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The 10 Best Beaches on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii

A vacation to Oahu, Hawaii, is incomplete without spending at least 1-2 days exploring the North Shore. In fact, this section of the island is famous for its world-renowned waves in the winter months, attracting pro surfers from all over the world. It’s also a popular spot for snorkeling and sunbathing in the summertime!

You may even have already heard of certain North Shore attractions, like the Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, or even Shark’s Cove. Located just over an hour from Waikiki by car, the North Shore makes a leisurely road trip from Honolulu. However, you may not have time to visit all seven miles of sandy beaches during your Hawaii vacation.

With this in mind, we’ll review the best beaches on the North Shore of Oahu, detailing the top activities at each location and other tips for visiting. Hopefully, this travel guide will help you choose the ultimate North Shore beach (or beaches!) to see on your trip to Hawaii! We also include a North Shore beaches map at the end of this guide.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission when you purchase a product or book a stay through these links at no extra cost to you.

The best North Shore beaches on Oahu

1. Waimea Bay Beach Park 

View of Waimea Bay Beach Park, showing clear blue water and people on the beach.

Many visitors consider Waimea Bay the most beautiful North Shore Oahu Beach.

Waimea Bay Beach Park is one of the best Oahu beaches to visit, no matter the time of year. Its clear blue-green water makes it extremely popular as a family-friendly swimming and snorkeling spot in the summer months. Additionally, surfers flock to this beach in the winter due to the large waves found here.

Waimea Bay is also the site of “The Eddie,” a big wave surfing tournament named for famous local lifeguard and surfer Eddie Aikau. This iconic North Shore spot is well-maintained and equipped with picnic tables, public restrooms and showers, and a lifeguard tower.

If visiting Waimea Bay Beach is at the top of your list, we suggest planning to arrive early in the morning. This way, you can secure a free parking spot in the lot next to the beach.

However, if you sleep in, you can find additional street parking along Kamehameha Highway or paid parking at Waimea Valley Park (a short walk away). Be prepared to pay around $10-25 per vehicle in the paid lots.

2. Sunset Beach Park

View of an empty Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu, with a rainbow in the distance.

Perfect for sunbathing in the summer and watching surfers in the winter, it’s no wonder that Sunset Beach is a favorite among tourists.

Sunset Beach Park is next to Ehukai Beach and spans over two miles to Sunset Point. This North Shore attraction features soft beige sand and is ideal for sunbathing, swimming (depending on conditions in the summertime), and watching surfers catch a wave.

It has become an important surfing location in the winter, even serving as one of the three venues for The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing since 1983. Based on the name, you may be able to guess that this North Shore beach is a top place on Oahu to watch the sunset.

Therefore, we recommend packing a picnic and enjoying the end of the day at Sunset Beach. If you’d like to try a local snack while you’re there, don’t miss the Sunrise Shack. This adorable café offers coffee, tea, and papaya bowls and is undoubtedly one of the island’s most instagrammable places.

3. Laniakea Beach

A Hawaiian green sea turtle basking on Laniakea Beach on the North Shore of Oahu.

Laniakea Beach is the top place to watch for sea turtles on the North Shore.

If you’re searching for a place to observe Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, you can’t miss Laniakea Beach (also called Turtle Beach)! One of my best Oahu travel tips is to arrive between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., particularly during the summer, for your best chance of spotting these animals.

However, it’s important to remember that touching or harassing these sea turtles is illegal. In fact, Hawaiʻi’s Division of Aquatic Resources suggests that visitors maintain a distance of at least 10 feet (3 meters) from all turtles.

If you have any questions or doubts, please approach the Honu Guardian volunteers who are stationed here to keep the turtles safe. Parking for this small beach is free and located directly across the street.

Note that traffic on the North Shore tends to get backed up along Kamehameha Highway, so it’s always better to arrive earlier rather than later. Additionally, please avoid walking on the slippery rocks while making your way along the coast! 


4. Shark’s Cove

Tide pools surrounded by rocks at Shark's Cove, a popular snorkeling spot on the North Shore.

The tide pools at Shark’s Cove make a prime snorkeling location when the current is calm during the summertime.

Shark’s Cove is a section of Pupukea Beach Park and a favorite among tourists on the North Shore for snorkeling in the summer months. Snorkelers can see a vast range of marine life in these tide pools. For example, you may observe butterflyfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, tang, sea turtles, and eels.

However, you’ll notice that sharks are not on this list! Thankfully, the name “Shark’s Cove” comes from the shape of the reef in this area, which resembles a shark from an aerial view.

