How to Spend a Day on the North Shore of Oahu (when you don’t have a car)

We provided a full-day itinerary for how to spend a day on the North Shore when you have a rental car. However, when you don’t have access to a vehicle the experience will be a bit different. It’s freeing in some ways (parking sucks), yet constricting in others. To make sure you get those most of your day on the opposite side of the island we have prepared a guide for where to go, what to see, and what to do. There’s a lot to fit in, so let’s get to it.

Full-Day Itinerary To Exploring and Experiencing the North Shore of Oahu, When You Don’t Have a Vehicle

Set Your Alarm and GO (1-2 hrs)

Decide whether you want to take an Uber or public transit to the North Shore from Waikiki. Before finalizing your plan, take note that 99% of the time you won’t be able to find an Uber back from Haleiwa. If taking an Uber to the North Shore, leave early when there are cars available and the cost is low. Aim for a 6:30 AM departure, as the rate is typically between $60-70. which isn’t too bad for the 45-minute drive. After 7 AM the rate can jump to over $100. Besides, you want to get going early since you’ll be hoofing it around the North Shore.

If taking TheBus, you will need to take the #52 from Ala Moana Center. It will take you right into Haleiwa Town where your day begins. The earlier you leave, the better. Without traffic, you’re looking at a tough 1-hour and 40-minutes on TheBus. With traffic, you’re faced with an excruciating 2 hours and 15-minutes. Once again we recommend a 6:30 AM departure from Ala Moana so that you roll into Haleiwa around 8 AM. Download the schedule for Route 52 here.

Breakfast in Haleiwa Town (1.5 hrs)

After the long bus or Uber ride you deserve a proper North Shore breakfast. Breakers and Kono’s, both of which are located in The North Shore Marketplace, are great options. Cafe Haleiwa is also a popular spot. If you’re not too hungry but need a little something we recommend a latte and pastry at either Coffee Gallery or Waialua Bakery & Juice Bar. Alternatively, fans of acai bowls should definitely hit Haleiwa Bowls which is further down by Haleiwa Boat Harbor. Take your time, soak up the vibe of the town, then get ready for adventure.

How to Spend a Day on the North Shore of Oahu

Grab an acai bowl or smoothie to start the day at Haleiwa Bowls

Foodland, then Rent a Bike at Shark’s Cove, Pupukea (30 min)

Sorry, but we’re putting you back on the bus, but just for 15 to 20-minutes. This time you’ll be taking the #60 which heads northeast towards Pupukea. It’s a MUCH better experience as there is a lot to admire along the way. Download the schedule for Route 60 here. When stepping on, sit on the makai side (ocean side) of the bus/road so that you can scope out the numerous beaches en route to Pupukea. Towards the end of this leg you will come upon world famous Waimea Bay. If you want to hop off TheBus and check it out (and jump off a rock), then go for it. You can always walk up the hill (10-minutes) from Waimea Bay to Pupukea. Otherwise, disembark at the Foodland grocery store which is the first stop after passing Pupukea Beach Park. This is where you will load up on snacks for the bike ride ahead. A trip to Foodland on the North Shore is actually an experience in itself. The shop is bustling with locals and visitors who are all getting ready for a day at the beach. And on any given day you’ll find pro-surfers standing in line with us regular folk. Once done, walk over to Seamaids Beach Boutique which is where you can rent beach cruisers for the afternoon or full day. The North Shore Surf Shop is also set-up here, so if you don’t have it with you, rent snorkeling gear because you’re going to need it in a little bit.

The island’s best bike path begins just passed the Shark’s Cove snorkeling spot at Ke Iki Road. Once on Ke Iki Road, point your toes northeast and start pedaling.

