The famed North Shore is certainly a crowded surfer's mecca. It’s a bit of a kill joy to suddenly be in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a two-lane road through such an otherwise relaxed setting. But the beach town vibe of Haleiwa is enchanting nonetheless – and its shrimp trucks and shave ice make it all better.
We trekked to a nearly private beach further west of Haleiwa, tromping through fields of flowers and horses to get to the beach, where we could swim in solitude and lay on the sand watching sky divers jump out of a plane above.
Giovanni's Original White Shrimp Truck:
If you find yourself in Kahuku, the tiny town on Oahu's northeastern shore, look for the dinged-up white truck covered in scribbles that only a good day would qualify as graffiti. You’ll be rewarded with kick-ass shrimp. Giovanni’s, the first shrimp truck on the North Shore, launched the shrimp truck craze that has since taken over the area.
The original has similar offerings as its competitors, from spicy to lemon shrimp, but Giovanni's signature is shrimp scampi, loaded with butter, a delightfully generous amount of garlic, two scoops of rice, and a squeeze of lemon to complete the dish.
Eat your meal surrounded by local families under a large, covered patio, drinking juice from a coconut purchased at a neighboring juice truck. You'll catch the spirit of Kahuku: laid back, funky -- and delicious.
Another Kahuku gem. The joy of Romy’s, besides more winning shrimp (sweet and spicy!) is that they farm all their own shrimp in a pond behind the bright red storefront. Red picnic tables dot the grounds near the pond and under awnings next to the shrimp shack. But plan ahead – the wait for a simple plate of shrimp can grow to agonizing lengths at mealtimes: come early or late.
Grammer be damned -- don’t call it “shaved ice,” especially at Matsumoto's
Matsumoto's shave ice:
Shave ice is a North Shore invention and Matsumoto’s was the originator of this snow cone-like treat back in 1951. The humble little Haleiwa shop has a perpetual line out the door, movie star clientele, and tons of touristy merchandise surrounding it.
More finely milled than a snow cone and reminiscent of my beloved sno-balls in New Orleans, Matsumoto's shave ice is ideal on those balmy island days. Shave ice colors are unnaturally neon bright, which gave me cause for concern. But I chose flavors carefully: a mix of lilikoi, coconut, and Chinese sour plum, with azuki (red) beans on the bottom. You can also get condensed milk poured on top, but I chose vanilla ice cream, which melted over the beans and ice. It’s oddly addictive, a quintessential North Shore experience I highly recommend. (Note: Aoki’s Shave Ice is a popular alternative a few doors down.)