not only is the snorkeling great, there are tide pools to explore. You’ll see lots of colorful fish and coral.
You can access the water either at Shark’s Cove, or at Three Tables. Of the two, Three Tables is by far the easier access.
To enter via Shark’s Cove, you have to descend a steep dirt path to the rocks that surround the cove and make your way in. You’ll definitely need footwear with good traction.
At Three Tables, there are some rocks, but there is a golden sand beach as well, making entry easier, although you still need water shoes.
Large pools form inside the “three tables” — the reef — allowing for splendid snorkeling.
Pupukea Beach is not lifeguarded. There are showers and restrooms, as well as free parking.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
4. Waimea Bay Beach
Featuring Waimea Rock, a 25-foot cliff jumping spot in the summer, Waimea Bay Beach is one of the most beautiful Oahu north shore beaches.
Waimea Bay Beach is located off Kamehameha Highway across from Waimea Valley, which is popular for its waterfall, luau, and botanical garden.
In the winter, Waimea Bay is known for its massive waves, which can be as high as 40 feet. Surfing competitions such as the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational are held here in the winter and you can watch experts trying to master the swells.
Surfing at Waimea Bay is for experts only, and you should stay well clear of the water in winter.
In the summer, though, the waters at Waimea Bay are generally calmer, allowing for swimming and snorkeling on either side of the bay. You can rent snorkeling gear in Haleiwa.
When the waters are calm, you will likely see people cliff jumping at Waimea Bay, both from Waimea Rock and other rocks in the bay. Exercise extreme caution if you choose to jump, because water levels vary.
Waimea Bay Beach is lifeguarded, and there are showers, restrooms, and picnic tables. The parking lot fills up really early.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
5. Laniakea Beach
Also known as Turtle Beach, Laniakea Beach near Haleiwa is one of the top turtle-watching spots in Oahu.
Not surprising, therefore, that it is also one of the most crowded beaches on the north shore of Oahu.
You’ll likely see turtles resting here on the beach, walking to or from the ocean, or swimming in the shallows.
Areas where the turtles rest are usually roped off and volunteers help to make sure that onlookers stay a respectable distance from the turtles.
While most folks that visit Laniakea Beach stay focused on the small area where you can see the Hawaiian green sea turtles, also take the time to walk the beach towards Chun’s Reef.
The beach is beautiful, with golden sand and a backdrop of swaying palms and other vegetation.
Note that the waters here are usually rough in the winter. There is a lifeguard in the Chun’s Reef area.
There are no restrooms or showers at Laniakea Beach. There is a decent-sized parking lot across the street, but even so, you’ll likely have to wait for a spot unless it is early or late in the day. Be careful crossing the street.
6. Haleiwa Beach Park
Haleiwa Beach Park is located off Kamehameha Highway, super close to the town of Haleiwa, so it’s convenient to visit.
What we didn’t know before we visited the first time was that this park is also a great place to see Hawaiian green sea turtles!
If you walk the paved part of the park towards the right as you face the ocean, you will very likely see turtles swimming in the shallows. There isn’t a beach here, so you have to look down over the ledge into the water.
You may also see sea turtles resting on the beach here. If you do, watch them from the recommended distance of 10 feet or more. It’s illegal to disturb turtles or disrupt their normal behavior patterns.
The waters of Haleiwa Beach are considered calmer than other beaches on Oahu’s north shore, often suitable for beginner surfers, and swimmers and snorkelers in the summer when conditions are right.
Haleiwa Beach has a picturesque setting, with golden sands perfect for sunbathing and strolling. Though the beach is popular, it rarely feels overcrowded.
If you enjoy history, stop to admire the Haleiwa Beach Park War Memorial. The white obelisk honors the service members from Waialua-Kahuku killed in WWII and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Haleiwa Beach Park offers a good-sized parking lot, a grassy area with shade for picnicking, restrooms and showers.