Remember that during the winter, the swell rises, making the ocean unsafe for snorkeling. By contrast, Shark’s Cove bustles with tourists when the water is calm during the summertime. Therefore, we suggest arriving early in the morning to secure a parking spot if you know you want to visit this beach!

Also, remember not to leave valuables in your car, as rental cars and tourists are easy to spot. It’s always better to take the proper precautions than to have to deal with a break-in during your Hawaii vacation.

Pro tip: We highly recommend packing water shoes to wear while snorkeling, so make sure to include them in your Hawaii packing list!

5. Ehukai Beach Park (Banzai Pipeline)

A surfer catching a wave at the Pipeline on the North Shore, Oahu.

The Pipeline is the best beach on the North Shore Oahu to watch professional surfers catch a wave.

This beach, also known as the Banzai Pipeline (or Pipeline/Pipe for locals), is likely the most famous surf destination on the North Shore. It also typically hosts the finale of the Vans of the Triple Crown of Surfing, called The Billabong Pipeline Masters.

You can find perfect barrel waves here in the winter months, landing Ehukai Beach Park among the best surf-watching locations in the world. However, leaving the actual surfing here to the professionals is best!

In fact, the waves at the Pipeline break in shallow water just above a sharp reef, making it a hazardous surf spot. When the ocean is calmer during summer, Ehukai is a famous Oahu beach for swimming and sunbathing.

It sits across the street from Sunset Beach Elementary School and offers picnic tables, public bathrooms and showers, a lifeguard stand, and free parking. While in the area, we suggest checking out the nearby Ehukai Pillbox Hike for an incredible view of the beach from above.

6. Three Tables Beach

A view of an empty Three Tables Beach, which becomes a popular snorkeling spot during the summer months on the North Shore.

Three Tables Beach is the second most popular snorkeling spot on the North Shore.

Less than half a mile from Shark’s Cove, Three Tables Beach forms part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District. It’s another of the island’s top snorkeling and diving spots during the warmer months, especially from May to September.

The best thing about Three Tables is that it’s great for people of all ages. Plus, you can relax on the sandy beach if you don’t feel like snorkeling! Those who choose to venture into the water can expect to encounter marine life such as goatfish, surgeonfish, grouper, cornetfish, parrotfish, wrasse, and sea cucumbers.

Plus, if you’re lucky, you may even spot Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles! If you’re wondering how this beach got its name, it’s thanks to three sections of the reef in this area that become visible during low tide and look like tables.

Pro tip: We always suggest keeping some cash on hand for your visit to the North Shore. For example, sometimes local mom-and-pop shops don’t accept cards. Moreover, you may use some money for food trucks, parking at the beach, or other small purchases.

7. Kuilima Cove (Turtle Bay Beach)

A view of Kuilima Cove, part of Turtle Bay Resort, showing people lounging in the sound and swimming in the water.

If you’re looking for the best beach on the North Shore for families, we recommend Kuilima Cove.

Kuilima Cove is a sheltered inlet protected from large waves, making it ideal for beginner-level snorkelers and one of the best things to do in Oahu with kids. Although this beach is connected to a resort (Turtle Bay Resort), you don’t have to be a guest to visit, and parking is free!

Kuilima Cove is particularly convenient, thanks to its nearby amenities. For example, you can rent your snorkeling gear as well as lounge chairs, cabanas, and umbrellas from the Sand Bar. Additionally, you can order takeout food and drinks from Roy’s Beach House if you get hungry.

If you decide to go snorkeling here, you can observe marine life like butterflyfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, damselfish, and maybe even green sea turtles in the deepest sandy areas. With this in mind, this beach is a fun place to try out your new GoPro!

Note that many people call Laniakea Beach “turtle beach” as a nickname. Meanwhile, Kuilima Cove (Turtle Bay Beach) is part of Turtle Bay Resort.


8. Mokuleia Beach Park

The secluded and empty Mokuleia Beach, a popular destination for windsurfers on the North Shore.

Visiting the secluded Mokuleia Beach is a much different experience from the bustling Waikiki Beach.

Mokuleia Beach Park is a hidden gem located just off Farrington Highway and three miles from the Kaena Point Trail. In the Hawaiian language, “mokule’ia” translates to “district of abundance.”

You may actually recognize this secluded beach, as it was the primary filming location for Season 1 of the TV series Lost. Mokuleia Beach features a shallow reef, providing good conditions for snorkeling in the summer months. Additionally, the soft beige-white sand is ideal for relaxing and sunbathing.

Nonetheless, this spot is most popular among windsurfers and kitesurfers throughout the year. Note that visitors should avoid entering the water during the winter due to strong swells. You can find picnic tables, restroom facilities, and ample parking here; however, no lifeguard is on duty.

