Ehukai Beach, otherwise known as the Banzai Pipeline, is a dynamic beach with split personalities. These personalities are seasonal, and the personalities are so distinct that you wouldn’t even believe it’s the same beach from season to season.
The pipeline sits on Oahu’s north shore. Here, you’ll find a much more laid back vibe than you will in Honolulu to the south. It’s quiet up here and that’s the way the locals like it.
But Ehukai Beach comes alive in the dead of winter. Thousands of people congregate on its sand to watch a world-class show that draws fans and competitors from around the world. And for a few brief moments, the country-style quiet of the north shore is broken by the cheers of crowds.
Then, as the summer approaches, the beach morphs into a quiet place perfect for a family barbeque and a sunset. The water and the air return to calmness, and the country vibes of the north shore return.
It’s difficult to say that Hawaii has seasons. The summer months are hard to differentiate from the winter months. Sure, summer days are warmer by a few degrees and most of Hawaii’s short tropical rain showers happen during the winter, but the real way to tell the seasons apart isn’t in the air. It’s in the water.
Summer brings glass-calm waters to the north shore while winter brings world-class waves. These waves are so monstrous that they attract the world’s best surfers to Oahu every winter like clockwork. And you’ll find some of the world’s top surfing competitions take place on Oahu’s north shore.
The competitions split time between Banzai Pipeline and two other nearby north shore beaches -- Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay -- the competitions attract crowds. This is when the relative quiet of the north shore is broken for adrenaline-filled competition.
So, if you visit the Banzai Pipeline during the summer, then you’ll get a totally different experience than if you visit during the winter.
The quiet summertime north shore vibe reflects the quiet and calm waters of Ehukai Beach beach during the warmer months. When the water is calm, Ehukai Beach offers up some of the best snorkeling on Oahu. Just make sure to ask the lifeguard if its safe to go into the water and where the safest snorkeling spot is that day.
You can snorkel the abundant underwater life of the beach while thinking of the massive wintertime waves that would be crashing overhead. They don’t call it the Banzai Pipeline for anything. The 14- to 20-foot wintertime waves create a half-pipe for surfers.
But, during the summer months, you’ll ogle at the crystal clear waters, and, during a particularly bright day, the sun’s rays penetrate the clear water to sparkle off of the abundant tropical fish that flit around the fringing reefs.
Ehukai Beach has been outfitted to deal with the crowds of the wintertime competition, so you can take advantage of this infrastructure during the much less crowded summer months. The beach offers ample parking, bathrooms, showers and plenty of snacks are available nearby.
The waves here get so big in the winter that Ehukai Beach has earned the nickname Banzai Pipeline. The 15-foot waves create a half-pipe for surfers, and the world’s best surfers love to practice in this violent surf during the winter months.
The Billabong Pipeline Masters competition takes place every year between December 5th and December 25th. This is when the north shore swells with fans and the world’s best surfers. It’s also a great time for a day trip in order to catch some of the best surfing in the world.
But, if you visit outside of the competition, you’ll still be treated to a show. There is bound to be daring surfers challenging the massive waves of the pipeline. It’s a rite of passage for many extreme surfers, and it’s wonderful to watch with the family.
Take H1 West out of Honolulu then continue onto H2 North. In about eight miles, take Exit 8 towards Wahiawa. Continue along HI-99 North until it hits the ocean, and then continue along the road as it bends right along the coast and changes into HI-83 East. You’ll see signs and a parking lot for the beach after about eight miles. The entire trip takes around an hour.
Driving an hour to the north shore for a single beach might stretch your itinerary on Oahu thin. Instead, think of splitting up your time on Oahu. Spend a few days in the international hustle-and-bustle of Honolulu and then drive up to the north shore for a few days of quiet relaxation.
The north shore boasts a few different unmissable attractions. Of course, there are the famous surfing beaches, including Ehukai Beach, but you can also visit green sea turtles on Turtle Beach or visit the Polynesian Cultural Center for a trip back in time.