Hawaii's North Shore

The North Shore of Oahu conjures up images of 20 ft. waves, surfers barreling down the faces of waves as steep as the fronts of office buildings, crystal blue water curling over their heads, and then a moment of grace and balance and beauty.  And that's part of the North Shore.  Surfers and beaches and white sand shining in the sun.  But in the summer, mostly it's tourists.  People looking for all those movie promises, people swimming and sunning and snorkeling, eating shave ice and shrimp sold out of the side of trucks.  And while not everyone ends up a pro surfer, everybody gets to enjoy the sun, the shrimp, and the shave ice.  A couple days ago Sara and I drove north from Kaneohe to Haleiwa.  The drive up the Kamehameha Highway is gorgeous, alternating between seasisde vistas with their turquoise waters and white sand shining in the sun, and forests and valleys that will make you feel like you're driving through Jurassic Park.  There are a couple spots I like to stop and Sara and I hit them all.  As always, here's 10 pictures and some foolish comments.

The rock once known as Chinaman's Hat, but now called Mokoli'i, is as iconic as any of Hawaii's famous sights.  There are a couple of beaches with great views, and if you're feeling brave you can swim out to the island and enjoy what will almost certainly be a very private beach.  Just watch out for the sharks known to frequent the waters.
I've been coming to Oahu for 10 years and when I go to the North Shore, I always stop at the macadamia nut farm outlet.  There's free coffee and mac nuts, and of course the opportunity to buy a bunch of stuff.  I like the cinnamon and sugar mac nuts.  Plus, it's in an absolutely beautiful spot.

We had to get a hula girl magnet.

If you're flying up the Kamehameha Highway, you'll pass a few signs that look like this one.  There's a sovereignty movement in Hawaii that uses the fact that the early plantation owners conspired with the government to remove the Hawaiian's from power and from their land to challenge what they view as the United States' illegal occupation of Hawaii.  It's a deeply complicated issue with a number of court rulings, legal battles, and unofficial official apologies.   But if you see the sign and want to know what it's all about, it's about sovereignty.

There are now dozens of shrimp trucks in between Kaneohe and Haleiwa, but Giovanni's was the first.  Twenty years ago this little truck launched a food revolution of sorts that's led to an entire industry along the road up to the North Shore.  If you have time, stop and sign the truck.

Garlic shrimp, rice, and mac salad from Giovanni's.  Not much better than this.

If snorkeling's your thing, stop at Shark's Cove.  Clear waters and a ton of colorful fish make it a must stop and swim.  

Looking for some wildlife?  Just north of Shark's Cove there's a beach where the giant sea turtles climb on shore and rest in the sun.  Stop here and take a picture, but do not touch the sea turtles or screw with them in any way.  I've seen people holding on to the backs of the turtles while they swim and all kinds of other shit.  Don't be that person. 

The turtles on the beach are roped off now and there's usually a person stationed to watch out.  If you're snorkeling, sometimes you'll see them swimming alongside you in the water.

If you have a ton of time and patience to stand in line, Matsumoto's is the shave ice spot in Haleiwa.  But the line will be long.  It just always is.  If you like your ice and sugar a little faster, Aoki's is a great alternative.  I like mine with vanilla ice cream in the bottom.  


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