The beach is lifeguarded during the day, making it a family-friendly option if you are traveling with kids.
7. Turtle Bay Beach / Kawela Bay
Located right by the Turtle Bay Resort on the north shore of Oahu, Turtle Bay Beach (also sometimes confusingly called Turtle Beach) is a crescent-shaped white sand beach.
Because of easy access from the resort, and the relative family-friendly nature of Turtle Bay Beach, the small beach is usually crowded with guests from Turtle Bay Resort.
The waters here are protected from winter swells, but snorkeling is sometimes impacted by visibility issues. When it’s clear though, it’s a great beginner snorkeling location.
You may see Hawaiian green sea turtles or seals resting on the sand, or in the shallow waters.
There is public parking for Turtle Bay Beach at the back of the resort: follow the signs for beach access. From the parking lot, it’s an easy walk to the beach.
If you want a more secluded experience, you can walk over to neighboring Kawela Bay, which also usually offers calm waters in the summer, great for swimming, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding.
There are sandy hiking trails to explore at Kawela Bay, and do not miss the massive banyan tree! The tree featured in the TV show Lost.
There are no amenities at Kawela Bay, but you’ll find restrooms at Turtle Bay Beach. Beach House by Roy Yamaguchi is an excellent place for lunch or dinner
Note that neither Turtle Bay Beach nor Kawela Bay is lifeguarded.
8. Ka’ena Point Beaches
Ka’ena Point is a rugged, very beautiful spot at the extreme west of Oahu’s north shore.
Trails in Ka’ena Point State Park lead to the point from both the north shore and the west side of Oahu.
This oceanfront hike is a must-do for nature lovers and landscape photographers!
If you drive to Ka’ena Point along Oahu’s north shore, you’ll see some pristine coves with sandy beaches as you approach the trailhead.
We didn’t see any signs with names, nor are any marked on Google maps (other than as Ka’ena Point State Park), but it’s worth stopping at one of these beautiful beaches to soak in the secluded beauty of this part of the island.
The beaches are remote, so we do not recommend entering the water, but you can walk along the sand, snap lots of photos, and enjoy the sun.
We suggest visiting in combination with hiking the trail to Ka’ena Point, or a part of it, because this part of the island is otherwise remote.
There are no amenities at these beaches, but Ka’ena Point State Park offers restrooms at the trailhead, along with parking and a viewing area. There are no lifeguards.
9. Aweoweo Beach
One of the less crowded Oahu north shore beaches, Aweoweo Beach is a long stretch of gold sand.
Aweoweo Beach is located in a residential area on the western side of the north shore, between Haleiwa and Mokuleia, and on most days you’ll just see a few locals here.
Just like the Ka’ena Point beaches, Aweoweo Beach allows you to soak in the beauty of Oahu’s north shore without having to struggle for parking or space on the sand.
The water here is shallow for a little distance, great for wading when conditions are right. It is a little rocky when you enter the water, but they clear out after a bit.
Aweoweo Beach offers snorkeling, and you can also look for sea turtles on the rocks by the shore at low tide. Stroll the beach, and look for coral or shells on the beach as you stroll! It’s a great place to watch sunset.
You will find a parking area by the beach. There are restrooms, outdoor showers, a kids’ play area, and picnic tables at ʻĀweoweo Beach Park. The beach is not lifeguarded.
There is no shade, and no rentals nearby, so get what you need in Haleiwa before you arrive.
10. Malaekahana State Recreation Area
Located between Kahuku and Laie in northeast Oahu, Malaekahana State Recreation Area is a wooded state park on the water. We’ve seen a peacock on the grounds!
The gorgeous long cove features golden sand and there’s plenty of shade if you are looking to spend a beach day on Oahu away from the crowds!
Little islands off shore make the view very picturesque.
Malaekahana Beach park offers swimming when conditions permit, boogie boarding, and shore fishing. You can stroll on the sand, and have a picnic meal with a view.