9. Haleiwa Alii Beach Park & Haleiwa Beach Park

A view of Haleiwa Alii Beach Park, showing the ride on the sand and rocks surrounding the beach.

The sister beaches–Haleiwa Alii Beach Park and Haleiwa Beach Park–are convenient for those planning to visit Haleiwa Town.

Both Haleʻiwa Aliʻi Beach Park and Haleʻiwa Beach Park are located next to one another in Haleiwa Town, a popular North Shore community. During the winter months, the waves at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park can reach over 25 feet. Therefore, it becomes a top spot for surfers on the North Shore.

In fact, this sandy beach is best known for hosting the first event in the Triple Crown of Surfing competition: The Hawaiian Pro. While it’s possible to swim here in the summertime, Haleiwa Alii has a rocky bottom. So, it’s probably better for activities like surfing, kayaking, fishing, and diving.

Along Kamehameha Highway, you’ll find the nearby Haleiwa Beach Park. Since you can find calmer waves here, it’s a top location for beginner surfers and surfing lessons. This family-friendly park has picnic tables, public bathrooms, showers, and plenty of shade.

Although we don’t recommend swimming here due to the rocks and coral, Haleiwa Beach is ideal for kayaking, paddle boarding, and boogie boarding. You can also snorkel here–sometimes, you can even spot green sea turtles! However, we prefer Shark’s Cove or Three Tables for this activity.

10. Chun’s Reef Beach

A surfboard propped up on Chun's Reef, one of the most famous surfing beaches on Oahu.

Chun’s Reef is among the best locations for surfing lessons on the North Shore.

You’ll find Chun’s Reef off Kamehameha Highway, a long beach with fine white sand, just three miles from Haleiwa. Note that Chun’s isn’t a particularly good beach for swimming. However, it’s undoubtedly one of the most famous North Shore surf spots!

In particular, Chun’s Reef Beach is a top location for surfing lessons and is excellent for beginners and advanced surfers. However, it used to be a hidden surfing gem in the 1960s! The name “Chun’s Reef” dates back to this era, when a Kawailoa resident, John Chun, would bring his children here to surf.

Where to stay on the North Shore

Are you looking for the best hotels on the North Shore? Here are our top three recommendations. We’ve included options for every budget, ranging from luxury travelers to those backpacking through Hawaii.

Turtle Bay Resort

Turtle Bay Resort is the most upscale option you’ll find on the North Shore, with a beachfront location and two championship 18-hole golf courses. Plus, each of its hotel rooms, suites, Beach Cottages, and Ocean Villas features incredible ocean views.

This resort is ideal for families traveling with children or even a group of adults looking for a more luxurious option near the famous surfing beaches in this Oahu region. For example, Turtle Bay is just 5.5 miles from the Banzai Pipeline. Additionally, you may recognize this property from the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall!

Click here to book your stay at Turtle Bay Resort!

Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore

The Courtyard by Marriot Oahu North Shore is located in Laie, Hawaii, a mere 350 feet from the Polynesian Cultural Center. It’s also a short drive (20-30 minutes) to top North Shore beaches, such as Sunset Beach, the Pipeline, and Waimea Bay. Each of its 144 guest rooms features free high-speed WiFi, flat-panel TVs, and plush bedding.

Click here to book your stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore!

Backpackers Vacation Inn and Plantation Village

Backpackers Vacation Inn and Plantation Village is a budget-friendly hostel located in Haleiwa and across the street from Three Tables Beach. They offer a range of accommodations, including dorm beds, private beach studios, and entire cabins. If you plan to spend most of your time on the North Shore surfing, Backpackers is a perfect option. Just remember: this property is one of the few affordable options on the North Shore. So, it gets booked up pretty far in advance! 

Click here to book your stay at Backpackers Vacation Inn & Plantation Village!

Need more Hawaii travel tips? Check out these travel guides!

Top Sunset Spots in Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu’s Top 25 Food Spots

Hawaii Essentials: Your Ultimate Packing Guide

18 Things to Know Before Visiting Oahu

Insta-Worthy Oahu: 25 Must-Visit Photo Spots

Hawaii’s Breathtaking Gems: 25 Must-See Spots

22 Free Activities in Oahu, Hawaii

60+ Inspiring Hawaii Quotes & Captions

North Shore Oahu: 14 Must-Do’s for First-Timers

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Review the 10 best beaches on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, featuring popular beaches, like Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, Pipeline, and more.

This article was first published in January 2022 and has since been updated.

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