Activity Finds: North Shore & Central Oahu

1) Sunset Beach

A shining star among O‘ahu's North Shore lineup, Sunset Beach is one of the more popular surf spots for experienced boarders during Hawai‘i's big wave winter season and a popular sunning spot during the calmer summer months.

Just off of Kamehameha Highway, Sunset Beach breaks up the monotonous view of residential homes, swaying palms, and glimpses of Hawai‘i's warm turquoise waters. Waikiki Parc's Todd T. likes to come here to watch the pros shred it up during the winter swells and sunbathe and swim during the summer. Sunset also receives ray-ve reviews from beachgoers for the convenient parking lot across the street with restrooms and showers. And for those with children, Sunset Beach sets a lifeguard on duty daily, which offers some peace of mind and a good sounding board to check in on the day's water conditions.

Sunset's world-famous waves are also home to surfing competitions including the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing - one of the Van's Triple Crown's prestigious events, which regularly attracts hundreds of elite surfers from around the world to compete for the contest's $135,000 prize purse and barrel bragging rights.


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2) Pu'u o Mahuka State Monument

For those escaping to Hawai‘i to savor the Hawaiian culture, continue further along Kamehameha Highway, off of Pupukea Homestead Road, and pay homage to Pu‘u o Mahuku Heiau, the largest heiau (hay-ow or religious temple) on the island of O‘ahu. Spanning two acres on O‘ahu's North Shore, Pu‘u o Mahuku (which translates in Hawaiian to mean the "hill of escape") played a significant role in Native Hawaiian history and is believed to be a site where religious ceremonies and human sacrifices were conducted.

Today, the heiau consists of a short walled-in courtyard presiding over the typically tranquil waters of Waimea Bay. After you've soak in the history of the area it is the perfect place for a scenic picnic or to view the green flash at sunset.

In 1962, Pu‘u o Mahuku Heiau was designated a National Historic Landmark for its important role in Hawaiian history and culture. For families with young keiki it is important to remember that the heiau is a sacred place and should be treated with respect. Visitors are asked not to enter the heiau, but to view it from the outside perimeter.


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3) Waimea Valley

Sprouting up in the verdant mountains of O'ahu's North Shore is the beautiful and historic Waimea Valley. A roughly hours drive from your Waikiki hotel the valley is deeply rooted with more than 700 years of Native Hawaiian history and offers up more than 1.5 miles of historic archaeological sites, leading up to a 45-foot waterfall.

Located just across the street from the famed Waimea Bay beautiful Waimea Valley spreads its wings to greet visitors with friendly peacocks who serve as the welcome party for the valley's 150 acres. Step back in time exploring the valley's 78 Ancient Hawaiian archaeological sites, which include religious sites and shrines, house sites, agricultural terraces and fishponds. Waimea Valley is also home to more than 5,000 types of tropical and subtropical plants -- including many native and endangered plants - as well as several native and endangered birds and native freshwater fish.

The perfect adventure before an afternoon on the beach, Waimea Valley also offers a number of events and activities - like their Waimea Valley Moon Walk which allows you to hike the trail at night or their Summer Concert Series. Waimea Valley is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.


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Food Finds: North Shore & Central Oahu

1) Romy’s Shrimp Truck

Peppering Kamehameha Highway from Hale‘iwa Town to Kualoa Ranch are what many O‘ahu natives consider "shrimp truck row," plating up hundreds of fresh-from-the-water shrimp dishes. Though more like a stand than a real food "truck," Romy's is among the more popular shrimp eateries, beloved for their prawns, which are pulled, still dripping, from the shrimp farm adjacent to the kitchen.

Open daily from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Romy's Shrimp Truck stands apart with their uber fresh shrimp and prawns (they look more like mini lobsters than shrimp), which usually run out by early afternoon. If you miss your chance to snag a spot at Haleiwa Shrimp Court, roll on over to Romy's and sprawl out with your meal on one of the picnic benches in the lawn.

We like the fact that they leave the heads on their seafood, which makes for an extra tasty treat. Make sure to get yours "North Shore style" sautéed in butter and oodles of garlic with a few extra containers of their special sauces and an ear (or two) of Kahuku sweet corn.

Our tip? Bring lots of hand wipes and sanitizer. After you lick all the buttery, shrimpy goodness off your fingers, of course.


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2) Opal Thai

We know, we know. When you think of O‘ahu's North Shore you think of babes in bikinis, shave ice and maybe the odd honu (green sea turtle) sighting. But Thai food?! Opal Thai is breaking those preconceptions with their spicy new eatery in Hale‘iwa Town Center, now a hot dining spot for some of the best Thai food in Hawai‘i.

