When visiting Oahu, Hawaii, be sure to take a day to visit the North Shore. On the way there, stop at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl Cemetery, and the Dole Pineapple Plantation. On the North Shore, get a famous shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice and shop in Haleiwa Town, swim and relax at the beach at Waimea Bay Beach Park, see the huge turtles at Laniakea Beach, watch the surfers ride the Banzai Pipeline, and enjoy a drink or a meal at Turtle Bay Resort or Haleiwa Joe’s Restaurant. Following is a suggested plan for the day with an accompanying podcast link at the end of the article for even more suggestions.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl Cemetery)
The United States National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is set in the flattened dome of a crater of an extinct volcano that overlooks Honolulu. The crater resembles a punchbowl when seen from above, so it is often called the “punchbowl crater”. The cemetery is unofficially known as the “Punchbowl Cemetery”.
The crater is called Puowaina in the Hawaiian language. It means “hill of sacrifice”. The ancient Hawaiians used the setting as an altar where they offered human sacrifices to pagan gods.
Later, in the 1800’s, the crater was a defensive point for Oahu in their fight against King Kamehameha. The defense did not hold, and Kamehameha eventually united the Hawaiian Islands in 1810.
In the 1930’s, the Hawaiian National Guard used the site as a rifle range. Then, toward the end of World War II, tunnels were dug through the rim of the crater for the placement of shore batteries to guard Honolulu Harbor and the south edge of Pearl Harbor.
Finally, the site was officially recognized as a national cemetery in 1943. It opened in 1949 for the re-interment of World War II heroes that had been resting in temporary locations throughout the Pacific Theater. In 1949, the first re-interments included the Unknown Soldier and a famous war correspondent, Ernie Pyle.
The names of more than 28 thousand military personnel missing in action or lost in the Pacific during World War II are written on marble slabs in ten courts of the missing that flank the stone staircase. The Medal of Honor headstones have an insignia in gold leaf.
The Punchbowl is open from 8 am to 6 pm daily. It is free to visit. It is one of the most popular touristic destinations in Oahu with more than five million visitors each year. The panoramic view of the island of Oahu and the peaceful surroundings make it a beautiful place to begin your day and to reflect on the sacrifices that were made by so many.
Official Website of the Cemetery:
Diagram of the Cemetery:
Directions to the Punchbowl Cemetery from Waikiki (about 5 miles):
Drive ewa (away from Diamondhead) on Kalakaua Avenue. Turn left on South Berentania Street and right on Keeaumoku Street. Then, turn left on Wilder Street and right on Piikoi Street. Turn right on Pensacola Street. This will become Auwaiolimu Street. Turn left at Puowaina Drive and drive to Mall Drive North to the Punchbowl Cemetery.
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Continue across Oahu to another heavily visited Oahu attraction, the Dole Plantation. It originally opened in 1950 as a fruit stand. Now, more than one million visitors a year visit Hawaii’s “Pineapple Experience”. It is open daily from 9:30 am until 5:30 pm, except Christmas Day.
Ride the 20-minute Pineapple Express Train Tour and hear how James Drummond Dole founded an agricultural empire where Dole Plantation stands today as you travel through the scenery of the North Shore. Take the 1-hour Plantation Garden Tour, or walk through the Pineapple Garden Maze on your visit. The large Pineapple Garden Maze, on average, takes 40 minutes to solve. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the Pineapple Garden Maze as the largest maze in the world. Each activity is priced separately. Ticket prices range from $7 to $10.50 for adults. There are discounts for children and for combinations of activities.
Be sure to check out the informational displays and presentations, including regular pineapple-cutting demonstrations. The large country store offers a wide variety of Dole Plantation gifts and foods, including fresh pineapple. Enjoy a selection of refreshments, including the world-famous DoleWhip®.
Official Website of the Dole Plantation:
Directions from the Punchbowl Cemetery to the Dole Pineapple Plantation (about 24 miles):
Return to Puowaina Drive and turn left on Lusitana Street. Take a sharp right onto South School Street. Use the left lane to take the Interstate H1 West ramp toward Fort Shafter Airport. Take I-H-201 W, then I-H-1 W, then I-H-2 N to HI-99 N. Take exit 8 from I-H-2 N. Then, take HI-80 to HI-99 N to the Dole Pineapple Plantation.
Next, travel to the heart of Oahu’s North Shore, Haleiwa Town. Be sure to get a shave ice snow cone at Matsumoto Shave Ice, shop in some of the quirky and interesting shops, pop in a café, visit the Haleiwa Art Gallery and see the pretty Liliuokalani Church.
