Perhaps the most famous spot on O’ahu’s north shore is Waimea Bay. Come see expert surfers take on the challenges of winter’s big waves. From November through February, waves reach 30 feet (9 meters), crashing abruptly to coral hidden just below the ocean’s surface.
This is not the spot for beginner surfers to try their luck. The rough surf, sharp coral and powerful undertow are very dangerous. There is no danger in watching, however, so bring a beach blanket and picnic lunch. Then pick your favorite surfers and live vicariously through their daring.
Enjoy soft sands on the long, broad beach. Even in winter, temperatures are very pleasant for beachgoers, in the 75 to 80°F (24 to 27°C) range, so plan for a lovely day in the sun. Walk along the shore, build sandcastles, play beach games or wade close to shore listening to the roar of the crashing waves.
During summer the ocean has a totally different appearance, with gentle swell and few waves. Enjoy snorkeling and swimming. You can even hook-and-line fish from the beach or explore rock formations off the shore.
In 1968, native surfer Eddie Aikau became the first lifeguard on the North Shore, credited with fearlessly saving many lives and attacking giant waves. In his honor, the Waimea area hosts the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, but only if winter waves are large enough. Check local conditions to determine if you’ll see this rare event during your visit.
Across Kamehameha Highway from the ocean, explore the lush Hawaiian greenery that has appeared in dozens of films. Visit Waimea Valley’s botanical collections with hibiscus, erythrina and other native and imported species. Walk the paved trail, which is just under a mile (1.2 kilometers) to reach a majestic waterfall. Bring your swimsuit to splash in the natural pool at its base. The gardens are open daily except holidays.
Waimea Bay Beach Park has restrooms, showers, picnic areas and lifeguards. The parking lot fills rapidly. The park is less than an hour’s drive from Honolulu. Buses stop near the main entrance to the beach and gardens.