A Local’s Guide to an O‘ahu Road Trip: Waialua to Kahuku
O‘ahu’s North Shore is more than just big waves and small towns. A new batch of local restaurants, shops and activities will keep you busy in the country.
On weekends, Wicked Hi Café in Waialua opens two hours earlier for coffee and sourdough waffles made with honey from hives in the backyard. Over in Hale‘iwa, The Coffee Gallery starts serving tasty baked goods at 6:30 a.m. for a leisurely sunrise start to the day.
For a North Shore perspective usually reserved for whales (and visitors and fishers), drive seven minutes to Hale‘iwa Harbor for a boat or whale-watching tour. There, Ocean Outfitters Hawai‘i and Banzai Adventures offer one- and two-hour trips along the beautiful North Shore coastline. When you have more time, book a half-day trip with knowledgable Capt. Porter Turnbull from North Shore Sailing Adventures. There’s really nothing like cruising under full sail.
Head back into Hale‘iwa Town to shop. Boutique mainstays No. 808 and Guava Shop are always must-visits but there’s a new kid on the block. The Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation, run by Kim and Jack Johnson, will eventually include a few stores and an 8-acre learning farm on its new Hale‘iwa headquarters. In late spring, the Kōkua General Store will open with eco-friendly reusable and refillable goods—we love the handmade ceramic mugs from North Shore-based Jac + Jil Studio—as well as a selection of vintage alohawear and T-shirts. Join a workday in the fields the first Saturday of the month.
DID YOU KNOW
Did you know: Haleʻiwa used to have loʻi fields stretching all the way to the beach. At the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation Learning Farm, eighth generation-Haleʻiwa resident Daniel Rodriguez is helping to restore the wetlands on part of the property.
Lunch at longtime favorites along Kamehameha Highway: Café Hale‘iwa for the avocado sandwich, a chicken pesto sandwich at Waialua Bakery, or the Hello Burger at Beet Box Café. Or stop by the newer food trucks: No. 7 Japanese Food Truck has great hand rolls; at Surf N Salsa, try the super fresh fish tacos. Maya’s Tapas has dine-in grass-fed burgers, flatbreads and tapas-style veggies. After you’ve loaded up, meander up the coastline toward Kahuku.
A word of warning: On a nice weekend day, it can take more than an hour to get from Hale‘iwa to Waimea Bay because of all the cars heading to Laniākea and Chun’s. Prepare by going before 10 a.m., adopting a Zen attitude, or by sticking to only Hale‘iwa or Kahuku before going back to town.
On better days, it takes just about 20 minutes to get to The Cove Collection, a cute stand-alone boutique at Shark’s Cove run by four North Shore artisans, all of them women. Browse their well-edited selection of jewelry, art, home furnishings and beauty products, including beautiful Mi Nei Designs beaded necklaces by Katye Killebrew and recycled surfboard art by her husband, famed bodysurfer Mark Cunningham.
Drive 11 minutes to Turtle Bay’s revamped Kuilima Farm Stand across from Kawela Bay, where there are heaps of local produce to snack on. You can see some of the farmland right behind the stand.
Need an afternoon pick-me-up? Four miles away, grab an espresso or fresh orange and pineapple juice from The Country Eatery or a Raggamuffin smoothie—banana, strawberry, bee pollen and spirulina—from Raised by the Waves, both at the Kahuku Sugar Mill. Ono Yo, in the food truck area in front of the historic site, has a creative frozen yogurt menu that’s a hit with kids.
Work it off with a lesson at Sunset Skates, the new indoor skateboard ramp, school and shop at the sugar mill. Pro skater Willy Akers is an enthusiastic teacher, whether you’re learning how to tic-tac or perfect your 180 kickflip.
DID YOU KNOW
The Kahuku Sugar Mill ran for 90 years until it ceased processing operations in 1971.
After your lesson, grab takeout from any one of the surrounding trucks or restaurants (Makahoa Pizza Co. and Papi’s Tacos are solid picks) and pull up a seat at the open-air Kahuku Beer Garden, where there’s a smart selection of local beers on tap, as well as wine and kombucha, plus bottles and cans in the fridge to finish your day.
9 a.m. Breakfast at Wicked Hi Café.
9:45 a.m. Drive 7 minutes to Hale‘iwa Harbor for a 1-hour boat ride.
11:30 a.m. Browse Kōkua General Store and other shops.
12:30 p.m. Pick up lunch at No. 7 Japanese Food Truck or Surf N Salsa and get ready to drive 20 minutes to an hour (depending on traffic) to Pūpūkea.
2:30 p.m. Stretch your legs and browse art at The Cove Collection.
3 p.m. Drive 11 minutes to pick up fresh produce at Kuilima Farm Stand. Go 4 miles up the road to Kahuku Sugar Mill.
3:30 p.m. Get a quick coffee and a sweet treat from The Country Eatery or Ono Yo.
4 p.m. Book a skate lesson with Sunset Skates.
5 p.m. Have a post-skate drink at the Kahuku Beer Garden.