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When you imagine picturesque beaches in Hawaii, the beaches of the North Shore are what come to mind.
Located just over an hour from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, the North Shore is home to more than seven miles of sandy beaches that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, surfing and snorkelling.
1. Laniakea Beach
Laniakea Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the North Shore of Oahu as it’s the best location to see the incredible Hawaiian green sea turtles.
The green sea turtle is an endangered species. It is, therefore, illegal to touch these wild animals, even if they come near you, those found to be breaking this rule can face prosecution.
A trip to this beach during the summer months will almost guarantee a turtle sighting. However, during the winter months, this beach is subject to some intense waves, as such the turtles are significantly less likely to come ashore.
Unlike some beach parks in the area, there are no facilities at Laniakea Beach, nor are there any stores within walking distance, therefore it’s a good idea to come prepared if you plan to spend a couple of hours here.
Parking at this beach is limited, combined with its popularity means that it’s a good idea to get here early where possible.
2. Shark’s Cove
Situated between Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline is the ominous-sounding Shark’s Cove.
This beach is actually a large set of tide pools within Pupukea Beach Park, which is made up of many other coves, sections, and beaches.
Unlike some of the other beaches on this list, Shark’s Cove is incredibly rocky and therefore not suitable for young children and families.
That being said, this terrain is perfect for snorkelling during the summer months when you’re able to explore underwater marine life including; spot eels, octopuses, and schools of colourful fish.
There are usually food trucks so you can grab a bite to eat, as well as a surf shop over the road should you need to buy or hire anything. You will also find showers and public restrooms nearby.
If you’re visiting Oahu in the winter months then we’d recommend skipping out on this beach as the waves make it impossible to snorkel or sunbathe while the rocks make it a dangerous spot for surfing.
3. Haleiwa Alii Beach Park
Haleiwa Alii Beach Park is situated just a short walk from Haleiwa town, home to the North Shore Marketplace which includes several restaurants and stores that are perfect for a casual meal or picking up a Hawaii souvenir.
This is one of the best beaches on the North Shore for families since there’s a broad range of facilities and amenities including; a volleyball court, a grassy area with picnic tables, toilets, showers and a whole host of parking.
Alongside this, there’s also lots of shade with palm trees near the sand.
This beach is also perfect for a variety of water sports, including kayaking, standup paddleboarding, snorkelling, and surfing the large waves during winter.
If you are not taking to the water yourself, you will often find many experienced surfers enjoying the waves which make for great entertainment.
4. Waimea Bay Beach Park
Roughly five miles north of Haleiwa town, just off Kamehameha Highway, you’ll find Waimea Bay Beach Park.
Famous for its incredible 40-foot waves during the winter time, Waimea Bay Beach Park attracts pro surfers from all over the world.
However, winter isn’t the only time you’ll want to visit this incredible beach as during the summer months, as the oceans calm you can enjoy fishing, bodyboarding, and swimming.
Take care when entering the water as the shallow water drops away quickly, to more than 20ft.
Being a beach park, Waimea Bay has significantly more facilities when compared to some of the other beaches on this list including on-duty lifeguards, showers, restrooms and picnic tables.
While every beach on the North Shore is as picturesque as the last, Waimea Bay Beach Park is particularly special with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the wonderous mountains towering above you on the other.
Many locals head to Da Rock for an exciting dive into the beautiful waters below.
While you’re here be sure to check out the nearby Waimea Falls Park. This area is perfect for hiking a trail through botanical gardens to one of the best waterfalls on the island.
5. Kuilima Cove (Turtle Bay Beach)
Kuilima Cove (also known as Turtle Beach) is situated within the five-star luxury Turtle Bay Beach Resort, however, both entry and parking are available for the general public for free – although it can feel as though you’re trespassing on multiple occasions.
If you’re looking for an incredible family-friendly beach in the north of Oahu where you have the opportunity to snorkel and see turtles then we can’t recommend Turtle Beach enough!
Snorkelling gear, drinks and snacks are all available from the beach hut, while the beachside restaurant also has rave reviews.
While the prices of food and rental equipment are high in comparison to the rest of the island, the facilities of the beach more than makeup for it.
We visited this beach during the winter months (January) and found that it was one of the only beaches on the North Shore where we had the chance to safely swim (even with our one-year-old) since the ocean swells are limited by the reef.
6. Ehukai Beach Park (Banzai Pipeline)
Banzai Pipeline is one of the most famous beaches on the North Shore for surfers.
Home of the tubular wave, this beach hosts a number of famous surfing competitions including; the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and Billabong Pipeline Masters.
However, while Ehukai Beach Park can be one of the best North Shore beaches it can also be one of the most dangerous.
In the winter, huge swells break on the shallow reef creating insane surfing conditions and while these massive waves attract surfers from all over the world, they can be deadly with conflicting reports stating that up to a dozen lives have been lost to the “World’s Deadliest Wave”.
Outside of the winter months, Ehukai Beach Park is great for swimming with lifeguards, showers, restrooms and plenty of picnic spots.
7. Pupukea Beach Park
Pupukea Beach Park is a conservation area for marine life and one of the best places for water fun on this side of the island.
