By Sarah Hendrix | Staff Writer

Oʻahu’s iconic North Shore, known for it’s big-wave surfing, has a number of hidden gems for an affordable rate that normally would not make news headlines. Many of the activities and food offered at the North Shore can add up to an expensive bill, but for students who are looking for cheaper options, there are plenty of great alternatives. These are some of the activities and food that have allowed me to experience the North Shore on a student budget.

Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau

Waimea Bay and Waimea River from the lookout at Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau. (Photo courtesy of Connor Hendrix)

A heiau is a sacred place of worship for the Hawaiian people and North Shore has one located on two acres of land with views of the ocean and mountains. Up in Pūpūkea the largest heiau on Oʻahu overlooks Waimea Bay, Waimea River and the Waiʻanae mountain range in the distance. It is a beautiful site for students to visit and feel a connection to the Hawaiian culture here on Oʻahu. It is important for anyone visiting to be respectful of the area, which includes not touching the heiau, being quiet, and not taking anything from the site. This is a beautiful scenic place to visit on the North Shore that provides a tranquil atmosphere and is rich in historic culture.


There are plenty of fantastic places to snorkel on the North Shore, but my favorite is Waimea Bay during the summer months. When the North Shore is flat between May-September, it is the best time to snorkel in calm water with fish, turtles and reef. On the left side of the rock at Waimea, a place where locals and touristes alike choose to cliff jump, there is incredible snorkeling available for those who bring their own snorkel gear.

Poke Bowls

There are tons of great food trucks that offer poke bowls for a hefty price. I usually choose to go to Foodland up in Pūpūkea for the spicy ‘ahi poke bowl. Every time I have gone the poke bowls have been fresh with a wider variety of options than most food trucks. For students who do not want rice with their poke, a great pairing is to buy Have’a Corn Chips and use the poke as a dip with the chips. Both of these options will save students money in comparison to many of the poke food trucks on the North Shore.

Mālaekahana Campground

The view of the sunrise from Mālaekahana campground. (Photo by Sarah Hendrix)

Camping is an activity I enjoy on the weekends with a group of friends, and one of my favorite spots on the island is Mālaekahana campground. Located just outside of Lāʻie, Mālaekahana is a beautiful campground located right on the beach with plenty of green space for groups or singles that want to camp. For up to six people per campsite, Hawaiʻi residents pay $12 per site/per night and non-residents pay $18 per site/per night. The campground is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays every week for maintenance.

Longboard Waves

The North Shore is always commercialized for its big waves in the winter months, but over the spring and early autumn it has fun smaller waves for longboarders. Specifically at Haleʻiwa Beach Park, just a short walk from downtown, there are great waves that require a very short paddle out from the shore. For students who do not own their own longboard, Tropical Rush in Haleʻiwa offers reasonable rates. For one hour students can rent a longboard for $9 or pay $22 to have the rental for one day.


This can be an issue at many of the beaches up on the North Shore, especially when surf contests are going on. For students who are not interested in well-known beaches like Sunset, Pipeline, or Waimea Bay, I would recommend some lesser-known beaches with plenty of parking space. Mokulēia Beach Park is west of Haleʻiwa and has a long shoreline with spectacular views of the sunset. Another great option is Pounders Beach in Lāʻie, which has a large parking lot and is a close walk to the beach. Finally, Haleʻiwa Beach Park has tons of parking, but because it is right in town available space on the beach fills up quickly.