Oahu is Hawaii’s most densely populated island, with Honolulu looking at first sight just like any other North American city. The feel of the place is unique, however – a mix of native Polynesian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and American cultures. Hawaii is still the ultimate proving crowd for any surfer, but first-time visitors to the North Shore are invariably gob-smacked by the crowded lineups. Go with plenty aloha and enjoy!
Hot spots The North Shore starts at Haleiwa and runs past all the the big name spots you can think of: Laniakea, Waimea, Off The Wall, Backdoor, Pipeline, Rocky Point, Sunset and Velzyland. Seven miles packed with some of the best waves on the planet, interspersed with several other breaks of merely excellent quality. Visitors have the option to test their mettle at the super-heavy spots like Sunset and Pipe, or go for a few less life-threatening waves at Rocky Point, Haleiwa or Backyards. Crowds are present whenever it’s good, so dawn patrols can reap dividends. Anytime one of your mates says somewhere “was just like Hawaii”, it’s bullshit – there is no other place like the North Shore.
Accommodation The only hotel on the North Shore is the Turtle Bay Hilton (US$150 per person per night), and the small number of apartments for rent tend to get fully booked during the November to December contest season. If you’re lucky, you should be able to rent a small private studio for around $1,500 per month from one of the real estate offices in Haleiwa. Failing that, try checking the noticeboard at the Foodland supermarket at Waimea; or check into one of the roach-infested hostels there (around $15-25 per person, per night).
Food and drink Eating out on the North Shore tends to be pricey, but Rosie’s Cantina (Mexican) and Pizza Bob’s at Haleiwa are both recommended. In Honolulu the Makai Market in the Ala Moana shopping centre has a gut-busting choice of 20 fast-food stalls.
Nightlife On the North Shore, your only option is the Sugarmill at Kahuku, which sometimes has bands on. Alternatively, head into Honolulu for some world-class partying in Waikiki; the Wave, the Pink Cadillac and the Jazz Cafe are all good fun.
Don’t miss Even if Pipe, Backdoor and Waimea are out of your league, just sitting on the beach and watching the action can be mind-blowing. For a different perspective, drive up Comsat Hill (above Sunset) or Pupukea Heights (above Waimea). And, of course, no trip to Oahu is complete without at least one night of total decadence at the lap-dancing and nudie bars in town. Go son go!
Hazards Apart from the obvious hazards of getting smashed into the reef and almost drowning every other day, Hawaii has plenty more to keep you on our toes.
The locals are cool provided you give ‘em respect and slow down to island pace – but big-mouthed haoles aren’t tolerated at all. Rip-offs are super-common (especially from hire cars parked along the North Shore), so keep all your valuables safe at home. Sharks are protected in Hawaiian waters so the incidence of attacks is rising. Mosquitoes, poisonous centipedes and various other crawling nuisances also abound.
How to get there Flights to Honolulu start from around £480; American Airlines and United tend to offer the cheapest fares. Cars can be hired from the airport (Budget, Avis, Hertz and so on) for around £15 a day.