Look for Hawaiian green sea turtles or Hawaiian monk seals in the shallows.
With advance reservations and a permit, you can even camp in the campground here, and enjoy sunrise and stargazing!
Entrance to the park is free, and you will find plenty of parking. There are restrooms and showers, and picnic areas.
Oahu’s famous shrimp trucks are nearby if you want to try a shrimp plate!
Map of the Best Oahu North Shore Beaches
Ocean Safety Tips
Hawaii’s beaches are beautiful, but ocean activities can be dangerous. Ocean conditions are dynamic and can change without warning.
Here are some tips to enjoy the ocean and beaches safely:
- ALWAYS heed posted warning signs.
- Check conditions just before you arrive at your chosen beach, and watch conditions at the beach for a bit before you decide to enter the water.
- Swim at a lifeguarded beach and ask the lifeguard for advice before you enter the water.
- Never turn your back on the ocean, whether you are standing at the shore or on a cliff above. If you see wet rocks or sand, it means the water has been here recently.
- Know your limitations, especially if you are not an experienced swimmer. If in doubt, do not go out.
- If you choose to enter the water, go with a partner or in a group.
- Know that alcohol can impair judgment and motor skills in the water.
- Keep children close and always keep your eyes on what they are doing in the water.
- Watch for sharp coral or rocks or sea urchins.
Snorkeling and Water Activities Gear Checklist
Though you can rent snorkeling gear or use the ones that come with tours, we invested in our own gear, mainly due to Covid-19 (why take the risk?).
- Snorkeling Gear Set: We love our Cressi Light Weight Premium Travel Snorkel Set for All Family, compact and easy to pack, great fitting, and very clear underwater. The Zenoplige Mask Fins Snorkel Set is a great budget option.
- Sunscreen: Hawaii’s sun can be harsh. Avoid sunburn with sunscreen compliant with Hawaii’s 104 Reef Act. The Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray, moisturizing with Vitamin E, is our go-to when we travel to Hawaii. Apply liberally and regularly!
- Underwater Camera: Want to capture Hawaii’s incredible underwater seascape and marine life? Your best budget option is the Fujifilm QuickSnap Waterproof Disposable Camera, reasonably cheap with good underwater photos! If you want high-end photos and video, you must invest in the premium GoPro HERO12 – Waterproof Action Camera, (waterproof to 33 feet)!
- Inflatable Life Jackets: If you’re planning paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and other water sports, and prefer your own life jacket, consider one of these two US Coast Guard approved options: the Onyx M-16 Series Belt Back Manual Inflatable Life Jacket or the Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket.
- Water Shoes: Some of Hawaii’s beaches have sharp lava rocks or coral reefs, good water shoes will protect your feet (but please do not walk on the reef!). We use the Merrell Hydro Moc rubber shoes (men’s, women’s), great for slippery rocks. If you prefer sandals, we recommend the Keen Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandals (men’s, women’s).
- Waterproof Waist Pack: Keep your rental car keys, cards, and phone dry and safe while you swim or snorkel with a dry bag. We love this 2-pack AiRun Tech Pouch with waist strap. The transparent one is touch-screen friendly!
Best Oahu Tours
Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?
Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!
The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.
Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!
Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.
A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu adventure for your bucket list.
We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.
Renting a Car in Oahu
If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.
Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).
While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.
We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Honolulu Airport Shuttle
If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!
This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!
Where to Stay in Oahu
Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.
While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.
Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!
On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.
More Oahu Travel Inspiration
Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!
Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.
Of course you’ll want to learn about all the exciting things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, and Waikiki, the touristic core of Oahu. We also have an article on the best places to eat in Waikiki!
Check out our guide to the best beaches in Oahu, and a round-up of the best beaches on the north shore of Oahu. Also read about must-visit Oahu waterfalls and botanical gardens in Oahu you have to visit.
Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!
More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.
Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.
We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!
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