I recently spent a very relaxing week on Oahu’s North Shore with my husband, his two adult children and their partners. To say my family are big foodies is an understatement. My mum used to own a catering business, my husband is a chef, and his two children have grown up with chef-quality meals cooked for them most of their life. Needless to say, finding the right places to eat and drink is pretty high on our priority list.
Here is our guide to the best places to eat and drink on Oahu’s North Shore.
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Best Tacos on North Shore:
Cheap, quick and tastes good. That’s how I like my tacos. They offer good vegetarian options, which I was pleased about. And, according to several trip advisor reviews, their fish tacos are to die for.
We arrived into Honolulu Airport mid-morning, and after the 40-minute drive across the island to the North Shore, our first priority was FOOD! Killer Tacos was the first place we saw as it’s located on the main drive into Haleiwa town and very convenient for a quick bite.
Best Restaurant on North Shore:
Haleiwa Joe’s is one of the only upmarket restaurants in the Haleiwa area. The food here was excellent. And the service, even better. In fact, it’s a big call but Haleiwa Joe’s might actually be one of the best restaurants we tried on Oahu.
Our server was very knowledgeable, we got the impression that she not only works here but also eats here on a regular basis. Haleiwa Joe’s was also very accommodating to our various requests to change the accompaniments.
Haleiwa Joe’s also has a beautiful view of the marina. If you make a booking, which I would recommend as it is very popular, try and request a seat on the lanai. Happy hour is between 4:30 and 6:30 pm Monday to Friday.
Best Coffee on North Shore:
When you just can’t go without your daily coffee (like me), then you’ll be happy you found Coffee Gallery. As a regular traveller to the United States, finding a barista who actually knows what a ‘flat white’ is, let alone being able to make a good one, is always a challenge. While trying to explain to the cashier that I wanted a small, single-shot with milk and no foam, I was pleasantly surprised at her response, “oh, you mean a flat white?”
If filtered coffee is not your thing, head to this little gem for your early morning fix. They have a great variety of options to eat and drink on the menu and there’s a cute little courtyard to sit out the back.
Location: 66-250 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Best Casual Restaurant on North Shore:
Cholo’s Mexican Restaurant & Margarita Bar
When I saw the word ‘Margarita Bar’ in the front window, I was sold. Another excellent Mexican option in Haleiwa town. With brightly colored Mexican day of the dead themed décor and several margarita options, Cholo’s food was cheap, traditional and delish. The service was a little on the slow side, so we filled up on a mountain of tortilla chips and salsa before our very generously portioned mains arrived. One thing’s for sure, you won’t go home hungry – you’ll have a difficult time trying to decide what to eat and drink at Cholo’s. The spinach and cheese enchiladas were a hit.
Best North Shore Food Trucks:
North Shore Shrimp Truck
Before our visit to Hawaii, I’d heard about Hawaii’s famed shrimp trucks. Most reviews I read seemed to recommend one called Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, but to be honest, we didn’t actually try it (I think it was closed when we drove past). We did, however, stop for a bite to eat and drink at the North Shore Shrimp Truck, and it did not disappoint!
Conveniently located on the main drag at Shark Cove, not far from the well-known tourist area Banzai Pipeline, the North Shore Shrimp Truck place can be summed up with four words… best garlic shrimp ever! Enough said…
The Taco Truck Next Door
I can’t actually remember the name of this food truck, but they served the best fish tacos I’ve ever had! The only problem with this place is, you’ll have a hard time deciding whether to eat here or at the North Shore Shrimp Truck. You might just have to do what my husband did and have both! After all that energy that you’ll spend snorkelling around the coral caves across the road at Shark Cove, you’ll deserve both.
Best Dessert on North Shore:
IL Gelato Cafe
Everybody raves about shaved ice in Hawaii. And while I’m a big fan of trying the local cuisine, personally, I’m more of a gelato-kinda gal. I was so happy to stumble across IL Gelato Cafe in Haleiwa.
The founder of IL Gelato, Dirk Koeppenkastrop heads up the USA Culinary Gelato Team who competed in the world gelato-making championships in Italy and won, twice! That’s gotta say something about the quality of the gelato they serve at this place.
