Sightseeing O‘ahu’s North Shore is primarily focused on Hawaiian heritage, and since all sites are found outdoors, nature features fairly heavily as well. With two main areas to explore, you’ll want to do a bit of planning to make sure you can fully experience both.
Pu‘u O Mahuka Heiau
Located on the Pupukea bluff right above Waimea Bay and covering two acres, Pu‘u O Mahuka Heiau is the largest heiau on O‘ahu. Three- to six-foot stacked stone walls are what remain of the original three enclosures thought to have been built in the 17th century. The structure was integral to the social, political, and religious systems for the once thriving Waimea Valley community. The heiau has views of Waimea Valley and the North Shore. There are dirt walking paths around the structure and interpretive signage, but no water or facilities.
Follow the trail to the edge of the cliff for a unique view of Waimea Bay. To get there, drive up Pupukea Road and take the first right turn after the switchbacks. The paved road is rough and narrow, so drive slowly and be aware of oncoming vehicles.
Waimea Valley (59-864 Kamehameha Hwy., 808/638-7766, 9am-5pm daily) is one of O‘ahu’s last partially intact ahupua‘a (land division stretching from the mountain to the sea), and is part botanical garden and part native Hawaiian cultural site.
Once a thriving native Hawaiian community based around the river running down the valley to the sea, it offered sustenance in many forms for native Hawaiians. Today, Waimea Valley is home to many collections of tropical plants, but it is most famous for the hybrid hibiscus collection at the front of the garden and the ginger and heliconia collection at the back of the valley.
Peacocks run wild through the gardens, and native birds are common along the stream. There are several native Hawaiian historic living sites along the three-quarter-mile paved trail back to the waterfall and pool. General admission is $15 for adults and $7.50 for children ages 4-12 and seniors 60 and over. Golf cart transportation from the ticket booth to the waterfall is available for $4 one way and $6 round-trip. They also have several guided hikes led by staff on Thursday and Saturday. Reservations must be made at least three days in advance for these, and additional fees apply. Check the website for the detailed information about the guided hikes.