Chef and owner Opel Sirichandhra (yes, the restaurant is a twist on his name) has taken the tasty Thai dishes out of his old food truck without losing the flavor and personal touch, which made it so popular. And because Opal's is BYOB you can grab a bottle of your favorite wine (or whatever you're craving) and dig into tom yum, minced pork salad, stir-fried noodle, duck curry, sautéed eggplant, drunken noodles and a few other dishes Opel will come out from behind the kitchen to personally recommend. One of our favorite Opel-isms is "I got something for you, no worry!"

If you've got room after Opel has loaded up your table, we'd recommend the crab noodle ($10.95). We get tipsy just thinking about the long, thin noodles topped with real crab, egg and a sprinkling of green onion. And if you like to turn up the heat, be sure to ask for Opel's chili flakes - a homemade family-secret blend, which provides the perfect accent to the meal.

Before you head out, make sure to check your wallet for cash. Opal Thai doesn't accept credit cards.


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3) Ted's Bakery

Making a splash on O‘ahu's celebrated North Shore, Ted's Bakery has established a name for itself as the place to eat mouth-watering slices of pies, pastries, and plate lunches.

While Ted's fabulously famous pies are available at several grocery stores in Honolulu, making the trek to Ted's "headquarters" across from Sunset Beach on O‘ahu's North Shore is always well worth the gas splurge. The perfect pie pit stop en route to a day checking out the surfers and surf, Ted's Bakery's pies come in a variety of flavors including chocolate cream, blueberry cream, haupia cream, strawberry guava, peach Bavarian cream and more. If you only have room for one, we'd recommend splitting a slice of their chocolate haupia cream pie. It's seriously pie-mazing.

While you stand in line (and trust us, during peak hours there is almost always a wait) to order your teri beef bento you can peruse Ted's selection of t-shirts, coffee cups and other souvenirs, which make the perfect omiyage (oh-mee-yah-geh or gifts) to tuck away in your suitcase for family and friends back home.


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4) Haleiwa Shrimp Court

Peel off the main road for a piquant pit stop at Hale‘iwa Shrimp Court on O‘ahu's North Shore. This rolling retinue of awesome eats offers five trucks, Giovanni's, Sane's Simply Shrimp, Hono's Shrimp, Ert's Grill and North Shore Dogs and Burgers. So take a break from constructing sand castles, grab your friends, and pig out on a plate lunch buffet where you can sample shrimp plates and plate lunches from some of the most popular food trucks on O‘ahu.

Parked in a dirt lot as you enter Hale‘iwa, Hale‘iwa Shrimp Court is picnic-perfect with benches, umbrellas and a shady area to enjoy your sizzling shrimp plate. We love the spicy plate (sauce on the side!) at Giovanni's to spice up your traditional lunch routine. And don't forget to make your mark and sign your name on the Giovanni's truck. You'll just have to remember where it is so you can find it again on your next visit!

As Hawai‘i's food truck scene continues to rev up, new options are taking to the street including the increasingly popular Eat the Street event (featuring a traffic jam of food trucks with a different theme each month) in Kaka‘ako as well as lunch trucks throughout Downtown Honolulu. If you've missed Hale‘iwa Shrimp Court you can still gas up and go to Macky's or Leonard's trucks in Hale‘iwa for sweet Kahuku shrimp and malasadas.


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5) Island Vintage Coffee

Jonesing for a good cup of joe? Venture out of your Waikiki beach hotel, over the hills and through the pineapple fields to Island Vintage Coffee on O’ahu’s North Shore. Located in brew-tiful Haleiwa Town this tasteful spot concocts more than hot drinks, but also a selection of pastries, acai bowls and other tea-mazing beverages.

Island Vintage Coffee is stirring up one of a kind coffee blends and indulgent treats. Find a seat out on their breezy outdoor lanai (patio) and fill up more than just your mug on ono (delicious) pastries, salads, sandwiches and other café delights. If you’re looking to cool off after a day at the beach, seep in one of our favorites – Island Vintage Coffee’s original Haleiwa Iced Tea, a black tea belnd with fresh cut pineapple, pineapple mint sorbet and topped off with mint leave.

Another tropical favorite is the Iced island Latte, an iced latte with macadamia nut and a hint of coconut. Well known for their exclusive 100 percent Kona coffee blends and acai-mazing Acai bowls, we’re sure you’ll find something you’ll love a latte. Before you hele (go) out don’t forget to grab something for your favorite coffee lover by harvesting a bag of Island Vintage Coffee beans (starting at $20.95), a package of decadent chocolate-covered coffee beans or coffee gift sets (starting from $22.95). Island Vintage Coffee is located in the Haleiwa Store Lots across from Matsumoto’s Shave Ice. The shop is open daily from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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Shopping Finds: North Shore & Central Oahu

1) Guava Shop

Give your closet some local flavor with a few quick picks from the Guava Shop's bouquet of island options. Opening in 2008 on O‘ahu's North Shore, this beach-chic boutique by Sunset Beach sisters, Liz House and Kai Cost, is a shopping haven after a day in the sun and surf.