How to Spend a Day on the North Shore of Oahu

Cool murals by local artisan “Welzie” to see along the bike path

Stop at the Must-See Beaches (1 hr)

There are a number of beach entries along the roads (Ke Iki, Ke Waena, and Ke Nui) that run parallel to the bike path. Feel free to stop where your heart desires as they are all amazing in their own ways. That said, be sure to make time for the these “must-see” stretches of sand, which include the following:

Snorkel at Kaunala Beach (1 hr)

How to Spend a Day on the North Shore of Oahu - Kaunala

Let everyone else navigate the sharp coral and snorkeling crowds at Shark’s Cove. You’ve got something better in store when it comes to exploring the reef on the North Shore. Kaunala Beach is found at the end of the bike path, down a residential lane and through a hidden trail that is shaded by a canopy of overgrowth trees. This hidden and uncrowded gem (follow these detailed directions) is one of the very few spots where you can swim year-round without having to worry about being trawled out to sea. The very reef that is teeming with tropical fishsea turtles, and the odd spotted ray reduces the current while preventing dangerous waves from coming to the shore. When there is no wind it can be almost as calm as a lake. Kaunala is ideal for beachcombing, snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing, making it the perfect spot to conclude this portion of your day on the North Shore.

But before you head back down the path to drop your bike off at Shark’s Cove, stop by the bakery that invented coconut cream pie. Keep reading.

Haupia Pie at Ted’s Bakery (20 min)

The best bakery on the North Shore is a couple of minutes away from Kaunala Beach. Ted’s Bakery is a legendary establishment, and is the birthplace of the Haupia (coconut cream) pie. In addition to ordering a Hawaiian slice of heaven, you may want to add a pineapple macadamia nut pie to your carryout, along with the day’s special pastries. It’s OK, you’ve earned it!

Shave Ice in Haleiwa Town (30 min)

image: @marcus_ocean

It’s time to catch the #60 back to Haleiwa Town. We know that you’ve just shoveled back a slice of Haupia pie at Ted’s, but you can’t skip the shave ice experience. After all, you’re in the place that made it famous. While the other Hawaiian islands have caught up, some of the best shave ice spots in the world are located right here in Haleiwa.

Now we what you’re thinking – Matsumoto’s, right? Wrong. While they get the legacy vote, their shave ice hasn’t evolved with the times. Plus, it’s so busy here that the teenage staff behind the counter can’t be bothered to take the time to properly shave and pack the ice, nor manage the perfect syrup-pour to ensure top quality delivery. However, this is good news, because it saves you from standing in that 30-minute to one-hour lineup. So where should you go? Those who still prefer traditional shave ice should go directly across the road to Aoki’s. If you have a more distinguished palate, we suggest a more gourmet take on the concept. Kaimana Shave Ice has the best tasting variety on the North Shore, and they also have the best outdoor seating (towards the back of the shop). Kula Shave Ice is also amazing, and wins the award for imaginative recipes that incorporate locally sourced superfood flavors.

How to Spend a Day on the North Shore of Oahu

Don’t waste an hour of your day, waiting in line at Matsumoto’s

Browse and Shop Haleiwa’s Galleries and Stores (1.5 – 2 hrs)

Most of the shops in Haliewa Town close between 6 PM and 8 PM. This should leave you with enough time to squeeze in some shopping. Galleries such as Waimea Blue and Polynesian Treasures, welcome you browse and discover local artisan items that would look great on your walls and shelves back home. If you’re looking for contemporary island fashions be sure to pop into Number 808 or Mahina Boutique, and grab something for the kids while you’re at it at Growing Keiki. Then there’s the surf shops that Haleiwa is so well known for, with the famous Surf n’ Sea Haleiwa being the most popular of them all.

Pupus and Cocktails at Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar & Grill (1 hr)

Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar and Grill Haleiwa
image: @unclebosrestaurant

For dinner, you need something conveniently located near the transit stops back to Waikiki. it just so happens that one of the best spots for pupus and cocktails on the North Shore is right where you need it to be. Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar & Grill is a lively place to grab a casual bite and toss back a couple delicious tropical drinks before hopping back on TheBus to town. 

Head Back to Your Accommodations (1.5 hrs)

With a lifetime of memories and smartphone full of photos, it’s time to head back to the south shore on the #52. The night ride back isn’t so bad, as it gives you time to comb through your pictures, or take a nap before being abruptly awakened by the lights of the Ala Moana Center transit loop.

Did you get to see all that the North Shore has to offer? Nope. But that’s OK. Next time, spend a night away from Waikiki at one of the beach rentals found throughout Pupukea. Check to see if there are reservations available at Ke Iki Beach Bungalows. Even during busy season they may be able to squeeze you in for one or two nights. Otherwise Turtle Bay Resort is an option. A night’s stay will give you more time to explore and discover the North Shore without any itinerary or agenda – the way it was meant to be.