The north shore of O’ahu attracts the best surfers every single year.
It’s the home of Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach, and has birthed countless surfing legends, from the brilliant Eddie Aikau, who saved over 500 lives as a lifeguard on these shores, to the GOAT himself, Kelly Slater.
If you’re a keen surfer looking for a challenge or the ultimate “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” moment, then this is the location for you.
So, before you grab your surfboard and head for the famous surf, take a look at this guide to riding the biggest and best surf breaks on the north shore.
Table of Contents
How to Get There
Before we talk surf, you need to know how to actually get to the north shore.
O’ahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian islands and is home to around two-thirds of the state’s total population.
It’s where you will find Honolulu, which sits on the south coast, and the north shore is roughly a 30-mile drive north of the popular tourist town.
The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is in Honolulu and you can rent a car from there.
Uber is available as well, but it won’t be cheap and while there are bus routes, you won’t be able to take your surfboard with you.
A nonstop flight to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport will cost you around $400 to $600 from most major US airports.
When to Visit the North Shore
The swells are at their biggest from mid-October to mid-March, making the winter months the perfect time to visit.
Usually, traveling abroad in the winter months will give you access to cheaper flights and hotels, but that isn’t necessarily the case here, as professional surfers descend on the island and drive the prices up.
You can still find some great deals, though, and if you do your comparison searches in advance, you should be able to snap up a package discount.
If you want to visit during a quieter period, skip the winter months and visit around April.
You’ll miss the surfing season and will also arrive just before the sightseers flood to the island.
Where to Stay
The Turtle Bay Resort is a gorgeous hotel located on the north shore, but it doesn’t come cheap!
You can expect to pay upwards of $250 for a room at the Turtle Bay Resort, which will price a lot of budget surfers out of the equation.
The cheapest way is to check Airbnb and see what’s available.
You can also look for cheap hotels and other accommodations in Honolulu.
As long as you have rented a car, you’ll be fine.
Food and Travel
The north shore is a little out of the way, and while there are restaurants at the Turtle Bay, there isn’t much else available.
Don’t worry, though, as there are food trucks in the area, and you can also stock up on supplies at the grocery store.
Make sure you have plenty of protein bars, drinks, cookies, chips, and other bare essentials before you head out.
If you find some food trucks on the way, you can drop by them as well.
You’re going to be doing a lot of surfing, so you will need all of the energy that you can get!
It’s also important to remember that this is a small island.
You’re not trekking across Australia, and you don’t need to worry about getting stuck hours from your resort or finding yourself in the middle of nowhere.
You’re always going to be a few dozen miles from town, so as long as you have some bites to keep you going, you can just head back to your accommodation when you’re hungry.
Where to Surf
Now it’s time for the actual surfing, and there is no shortage of that available at the north shore.
It’s known as “The Seven Mile Miracle” for a reason, because along that stretch of coastline you will find an abundance of awesome surf spots.
In the winter months, and pretty much at all other times throughout the year, these surf spots are packed with locals and tourists.
You’ll find surfers of all skill levels and while it’s great for extroverts who like to mingle, it’s not ideal if you want some time to yourself.
In such cases, you may be better off with surf sports like Monster Mush and Glassdoors.
If you’re looking for the best spots and are willing to soak up some local surf culture and meet like-minded surfers, head for the Bansai Pipeline, Rocky Point, Backdoor, and Sunset Beach.
Puaena Point is a good option for beginners, as well.
There are surfing competitions held throughout this region, so make sure you check the schedule before you visit.
Who knows, you might be able to catch some professional surfers in action when you’re there!
Summary: North Shore Oahu Surfing
Wherever you are on the Seven Mile Miracle, from Waimea Bay to Banzai Pipeline, the north shore of Oahu is truly one of the best big wave surfing spots in the world.
Watching monstrous waves crash into the shore as surfers of all skill levels try to tame them is a joy to behold.
It is the mecca of surfing and it all takes place on one of the most beautiful islands on the planet, what more could you ask for?
So, whether you’re looking for head high waves or massive 30-footers, if you want the ultimate surfing experience, you can’t beat the Oahu north shore.