While their prices tend to branch on the higher end, Guava Shop's carefully cultivated racks of flowing dresses, island-inspired swimwear, bags and beach essentials include options from well-known brands like Acacia Swimwear, Free People, Gillia, Havaiianas, Kai Fragrance, Posh Pua Swimwear, Hanky Panky as well as Guava's own line of leather clutches and local apparel.

The shop in Hale‘iwa Town Center across from Kua Aina Burger is the perfect detour on your way back to your hotel to pick up a few "essentials" like a new clutch for dinner out in Waikiki or a new bikini to flaunt your tan for the remainder of your stay. If you have a girlfriend or friends back home who are as silly for shopping as you are - you might consider picking up a nice piece of local shell jewelry or one of Guava's signature reusable totes for them. They won't forget to return the favor on their next trip!


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2) Greenroom Hawai'i

Make room in your Hawai'i vacation itinerary to explore Greenroom Hawai'i, an international gallery showcasing surf and island-inspired work from local and internationally celebrated artists. Since it was first established in Japan in 2005, the concept has grown to include galleries and boutiques around the world, including its first location in Hawai'i at Waikiki beach hotel, the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.

If you're looking for a great gift or memento of your O'ahu vacation, a visit to this specialized boutique is your one-stop-shop for special products and artwork typically only found in the islands. Greenroom Hawai'i features original art and prints by acclaimed artists the likes of Heather Brown, Clark Little and Thomas Campbell, Susan Wickstrand and Sho Watanabe. You can even wear the spirit of Hawai'i on your sleeve with the boutique's exclusive t-shirt line created in collaboration with local artists and creators, as well as swimwear by Pualani, a favorite among local girls, and the iconic surf label Lightening Bolt, currently exclusive to Greenroom Hawai'i in the islands.


Add a little color to your trip with a visit to Greenroom Hawai'i, open daily from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.

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Event Finds: North Shore & Central Oahu

1) Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau

Riding the wave of Hawai‘i's surfing success The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau is one of the most well-known and prestigious big-wave surfing events around the world. Named for famed Hawaiian waterman, Eddie Aikau who was lost at sea attempting to find help for the Hokule‘a in 1978, The Eddie regularly draws thousands of bikini and board shorts-clad spectators to Waimea Bay's sandy shores.

Originally dropping in to Sunset Beach in 1984, The Eddie (which is how the event is commonly referred to by locals) is now run at Waimea Bay where Aikau worked as a lifeguard and his family served as caretakers.

As the contest decrees "the bay calls the day," and requires a minimum of 20 foot waves and clean conditions during the three-month holding period which runs from December through February each year. Keep in mind that in Hawai‘i waves are measured "Hawaiian" style from the back of the wave, rather than the face. Because of this, the event has been held only six times since it started more than 28 years ago. California's Greg Long was the most recent Eddie winner in December 2009, when 25-foot surf captured the attention of contest runners and international media, drawing a record crowd of more than 30,000 who lined the beach and Waimea Bay's surrounding cliffs.

Before you leave your room, take a bathroom break and pack lots of sunscreen, snacks and water for the road. With tens of thousands of cars caravanning along the one lane road to O‘ahu's North Shore, another thing you'll be practicing -- in addition to your cutback (and only if you're an experienced surfer) -- is patience.


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2) Triple Crown of Surfing

Staged on O‘ahu's North Shore the Triple Crown of Surfing is the Super Bowl of professional surfing. Held every winter season when wave heights rise on Hawai‘i's north-facing shores, the Triple Crown splashes out over three men's and three women's events.

With the exception of the Billabong Pro Maui, all six events of the Triple Crown are held on O‘ahu's infamous North Shore when winter swells bring wave heights with up to 50 feet faces. Each event crowns a winner with an additional overall men's and women's winner who accumulates the highest cumulative score from the three events.

Because the waves call the day, check local surfing sites (like to see if the contest will go so you can plan ahead. We recommend rising before dawn to fight the traffic and snag a parking spot along the road. For those who are new to Hawai‘i's surfing spectator scene, make sure to bring a light jacket, towels to sit on, binoculars, lots of water, and sun protection. Even on cloudy days the sun's ultraviolet rays can burn sensitive skin.

For those traveling with keiki (children) make sure to keep a close eye on them, especially at the water's edge. We strongly recommend against letting little ones near the shoreline where a rogue wave can quickly sweep children (and even adults) out to sea. Situating yourself farther up from the shore will keep you and your belongings safe and dry when waves wash in.


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