Best Burgers on North Shore:
Teddy’s Bigger Burgers
Ok, so in all honesty, we actually didn’t actually eat here. But we wish we did. Because they had a whopping twenty-five burgers on the menu to choose from. Yep, twenty-five! Every time I walked past, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers was packed full of people, with their faces buried in mouthwatering burger stacks. And the Tiki Bar out the back looked like a great spot to enjoy a feed.
Where to Avoid:
And last but not least, a place I would recommend you avoid. We attempted to eat at Banzai Sushi two nights during our holiday. However, we had a less than favorable experience both times. The first time we put our name down at the door as we had to wait 20 minutes. When the host rang us to let us know that our table was ready, we missed the call by a minute and were just around the corner, so we headed straight back to the restaurant, only to find that they had already given our table away to another group. We decided to try again a few nights later, and after being seated at our table for 15 minutes before they even brought us menus, we decided to leave and try somewhere else.
More Information for Your Visit to North Shore Oahu
Where to Stay in North Shore Oahu
Here are a few options for hotel accommodation around Oahu North Shore. We recommend using Booking.com to find the best rate and many hotels offer free cancellation in case your plans change.
- Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore
- Turtle Bay Resort
- Modern Hawaii Beach House
- Yellow Beachfront Paradise
Pro Tip: There actually aren’t many hotels located on Oahu’s North Shore. If you’re keen to stay in a hotel, you might want to consider staying in Waikiki and visiting North Shore on a day trip (about 1-1.5 hours drive away). Alternatively, we booked a house through VRBO for our week on the North Shore. I found VRBO to have a greater variety of acommodation options in Hawaii than Airbnb.
Getting Around Oahu
I highly recommend hiring a car to get around the island. North Shore is around 1-1.5 hours drive from Honolulu and having a car will allow you to do day trips around the island. We rented a Jeep Wrangler, which was the PERFECT car to get around. Click here to compare prices and book on Rentalcars.com.
Best Tours on Oahu
For some of the best tours and things to do on North Shore Oahu, check out these recommended day tours:
- North Shore Waterfall Adventure
- Oahu Scenic Helicopter Flight
- Full-Day Oahu Scenic Photo Tour
- Snorkeling with Dolphins Tour
Pro Tip: If you plan on doing a bit of sightseeing around Oahu, consider purchasing a Go Oahu Card before arriving. The card will also give you access to over 30 attractions on the island, including Hanauma Bay, the Dole Pineapple Plantation and the Pearl Harbour memorial. You’ll also get discount at some of the above dining experiences. Click here to pre-purchase the Go Oahu Card.
The weather and traffic. If you plan on hiking, there is commonly a lot of cloud cover around the mountains so be prepared. Parking at the main tourist attractions around North Shore is difficult to come by, however many locals allow you to park in their backyard for a small fee (around $5).
Don’t forget to Bring…
Reef-Safe Sunscreen – To protect the beautiful turtles
Hiking Shoes – Oahu has some amazing hikes!
Flip Flops – You’ll live in these.
Wide-Brim Hat – Because you simply can’t go to a beach destination without a great hat!
Read More of Our Travel Tips:
- Bali Foodies Guide: 40 Best Places to Eat in Ubud
- 17 of the Best Mobile Travel Apps I Can’t Leave Home Without
- How to Get Free Hotel Stays Around the World
Can you recommend any other great restaurants or cafes on the North Shore? Let our readers know about them in the comments below.
Planning a trip soon? Here is a list of the websites and resources we use for booking everything from flights, to accommodation, tours, and more:
- Skyscanner for booking the best flight deals
- Booking.com | Agoda | Hotels.com for booking the best hotel deals
- Airbnb | Stayz | HomeAway | VRBO for home rentals
- Rentalcars.com for quick and easy car rentals
- Luxury Escapes for luxury package holiday deals and tours
- Get Your Guide for a great range of day tours
- Tourradar | Intrepid for multi-day experiential and adventure tours
- Priority Pass for airport lounge access in hundreds of locations around the world
- Skyroam to stay connected to WiFi everywhere I go
- iVisa for processing entry visas for many countries around the world
- World Nomads or Covermore for the best worldwide travel insurance coverage (Covermore is only available to Australians & New Zealanders)
About the Author:
Amanda Twine is the founder and creator of Fly Stay Luxe – a luxury travel blog sharing informative travel guides, food guides, hotel reviews, itineraries and tips about how to make luxury travel more affordable.