Published May 19, 2013
National Geographic recently called it “one of the wonders of the world - one of Earth's most awesome places.” Separated from Waikiki by a scenic hour's drive and the Ko‘olau Range, a fragmented remnant of a massive prehistoric volcano, Oahu’s North Shore has remained a non-fiction Shangri-La. It is one of Hawaii's last remaining places that is entitled to call itself authentic. If you want to discover another side of Hawaii, this is it.
Ultimately, the North Shore gestalt is about the great surf breaks of a seven-mile stretch of beaches and the 15,000 or so year-round residents who cling to the Kamehameha Highway, forming a kind of tropical frontier town without a real name or a town center but one that possesses Cinemascope cool. It is where the supreme athlete, the inspired artist, the earthy farmer, the gracious host and the solo entrepreneur come to live “The Country Life.”
What better way to experience one of the unique parts of Oahu and the Hawaiian Islands than through the eyes of a local? Randy Rarick has lived on the North Shore for the past 40 years. Since arriving, he has lived “The Country Life” of surfing the waves at Sunset Beach, building surfboards in the shaping bay in the back of his garage, and running the biggest sporting event on the North Shore, The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, for over 35 years. Randy shares ten of his favorite “insider” North Shore adventures and activities below.
Catch a wave.
My favorite place to view monster surf (20-30 feet) is from the heiau (Hawaiian place of worship) above Waimea Bay, found just off Pupukea Road. It not only offers a terrific view, but is an interesting place to explore in its own right. Also, during surf season, watch the big show unfold down the road at Pipeline. From only 75 yards away, you can feel, taste, and smell the most intense surf action in Hawaii!
Get to the point.
Ka‘ena Point State Park takes you far away from life’s business. Pack a bottle of ice-cold water and a light brunch and drive to the far west end of Farrington Highway, beyond Haleiwa and the Mokuleia. There are deserted white-sand beaches and aqua waters in the summer. In the winter, enjoy the massive, crashing surf from the safety of high sand. Take the walking trail at the end of the road to explore the shoreline. There are no lifeguards on this stretch of coastline, and it gets very hot, so start early, drink plenty of water, take a mobile phone, and stay within your comfort zone.
Step back in time.
The walking tour of historical Haleiwa Town is an interesting history lesson. Haleiwa and the North Shore of Oahu are known as the surfing capital of the world. Haleiwa, pronounced “hah-lay-EE-wah,” dates back to the 1900s sugar plantation era. In 1984, Haleiwa was designated a State Historic, Cultural and Scenic District, and is home to galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes. Check with the North Shore Chamber of Commerce for information on a self-guided tour or guided walking tour.
Pick up a paddle.
Standup paddle board off the coastline in the calmer summer months. Get an early start or pick a calm area protected from the wind to really enjoy the ride. By getting even a short distance off the shoreline you will be treated to spectacular views of the North Shore you likely won't see any other way. If you're an experienced paddler, take one of the “downwind” runs from Turtle Bay Resort to Sunset Beach or beyond. Be sure to paddle with a partner for safety and a shared experience, and always let someone know your plans. Waves and currents make this too dangerous between September and early April.
The best places to experience the flavors of the North Shore are at the Thursday afternoon Farmers Market in Haleiwa and the Saturday Farmers Market in Waialua. Both offer a casual shopping experience, plenty of samples, and delicious, locally grown produce as well as locally made specialties. Also, the Kahuku Superette and Fiji Market in Kahuku are local favorites. These mom-and-pop stores offer a trip back in time, with the tastiest poke on the island and other various delicacies.
Need a unique souvenir? Walk the shoreline from Sunset Point past Velzyland to the relatively deserted coast toward Kawela Bay, an ideal place for finding broken pieces of multi-colored glass that have been washed and sanded by the wave action. Beach glass is a local delight that is used in making jewelry, picture frames or any number of art projects. Look for the aqua-marine or cobalt blue, as those are the hardest to find. Keep an eye out for other treasures in this area, as the stretch of coastline from Turtle Bay Resort to Malaekahana is the most exposed area of the North Shore to pummeling “onshore” winds, and all kinds of things wash ashore – from glass balls and marine debris to just about anything that floats.
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