The Billabong Guide to the North Shore
The Billabong Guide to the North Shore
Is your only real reference for a North Shore experience the movie “North Shore?” No worries, you’re not alone. And in reality, though that film is nearly 30 years old, not much has changed in some ways. Yes, the waves get scary big a lot and the locals can be frightening too. No, they don’t burn the sugar cane fields anymore and also, not all locals are scary, but rather full of love and aloha-spirit. It’s still every surfer’s Mecca and you might as well find out for yourself. The following are some practical tips once you’re there. But most importantly, “When the wave breaks here…don’t be there…”
*Surf spots not listed to protect the locals (explore for yourself!)
When to Go: November - March.
How to Get There: You'll land at HNL (Honolulu Int. Airport) and from there you can rent a car and drive 45 min to the North Shore or be “that guy” that needs a ride in rush-hour traffic (but don’t be, for real).
The Board You'll Want in Your Bag: Struggling to decide which board to bring? Good, bring a full quiver. Shortboards, stepups, guns…it’s the North Shore, bud!
Where to Eat: While most of the chow and proper restaurants are in Haleiwa (bout 6 miles west of Pipe), there’s some good foodtruck action north of Waimea. Like Pupukea Grill for awesome ahi tuna bowls. Authentic acai bowls across the street from Off the Wall at Crispy Grindz foodtruck. Then, of course, there’s Ted’s Bakery by Sunset Beach where there’s great breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and donuts. Splurge and go to Lei Lei’s one night out at Turtle Bay; everything on the menu is great there. And, like I said, Haleiwa town has something for everyone there. Opal Thai, specifically.
Where to Stay: Besides Turtle Bay, a pricey hotel 8 miles north of Sunset Beach, there aren’t any hotels (thankfully) on the North Shore. There’s a backpackers by Waimea that has rooms occasionally, but your best bet is AirBnb or renting a room, hopefully booked well in advance! That, or stay with a local/family bud.
Where to Mingle: Indeed, off Ke Nui road (the beach-side street) there’s ample house parties usually featuring pro surfers, babes, big locals and industry-types…if you’re invited. The Surfer Bar at Turtle Bay is most people’s choice with live music, a DJ and big ole bar for loosening the legs. Haleiwa town has Breaker’s and Cholos which have small-scale scenes and honestly, Foodland (the only supermarket on the North Shore) is a great place to meet babes (or guys, of course).
Where to Take Your Chick Post-Surf: They don’t call Sunset Beach "Sunset Beach" for nothing. Sit on the concrete piling with a drink and watch the sun drip into the Pacific with her. KeIki Beach by Log Cabins is usually empty and worth a walk. Pampering her a little at the poolside bar at Turtle Bay is brownie points too, but a Mai Tai is like $13. If you’ve got a car, a drive down the lush Eastside from North Shore is amazing and there’s plenty of beachparks along the way to picnic at. Stop at Kahuku Superette along the way for DIY poke bowls for said-picnic.
A Few Tips: As signs in North Shore neighborhoods will tell you “Slow Down, This Ain’t the Mainland!” i.e. drive slowly through beachside neighborhoods. No shoes/sandals indoors is a mandatory Hawaii custom. Do NOT experiment with pigeon English (the accent and dialect that locals sometimes use). It’s just tacky if you’re not raised with it. Don’t paddle out into anything you know you can’t handle. Smile and be courteous, not cocky in or out of the water.
Strike Mission: Should the winds go wonky, the east and west sides get wrap-swell and have their moments (no cameras allowed though, seriously). And if you feel like partying somewhere else than the North Shore, Chinatown near downtown Honolulu is a happening zone but is a solid hour drive away.
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