The Ultimate Guide to North Shore

26 April 2015

Oh, Hawaii.

Has it really been nearly half a year since I left your shores? As I write this now I'm sitting in my apartment on another gray, wet day in Portland thinking how dearly I miss the sun. Seriously, I've gotten totally pale. 

So many things had become a part of my daily life in Honolulu that I forgot how special they were. The way the water was always the perfect temperature after a day of work. Lying out in the sun on my front lawn while drinking coconut water. Magical sunsets every night. This was really once my life! 

I left it behind for good reasons but I can't help but look back at those days fondly. The memories I made while living on Oahu are absolutely worth all the little bumps in the road.

Being back on the mainland now is kind of weird. I've got all this knowledge in my head that has no practical use. Things like how to say "I'm done with work" in Hawaiian or how to haggle for pineapple in Chinatown. This was once a part of my daily life and now it's just a memory.

While living in Honolulu, I became familiar with all the little nooks of Oahu. With an entire year, it's pretty easy to get to know an island intimately. One of my favorite places that I constantly retreated to was the North Shore. This part of the island was everything you'd dream of when you think of a tropical escape. Here are some of my favorite things to eat, see, and do:

Matsumoto Shave Ice
You can find shave ice just about anywhere on the Hawaiian islands but it was at Mastumoto Grocery Store that it was first invented and perfected. Rather than the typical crushed ice, they shave it off from huge hunks of ice that creates a fluffier ice crystal that holds on to flavor better. Pour on top some fruity syrups and you have the perfect treat for a hot Hawaiian day.

Kahuku Fruit Stand
I'm obsessed with this place and made sure to stop here every time I was in the area. It's everything you imagine a tropical island fruit stand to be with out being kitschy or designed for tourists. The vendors are all locals who grow the fresh fruit just down the street. The options are endless; pineapple, oranges, lychee, coconut, avocado, mango, guava, dragon fruit, and more!

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
How can shrimp be this good? Well the fact that it's all locally raised might be one reason but it also might be the fact that's smothered in butter and garlic. There are several other shrimp trucks that dot the North Shore but this one is my favorite. You can go spicy or get the classic scampi style. Both come with a scoop of  rice, of course!

Dive with sharks
A year ago I celebrated my 23rd birthday by swimming with sharks which are surprisingly (almost disturbingly) close the the shores of Haleiwa. A short boat ride on the blue Hawaiian seas brings you to a cage where you can safely swim with dozens of Galapagos sharks. Make sure to bring your GoPro!

Tour the town
Haleiwa is the largest town on the North Shore and plenty engaging on its own right. Walk the pedestrian friendly surf village and pop into some shops. The laid-back vibe of the the town is a complete contrast to the hustle of Waikiki and paints the picture of true island life.

Swim with honu
Tourists swarm the north shore beaches to watch the surf competitions on the winter but don't realize they're just steps from giant sea turtles. From Haleiwa Beach Park just head a bit north and you'll come to a cove where sea turtles graze in the afternoon. Avoid the crowds of Hanama bay and snorkel right here. The most I saw there at one time was around 20!

Jump off da big rock
Best advice for a trip to Hawaii? Do like the locals. Waimea Bay is known for its dangerous break during the winter months but throughout the rest of the year the conditions are perfect for cliff diving. Feeling particularly adventurous? There's also a small underwater cavern beneath this rock that you can swim through.

Bathe in a waterfall
Sacred to the ancient Hawaiians, Waimea waterfall is a refreshing treat after hiking through Waimea Valley. At first it might not seem like that large a waterfall but try swimming towards it and you'll quickly realize just how powerful it is. Standing up under the pounding, icy water is a challenge worth trying!

Learn how to surf
Hawaiians are known for inventing the sport of surfing and in no place is surf culture more ubiquitous than on the North Shore. I learned how to surf in Waikiki but can definitely see that learning in a less crowded environment would have been a lot better. All along the beaches of Haleiwa you can find surf instructors, standing at the ready for anyone who'd like an impromptu lesson.

Where's a place that you've become attached to?

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