BEACH CAMPING ON OAHU, HAWAII
Our idea of a weekend getaway. Our 3 day adventure of ocean shore camping and beach side fun on the legendary North Shore of Oahu.
TEXT BY JESSICA BLACKMUN // PHOTOS BY JACKSON GROVES
Saturday morning we packed our backpacks and set off on the mopeds to drive up the East side through Kailua, and continued up to the North Shore of Oahu. We ate a big breakfast before hitting the road and packed lunches to cut back on the number of meals we would eat out. We also decided to make a pit stop at the store on the way out of town to buy some breakfast foods and other things we could snack on, in order to save a little extra money.
This scenic drive along the coast is very beautiful. With towering mountains on one side and aquamarine waves crashing on the other it looks like something out of a tropical dream. There are seemingly endless palms aligning the road and it is more like what you would imagine Hawaii to be rather than the commercialized madness that Waikiki and downtown Honolulu gives you. While Jackson likes to leave the headphones at home, I love to complement this drive with the sound of the Spotify playlist ‘Tropical Mornings’. It’s the perfect soundtrack to this incredible drive up the windward side of Oahu. (Link to driving up the east side)
We drove for a couple of hours, stopping a couple of times to let the mopeds rest and ended up at China Man’s Hat. There is an expansive lawn that goes right up to the beach here (it’s a great legal camping option for those who really want to get away from crowds). In the background the lush green mountain range contrasts Chinaman’s hat out in the middle of the beautiful blue Hawaiian waters. The Kualoa ranch (where we went ziplining) is also just across the road from this beach. As we soaked up some rays and ate our packed lunches we talked about where we would eat dinner and camp for the first night. Once the decision was made, we packed up our picnic and got back on the mopeds, taking the Kamehameha Highway to Pupukea.
Once we arrived to what most people would consider as the ‘North Shore’, we decided to pull over and check out Pipeline beach. This area of North Shore along with Haleiwa are considered the surfing capital of the world. There is a relaxed carefree vibe that fits in with the chill surfer atmosphere that you would expect in such a historic area. During the winter months the waves on the North Shore get massive which is why they hold so many of the major surf competitions here each winter. We found a spot on the grainy sand, took time to relax and observed the pure athleticism happening on the water. We sat on the beach for a few hours and snacked as we watched surfers take on the relentless and impressive waves.
For dinner we made the short journey down the road towards Shark’s Cove to some of the famous food trucks of the North Shore. Here I got some delicious vegan Pad Thai at The Elephant Truck, while Jackson went for some equally yummy Garlic Shrimp from Sharks Cove Grill. There are multiple food trucks in this lot, and most of them have an awesome dining area that fits in with the atmosphere and theme of their individual food trucks. They are a unique feature of this area providing ambience and quality food.
With our feasts in hand we crossed the street to Shark’s Cove and sat on the lawn. There we ate our dinners as we watched the sun set. This was one of the coolest sunsets I’ve seen. The sky was completely clear and was already lighting up displaying shades of orange and pink. As the sun started to slip closer to the horizon, a random guy started yelling “It’s gonna be a green one guys!” People mostly chose to ignore him but then right as the sun slipped below the horizon it flashed green! I had never seen the infamous green flash before that. It was incredible!
After the sunset show we popped over to Foodland where Jackson bought some Shoreline beers and I got a couple of hard ciders. We decided to head over to Keikis (this is also where we camped the last time we had stayed up on the North Shore) in search of a good place to set up camp. We found a good spot near some trees that would give us a bit of cover. While the beaches of Oahu are all public, camping isn’t exactly legal. We decided to just lay out our towel and hang out until it was darker and our tent would be less noticeable (it’s red so it’s always pretty visible).
We enjoyed a few quiet drinks as we lay back, stargazed, and listened to the waves crash. There were lots of other campers and even people having bonfires around us. It was a lot more populated than we would’ve thought.
Just like camping anywhere else you tend to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, as there isn’t a whole lot to do once the sun goes down. We set up our tent and went to sleep around 9 p.m. then woke up before the sun around 6:30 a.m. giving us plenty of time to pack up our tent before any of the beach-goers came by. We ate our breakfast as we watched surfers catching the sunrise sets.
We decided to head over to Sunset Beach and hang there for the day. The Waterman League Stand Up World Tour Opener was going on and we claimed a great spot, as we were the first non-surfers there. We ended up spending the whole day there. We bought acai bowls from the Crispy Grindz truck across the street and hung out at the beach until dinner. Needless to say we got sunburnt to a crisp!
For dinner we frequented the food trucks next to Foodland again. We both indecisively wandered around but in the end both chose to get the same thing from the same trucks that we had eaten at the night before. At this point we saw the overcast skies and decided to eat dinner in the little dining area in front of The Elephant Truck (They have a few covered tables). The rain only sprinkled and cleared up before it was time to make our way back to our ocean shore camping spot at Keikis.
The second night ended up being a little colder and wetter. It drizzled a few times. But we woke up refreshed and ready to head home. We made a last minute stop at the store to grab a few snacks and headed out. We also had to stop for gas again before we reached Kahana Bay (our beach stop).
Using the excuse of resting the mopeds we stopped at Kahana Bay on the way home. Kahana Bay doesn’t fit the mold of what one would associate with a Hawaiian beach, it almost reminds me a bit of beaches in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington). Here we walked around playing a game (it was a mixture between Bocce Ball and Shuffleboard using giant seeds and pieces of driftwood) while we let our mopeds rest.
We spent about an hour there then decided to drive the rest of the way home. About 20 minutes into this leg of the drive Jackson started swerving in front of me. He put on his turn signal and pulled off the road almost immediately. I was filled with worry and confusion until I got closer and saw a humongous brown furry monster of a spider crawling on the handle of his moped. If it had been me, I would’ve crashed for sure! We later looked up spider pictures and concluded that it must’ve been a cane spider.
After the spider excitement, we had a peaceful ride home. The drive took us about an hour and 45 minutes. (Link to coastal drive post)
With all of the amazing beaches and hikes that this island has to offer, a weekend of ocean shore camping on Oahu’s North Shore is still one of my favorite things to do on Oahu.
WHAT WE PACKED:
1 Pillow (we probably should’ve brought two…)
Warm clothes to sleep in (sweatshirt and sweats)
Fresh change of clothes
Sheet and blankets
Beach towel (we have a giant one that we share)
Lip balm with SPF
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Toilet paper (sometimes the bathrooms run out)
1 reusable water bottle (each)
Solar powered phone charger
WHAT WE SPENT:
Snacks/ breaky foods: $40. We got bars for breakfasts, peanuts and crackers to snack on, some drinks, and a few other snacks.
Food truck dinner: $50. We did food truck dinners both nights. Our combined total was about $25 per night. But depending on which Food truck you go to and how hungry you are this can end up being way more, or maybe even a little less.
Acai bowl lunch: $17. We got acai bowls from the Crispy Grindz. They weren’t my favorite acai bowls ever, but we were too lazy to moped all the way to Haleiwa and go to our favorite acai bowl hut (Haleiwa Bowls!).
Alcoholic beverages: Both nights we enjoyed a few drinks. We spent about $30 in total on drinks.
Gas: $10. We filled up our mopeds on the way out of town then again on the way back in.
In total we spent $147 for the entire weekend and it was well worth it!!!
Before you travel to Oahu make sure to check out the Hawaii Pack List so you don’t forget the essentials.
I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!