Postcard 21: North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii


I’ve now been living on Oahu for a little over a year since returning from graduate school in Phoenix, Ariz. Honestly, when you live here, you tend to take everything this island has to offer for granted. I almost fell back into that state of mind. But in recent months, I’ve been joining friends in various hiking and outdoor expeditions.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that the ocean is one of the best remedies to cure the stress and exhaustion resulting from day-to-day activities. My best friend Jade and I felt like we needed a day trip to the beach to escape reality: a place to just relax and let the sound of the waves take us away from everything.

Fortunately, my job — which requires me to come in at 3 a.m. and end around 10 a.m. — gives me ample time during the day to pursue all kinds of leisure activities. Jade also has a variable schedule, so after work on Tuesday, we drove to the North Shore, about 25 miles from where I live. Traveling here quite frequently in the past, we already had a rough itinerary of places we’d absolutely need to revisit.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
The farther north you drive on Kamehameha Highway — one of Oahu’s longest highways which starts from the Pearl Harbor area and circles the northern part of the island — you’ll reach a town called Kahuku. Kahuku is home to some of the best food trucks and vendors, serving up the freshest shrimp and corn you’ll probably ever find on Oahu.

We agreed that the drive out there would’ve taken too long if we wanted to complete our itinerary, so we decided to stay in Haleiwa: a quaint and historic surf town full of shops and restaurants galore.

Entering the town, one of the first stops is an open lot with about five food trucks circling the area. We decided ahead of time that we would eat at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, a renowned shrimp truck on the island which was also featured on the Travel Channel.

Customers wait for their orders on picnic tables fronting Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.
A “SHRIMP” surfboard leans against a tree in the food truck lot.

Though the white, graffiti-covered truck’s unassuming facade might deter the average person, the smell of fresh garlic shrimp would do just the opposite.

A young girl orders a shrimp plate at the truck window.
Although the exterior of Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is covered with writing and graffiti, it doesn’t stop customers from ordering.

We both ordered Giovanni’s signature shrimp scampi dish — a simple plate stacked with about a dozen pieces of lemon butter-drenched shrimp served aside two scoops of rice.

The taste was even better than the smell. The rich and savory sauce — made of olive oil, fresh chopped garlic and lemon butter — combined with the warmth and freshness of the shrimp made every bite ever so delectable.

The Giovanni’s shrimp scampi plate consists of about a dozen pieces of shrimp bathed in a specialty sauce.

After devouring the entire plate in less than 10 minutes, I was a happy camper.

Sunset Beach
The North Shore is comprised of many small beach parks, including the most popular ones like Waimea Bay, Shark’s Cove and Sunset Beach. Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach are home to some of the biggest surf competitions on Oahu.

Although I enjoy going to Waimea Bay — a small picturesque beach that includes a giant rock formation for people to jump off — the parking there is a pain. There are only about two dozen stalls, and with so many tourists and locals on spring break, we didn’t even want to take a chance. So we passed this one and headed towards Sunset Beach.

The waves were fairly large in size — not suitable for swimming — so we parked our towels and bags on the sand, content with the idea that we would just watch the waves and soak up the sun.

A slightly overcast sky and trade winds made for a perfect day at Sunset Beach.

Being able to just lie down on the sand, watch the clouds make interesting formations, and listen to the waves crash along the shore is one of the most relaxing moments one can experience.

Reflecting and enjoying the peace and tranquility of the ocean.
“No swimming” signs warn beachgoers of the rough conditions.
Jade bundles up for a windy day at the beach.
The deep blue color of the ocean make for a perfect photo.
I’m clearly thrilled about being at the beach!

Matsumoto’s Shave Ice
After about two hours of beach time, we drove back to Haleiwa for our afternoon treat: shave ice from Matsumoto’s! As I mentioned in a previous post about Hawaii, shave ice is practically a staple for locals. On a warm day — which is basically every day in Hawaii — shave ice is the best afternoon snack.

Matsumoto’s is one of the most popular shave ice spots on the island and possibly the entire state. As a family-owned store that opened in 1951, it offers nearly 40 different shave ice flavors, and customers can opt to mix their shave ice with azuki beans and/or ice cream.

A small hole-in-the wall shop right along Kamehameha Highway, you’ll almost always see a crowd of tourists and locals lined up out the doors even though there are several other shave ice stands in the town.

Lucky for us, the line wasn’t too long, so we got to the front in about 15 minutes or so. I ordered a small (yuzu, guava, lilikoi) shave ice with ice cream. Jade ordered a small (pina colada and guava) shave ice with ice cream.

Customers line up out the doors of Matsumoto’s to get their hands on some of the best shave ice in town.
Many tourists take pictures under the famous Matsumoto’s sign.

Standing beneath the sun with cold shave ice running down my throat was the icing on the cake for what amounted to a great day.

A cold shave ice is the perfect treat on a warm day in Hawaii.
I’m a happy camper when I have Matsumoto’s shave ice!

Haleiwa Town
After filling our stomachs with a sweet treat, we took some time to walk around the town and browse a few of the shops nearby.

The landmark Haleiwa sign greets guests at the entrance of the town.
The historic twin-span “Rainbow Bridge” over the Anahulu River marks the northern entrance of Haleiwa.

The quietness and slow pace of this town really define the environment of Haleiwa. It made me feel as if time stood still; that the hustle and bustle of daily life became obsolete.

The calmness of Haleiwa takes visitors away from the hustle and bustle of reality.
A surfboard truck fronts the entrance of a Haleiwa business.
A local vendor sells a variety of items, including shells, glass and other souvenirs.
A local vendor sells an “Aloha” sign.
A local vendor displays shells outside the tent.
A North Shore Marketplace sign attracts visitors to a small strip mall in Haleiwa.
A bumper sticker on the door of Kono’s, a North Shore eatery, describes the pace of Hawaii.

One of the newest catchphrases here is, “lucky we live Hawaii.” I could say at this point that I felt beyond lucky to live Hawaii.

4 thoughts on “Postcard 21: North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

  1. Loved this blog….brought back lots of old memories, especially the shaved ice. There’s also a lot of new stuff at the North Shore. The surfboard business and lunch wagons with the ono looking food is all new. Got to remember this the next time I’m in Hawaii. Your dad told me you’re finally working at your new job. Congratulations…you made it. Hope all works out well. Take care and I’ll be in touch. Hugs, Aunty Pat

    1. Glad this post helped bring back some fond memories for you. 🙂 Maybe the next time you visit, we can go up north for some shave ice and Kahuku shrimp/corn! Yeah, I started my new shift, and although it has it’s challenges, I’m really learning a lot! Miss you!

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