If you’re looking for a way to get out of the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, why not take a tour of the North Shore and do a little snorkeling? We found ourselves in Honolulu for several days while waiting for our Trans-Pacific cruise. We didn’t have a rental car but found we were restless to get out of the city for a bit.
We were hoping to find a tour that would take us to the beautiful North Shore and the famous Hanauma Bay. We’d been to both in the past and were keen to revisit them as we had very fond memories of them both.
North Shore Beach Bus purports to be the only company on Oahu that offers both in one tour. After seeing the amazing reviews, we decided to book a tour. The owner of North Shore Beach Bus has lived on Hawaii for thirty years and founded the company in 2016. It takes just one look at the many rave reviews to see that he has done a great job!
When the morning of our tour arrived, we only had to walk about a block from our hotel in Waikiki to the pick-up point. We boarded a comfortable mini/touring bus and after one more pick up we soon found ourselves winding our way out of the city streets and toward the beautiful North Shore. The North Shore of Oahu is known for being the laid-back side of the island, where the big waves in the winter lure professional surfers from all over the world.
Our guide for the day was a fun, quirky, guy named Kurt. On our way out of Honolulu Kurt regaled us with stories, history and general information about the island of Oahu. Oahu means “The Gathering Place”. It is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and has the largest population.
It is home to the infamous Pearl Harbor where one can visit the USS Arizona Memorial and one of our favorite Disney Resorts, Aulani. But today was a day for the North Shore. And after about forty minutes we were riding along the famous North Shore beaches.
Our first stop was at the popular Banzai Beach, home to the surfing world’s championship competition. The beach is located off Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea and is notorious for huge waves which break in shallow water just above a sharp and cavernous reef.
The result are large, hollow, thick curls of water that surfers can tube ride. The surf break is called Pipeline, though you will hear people referring to the beach as Pipeline. Regardless, it is a stunning spot. The day we arrived the surf was calm and as we had about fifteen minutes, we just walked a bit and took some gorgeous photos.
The next stop was an amazing beach at Waimea Bay. Here we had plenty of time to stroll into the warm waters and float in the waves. Not only was it gorgeous, a sea turtle swam close by! There were outdoor showers to get rid of the sand afterwards and changing rooms as well.
After looking it up online I found that the reviews were all excellent, though many said parking could be difficult. This is just one more reason it’s great to do a small tour! We didn’t have to deal with parking, though the day we were there it was early and there were few people. My husband and I discussed it and we think this is quite possibly one of our favorite all time beaches for swimming.
There’s a bit of a drop off in the sand where the waves come in, so you find you don’t walk far before you can just float in the waves. My husband said it reminded him of the wave pools at a water park, only much nicer obviously! After enjoying a leisurely float we piled back into the minivan and headed for lunch.
Lunch took place at Tsue’s Farm near the artsy town of Haleiwa. The farm sits along the Anahulu River and we sat outside feasting on fresh coconut shrimp and pulled pork. Feral cats lounged around, co-mingling with the local chickens and waiting for leftovers.
Once lunch was over, we headed over to the little dock on the river and donned our life vests.
We had a choice to kayak or to do stand up paddle boarding. Having never done a stand-up paddle board before I jumped at the opportunity to try it out. Meanwhile, my husband and son wimped out and went with the double kayak.
I was very nervous, for even though I knew there wasn’t anything scary lurking beneath the surface, I didn’t want to fall in and have to figure out how to get back on the board! In the end, I was very lucky and made it up the river to the turn around point and back.
It was great! My family did pretend they were going to knock me in, but they took one look at my face and decided against it.
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Next, came a stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation for their famous Dole Whip. The only other place one can get the official Dole Whip is at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, so this is a great opportunity to feed that craving!
There wasn’t time to do the activities offered here, but we’ve been there before and found it enjoyable. They offer rides on their Pineapple Express Train, with a fully narrated train tour that takes about 20 minutes. You will hear the history of pineapple in Hawaii and travel through fields of pineapples.
The plantation also has a lovely garden you can wander through, a pineapple maze you can walk, and a grille if you’re hungry. If you have multiple days on Oahu it may be something you want to investigate.
But back to our tour! The best was yet to come! We got back in the van and drove through some incredible scenery on our way to Hanauma Bay.
Snorkel equipment is supplied through the tour and after watching the required film at the entrance you are free to head down to the beach and enter an enchanting under sea world. Hanauma is a volcanic crater that was formed about 32,000 years ago!
It is now both a Marine Life Conservation District and a Nature Preserve. They have had millions of visitors and are trying to maintain the integrity of the area, hence the reason you are required to watch the short movie before entering the water. There are about 400 species of fish in the bay! And if you are lucky you will see Green sea turtles.
We’ve been snorkeling there twice and have not seen any. However, we saw some amazing fish and the lack of large waves makes for a family friendly snorkeling experience. The various shades of blue water are stunning. It’s no wonder the bay was used by Hawaiian nobility!
After snorkeling we piled in the van and headed back towards Honolulu, our friendly driver Sunny behind the wheel. Kurt entertained us with stories of various celebrities that have homes in the area. Looking around the van I could tell everyone was happy and relaxed after our day long tour.
If you like the beach, beautiful scenery and friendly hosts we highly recommend doing a tour with North Shore Beach Bus. It makes for a memorable day in paradise!