The Kahuku Shoreline is an interesting spin on typical hiking on O'ahu. Situated along an undeveloped section of coastline on the north shore, this intermediate hike follows the wild and windswept shores that migratory birds and endangered Hawaiian monk seals call home. Best suited for an overcast or cooler day, the 5-mile shoreline hike is exposed to the elements with little or no relief from the otherwise intense tropical sunshine. Kahuku Shoreline is one of the few hikes where seeing other people is rare. Take in the solitude, watch for migratory birds and lazy monk seals, or picnic on the beach with the entire family.
Bring plenty of water and protection from the sun, as well as sturdy footwear for the sharp and jagged rocks. Keeping to the beach is a must, as land above the high-tide mark is private or federal government property. Waves along this stretch of beach can be massive, especially during the winter months, and washed-up ocean plastic and debris is an unfortunate commonality.
Hikers make their way along rocky outcroppings, sandy dunes, and hidden tide pools of the Kahuku Shoreline, although the going can be slow while trekking through loose, deep sand. The dunes are lined with native naupaka kahakai, with half-crescent white flowers and fruits with antiseptic properties. Fencing along the mauka (mountain-side) edge of the beach marks the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, a reserve for seabirds and other important coastal critters. Established in 1976 and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the refuge protects over a thousand acres of the last remaining intact coastal dune ecosystem on the island. The inshore wetlands drain into an estuary which requires a wet crossing by the ocean's edge. Endangered Hawaiian monk seals can oftentimes be spotted resting on the beach. Give them a wide berth and understand that feeding or otherwise interacting with them is against the law.
This scenic coastal trail is roughly 5 miles one way, so many hikers park two cars, one at either end—the first at the Kahuku Golf Course parking lot and the second at the Turtle Bay Resort beach access lot. Shuttling can also be achieved via the Route 55 bus, which runs between the Kahuku High School and Turtle Bay Resort.