Matsumoto Shave Ice
Matsumoto Shave Ice has been serving the famous treat since 1951. There are other shave ice stores in Haleiwa Town, but this one is the most famous that serves the snow cone type delicacy. While you wait for your shave ice, shop in Matsumoto’s store and art gallery next door. Learn more about the Matsumoto story at the official website here:
Walk across the street from Matsumoto’s to take a closer look at the historic Liliuokalani Protestant Church. This United Church of Christ protestant church was founded in 1832 in a grass house. It was replaced with a building of adobe where the church’s cemetery is now located. The third building was constructed in 1890 of wood, but it rebuilt here with cement in 1961. The last queen of Hawaii Queen Liliuokalani, donated a clock to the church on January 1, 1892. The clock makes one revolution every 16 years. In place of numbers, it has the 12 letters L-I-L-I-U-O-K-A-L-A-N-I, for the Queen and the church that is named after the Queen. If you would like to visit the church, check the latest website for visiting information and service times at the official website here:
Haleiwa Art Gallery
The Haleiwa Art Gallery showcases original artwork and fine art reproductions of painting, photography, sculpture and other media. Currently, the gallery features the work of approximately 20 Pacific Island artists. The gallery offers works for sale. It is open daily from 10 am until 6 pm. Check the official website for current information and updates:
Haleiwa Joe’s Restaurant
Just a bit further toward the ocean on Kamehameah Highway, the original Haleiwa Joe’s location highlights views of the harbor, ocean, and postcard sunsets. The casual restaurant is notable for live entertainment and late night parties on the weekends. It is open for lunch and dinner. Menu choices include seafood, steaks, soups, salads, sandwiches, and appetizers. Check the menu and current hours at the official website here:
Directions from the Dole Pineapple Plantation to Haleiwa Town (about 8 miles):
Continue on HI-99 N to Kamehameha Highway and turn left. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit to stay on Kamehameha Highway. North Shore Marketplace Shopping Center will be on the right. Haleiwa Town Center will be on the left behind the highway near Amara Road. Matsumoto Shave Ice will be ahead of you on the left, across from Liliuokalani Church. Haleiwa Joe’s seafood grill will be ahead on the left.
Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach)
Next, visit the turtles at Laniakea Beach for what will most likely be the highlight of your day on Oahu’s North Shore. Laniakea Beach is commonly called “Turtle Beach” because of the huge green turtles that swim in the water near the shore here. Since the turtles are cold-blooded animals, they haul themselves on the beach to enjoy the warm sun, especially in summer when the waves near shore are more calm.
Tourists and locals alike come here to see the gentle “honu,” Hawaiian for turtle. The beautiful creatures live to be 80 years old, but they are an endangered species. It is illegal to touch the turtles, and they are closely monitored.
Directions from Haleiwa Town to Laniakea Beach (about 3 miles):
Continue on Kamehameha Highway with the ocean to your left. Turn left as it merges with Highway 83. Laniakea Beach will be on the left, about 1.5 miles from the merge with Highway 83.
Waimea Bay Beach Park
Beyond Laniakea Beach, on Highway 83, Waimea Bay Beach Park will be on the left. The famous, high North Shore waves start here in Waimea Bay. The winter swells generally top out at Waimea Beach, on the right hand side of the bay. The summer surf is much calmer, and many families with children enjoy the water near the shore at this time of year. Be careful, though, because the shallow water drops off very quickly into a deep trench quite near theshoreline. There are restrooms, picnic tables, free parking, and a lifeguard on duty at the park.
Waimea Valley Park
Continuing in the same direction just a bit further on Highway 83, the entrance to the Waimea Valley Park is on the right. In ancient times, this 1,800-acre park was considered a place of healing by the local Hawaiians. There are often demonstrations, workshops, tours, and Hawaiian performances taking place in the main entrance area.
Visitors can follow a one-mile path along flat terrain through lush, tropical foliage to Waimea Falls. Bring your bathing suit to swim at the base of the 45-foot waterfall, but note that there are three waterfall conditions: regular swim, limited swimming, and no swimming. You can check the waterfall swimming status before your visit by calling (808) 638-7766.
The park is open from 9 am until 5 pm daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Regular admission is $16 for adults, and there are discounts available for seniors, children, and military. Check the latest updates and times at the official website here:
Directions from Laniakea Beach to Waimea Bay Beach Park (about 2 miles):
Continue on Highway 83 to Waimea Bay Beach Park on the left and/or Waimea Valley on the right.
Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline)
Again, continue on Highway 83 with the ocean on your left-hand side. Look for Sunset Elementary School on the right. When you see the school, Ehukai Beach – more popularly known as the Banzai Pipeline, will be on the left. Experienced surfers come here from all over the island whenever the National Weather Service issues high surf warnings for the North Shore. Enjoy watching the surfers, but do not get in the water here unless you are an expert surfer.
Directions from Waimea Bay Beach park/Waimea Valley to the Banzai Pipeline (about 2 miles)
Continue on Highway 83 for about 2 miles to reach the Banzai Pipeline.
Turtle Bay Resort
If you would like to stay on the North Shore for a night or more, consider the luxurious Turtle Bay Resort with ocean views from every room. All of Waikiki can fit into this huge, quiet complex. You will feel like you are in a different world from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. Some people like to spend a few days in Waikiki and a few days at the Turtle Bay Resort when visiting Oahu to enjoy both experiences.
Even if you are not staying at the resort, consider stopping in for a drink or a meal at one of the restaurants or bars. These include an ocean-to-table evening dining experience at Pa’akai featuring Hawaii’s fresh seafood; famous Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Roy’s Beach House located on the beach; Roy’s Beach House take out counter to enjoy on the beach; and North Shore Kula Grille, specializing in locally sourced farm-to-table focused breakfast and dinner menus offered daily and offering panoramic views of Turtle Bay and the Ko‘olau Mountains.
For resort pricing and all restaurant hours and choices, check out the Turtle Bay Resort official website:
Directions from Banzai Pipeline to the Turtle Bay Resort (about 5 miles)
Continue on Highway 83 for 5 miles to reach the Turtle Bay Resort on the left.
Return to Waikiki following the directions in reverse. The 45-mile journey back to Waikiki should take about 90 minutes without all the stops. As you return to Waikiki, reflect back on all you have seen during this perfect North Shore day!
For my personal reflections, check out my North Shore day-trip podcast below. You may also like to check out my Waikiki blog and podcast here:
For more Oahu things to do, check out my Oahu article and podcast here:
For tips on how to travel for free via air to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines, check out my post and podcast here:
I would love to hear your comments and thoughts, too. Just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, I hope all of your travel days are just perfect!