Winter Surf Guide – Oahu: North and South Shore Edition

Good news: if you are planning on traveling to Hawaii this year, specifically O‘ahu, and booking a surf lesson to surf some of the most iconic waves in the world, you’ve come to the right place!

Even if it’s not on your agenda this year, bookmark this for the future. Read on to discover a full Hawaii Winter Surf Day: north shore and south shore edition.

North Shore, O‘ahu

Yup, believe it or not, although the north shore can reach heights of over 20 ft. during the winter, there are still some accessible, beginner-friendly spots.

The north shore of O‘ahu is a must-see when visiting Hawaii. It is home to some of the most famous surf breaks in the world, including Pipeline, Waimea, and Sunset Beach.

On the north shore, you can book a surf lesson, horseback ride, hike, skydive, scuba, snorkel, and not to mention, indulge in the delicious array of food from local shops and food trucks. If you are driving from the south shore of O‘ahu, account for about an hour trip one way.

Conditions can vary, and weather forecasts are not always predictable so come prepared!

Temperatures will never drop into very low digits, but rain can sometimes be an issue. Nature is always unpredictable; that’s what makes it so amazing!

It is probably a good idea to plan on spending a couple of days on the north shore if you do plan to visit, that way you can have better security that you’ll catch it on a good day.

If driving up from the south, make sure to stop at your token coffee shop on the north shore, like Waialua Coffee Roasters, or Coffee Gallery, in Hale‘iwa shopping center. This is always a must to have a little bit of fuel before a long day up north!

Make sure you also stop at a convenience store if necessary to pick up lots of water and snacks for the day.

Hale‘iwa Beach Park, or Ali‘i Beach Park, is one place where you can take surf lessons on a manageable-sized day on the north shore.

The ocean bottom is rocky with some sandy areas. The beach adjacent, Pua‘ena Point, is another popular spot. It is named for the point which can be reached by walking along the beach through the rocky, pebbly area that extends out into the water.

This is where more advanced surfers will paddle out from, as there is a bigger peak that is accessible from the point. Make sure you book through HOKALI!

The great part about this location for a first time or beginner surfers, is that the waves still do break pretty close to shore, so you can practice paddling into waves and standing up.

Pua‘ena point and Chuns Reef are probably the two most popular places to surf on the north shore for beginners.

Chun’s Reef is located further north along Kamehameha highway, two miles north of Haleiwa Beach Park.

Chun’s Reef, named after a resident of the area in the 1950’s, is famous for its long stretch of white sand beach and fun surf.

Both beginner and experienced surfers have fun in the rolling waves, and it is another location on the north shore where you can take surf lessons.

Once you’ve completed your booking, the surf school will provide you with the surfboard, a great instructor, and everything else you need to know!

After your surf lesson, expect to enjoy a satisfying meal. Some great healthy options include Pupukea Grill, for fresh island fish and sandwiches and salads, Waialua Bakery, for the best roasted turkey sandwich and smoothies, or a delicious refreshing acai bowl from Hale‘iwa Bowls or the Sunrise Shack!

These are some of my personal favorites. The options on the north shore are endless; you can easily find steak plates, burgers, thai food, japanese food, vegetarian options, and of course… the infamous Giovanni’s garlic shrimp.

You could even continue your day by going to Ehukai Beach Park, and watching some more advanced surfers in the lineups!

End your day by enjoying a beautiful sunset at Ke Iki Beach. Recipe for success!

South Shore Oahu

The second half of this tour covers the south shore of O‘ahu, specifically, Waikiki Beach.

Waikiki Beach has become a hub for surfing, shopping, and nightlife.

Its surfing legacy traces back namely to Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympian, and the surfer who shared the sport with the world.

Duke grew up swimming and surfing in Waikiki and went on to win three gold medals and one silver medal in Olympic swimming. His statue stands in front of Waikiki beach, between Queens and Canoes surf break; it’s impossible to miss!

In Waikiki, you will find stands along the beach, and some a couple blocks up the shore, where you can easily book surf lessons with experienced professionals.

Even during the winter where waves are smaller, on the right day you can score some great rides!

Winter in Waikiki also tends to be a bit less crowded and hectic than in the summertime. Make sure you ask if your instructor can take pictures/videos for you! – often there is a small upcharge, but it is worth it!

Another great surf spot in Waikiki to find surf lessons is Publics Beach.

A little more towards Diamond Head, between the Waikiki Aquarium and Queens beach, Publics is up against a nice grassy lawn with a small snack shop – the vibe is a bit mellower and less hectic than Queens or Canoes, and surf lessons are held throughout the winter!

Following your surf session, if you have access to a car, make sure you refuel up the road on Monsarrat Avenue, near Diamond Head beach. This stretch of avenue offers a whole variety of lunch options – classic local-style plate lunch, acai bowls, breakfast all day, sushi, shave ice, and more! It is a great option if you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and want to have great options at your fingertips.

If you’d prefer to eat in Waikiki, you are sure to find something that piques your interest. You can never go wrong with yummy poke at Maguro Bros!

To summarize, O‘ahu offers beginner and first-time friendly surf spots both north shore (Pua‘ena Point, Chuns Reef) and south shore (Queens, Canoes, Publics)!

Be sure to make the most of your Hawaii surf experience the next time you come!

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