While this beach is perfect for scuba diving, the strong currents mean that it’s only recommended for experienced divers.
Just outside of the cove, divers will be able to witness incredible rock formations and lava tubes, as well as an abundance of marine life.
While this isn’t the best beach for youngsters on the North Shore it’s still suitable for them with plenty of small tide pools to explore.
This beach has plenty of parking, toilet facilities, and showers as well as a nearby surf hire shop, food trucks and a convenience store.
8. Three Tables Beach
Situated within the conservation district, Three Tables Beach gets its name from the three flat-table-like coral formations that sit in the water.
This beach may be small when compared to some of the others along the North Shore. However, it’s home to some of the best coral on the Northern coastline of Oahu making it perfect for snorkelling.
⚠️ Important: When we visited this beach in January it was closed to the public due to the intense waves. As such we would not reccomend visiting during winter.
If you are looking to go out here, then you’ll find the best coral and subsequently the most fish out by the tables themselves.
However, be sure to remain aware of the ocean’s conditions as potential surges here could push you onto or into the three tables which could be incredibly dangerous.
9. Sunset Beach
The two-mile-long Sunset Beach is another surfing mecca located on the North Shore of Oahu.
Situated adjacent to Kamehameha Highway, this beach is perfect for surfing in the winter and snorkelling in the summer.
However, it’s no surprise that what makes this beach truly special is the view you get here as the sun sets.
Given its size and year-round appeal, this beach is certainly one of the more popular ones on the North Shore and therefore may not be ideal for those looking for a relaxing beach day.
10. Mokuleia Beach Park
At 38.5 acres, Mokuleia Beach Park is one of the largest areas on the North Shore and is home to an extensive range of facilities and amenities including picnic tables, shower blocks and a large parking lot.
The long beach provides plenty of opportunity to relax, whilst the shallow reef of the ocean is perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Other popular activities available here include; horseback riding, windsurfing and kiteboarding. Meanwhile, the nearby mountains are also perfect for an early morning trek.
Camp Mokule’ia is located within the beach park itself which allows camping in either a tent or in one of the cabins for those looking to extend a day trip into a night away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
11. Chun’s Reef Beach
Located just two miles north of Haleʻiwa Beach Park is Chun’s Reef.
Named after a local surfer John Chun, this white sand beach is a fantastic spot for water sports and is popular with both surfing beginners and pros.
During the summer months, this is a great area for both swimming and snorkelling with plenty of marine life to enjoy.
However, keep in mind that this beach doesn’t have as many facilities as some of the others on this list, and street parking is limited.
That being said, this beach is a popular one for those looking for a low-key alternative to Waikiki with a number of beachfront vacation rental properties available.
12. Kahana Bay Beach Park
Kahana Bay Beach Park is perhaps best known for its stunning natural beauty, with clear blue water and a backdrop of lush green mountains.
The beach is situated in a protected cove, which makes it a good spot for swimming and water activities.
Being a beach park you’ll find a variety of amenities here including restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and BBQ grills, making it a popular destination for families and groups.
One of the unique features of Kahana Bay Beach Park is its proximity to the Kahana Valley State Park, which is located just across the street from the beach.
This park offers hiking trails that wind through the lush rainforest and lead to scenic lookout points, making it a great destination for nature lovers.
13. Lāʻielohelohe Beach Park
Situated on the northeasterly side of Oahu just south of the Polynesian Cultural Center, Lāʻielohelohe Beach Park is separate from most other beaches on this list.
While it’s near impossible to choose the most beautiful beach on the island of Oahu, for us, this one came very, very close with a strip of white sand as far as the eye can see set on an epic backdrop of incredible mountains it’s hard not to fall in love with the beauty this area has to offer.
During the winter months, this beach is popular with surfers and bodyboarders. However, during the summer it’s perfect for swimming and other outdoor activities.
Meanwhile, the variety of amenities, including restrooms, outdoor showers, and picnic tables, makes it a fantastic spot for families looking for a beach day on this side of the island.
14. Malaekahana Bay Beach Park
Malaekahana Beach is located on the northeast corner of Oahu and is therefore separate from the other North Shore beaches on this list.
However, don’t let that put you off visiting as this beach’s remote location makes it one of the quietest on the island.
The challenging waves at Malaekahana Beach make it a fantastic spot for surfing during the winter months.
However, those looking for a more relaxing experience can take a leisurely stroll along the beach, soak up the sun, and enjoy the stunning scenery.
While visiting this beach is free camping permits are required if you’re looking to stay overnight. These are easy to get online in advance and the prices are very reasonable.
15. Hukilau Beach
This is another quiet, family-friendly beach with soft white sand situated on the northeast corner of Oahu.
The calm, clear waters here are great for swimming and snorkelling, and the beach is generally less crowded than some of the other popular spots on the island.
In addition to its natural beauty, Hukilau Beach is also steeped in local culture and history.
It was once a popular spot for the traditional Hawaiian fishing practice of hukilau, which involved casting a large net into the ocean to catch fish.
Today, visitors can still see remnants of the old fishing nets and learn about the area’s rich cultural heritage.