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Complete guide to the town of Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii.
|Guide Series: Hawaii City Guides
The city of Haleiwa, pronounced hah-lay-ee-vuh, is located along the north shore on the island of O'ahu. It's about a one hour drive from the Waikiki area (see Waikiki Guide) and easy to reach via the H1 and H2 freeways. This is the main town area along this side of the island and it's very much a tourist friendly area.
To the west is the city of Waialua and as you travel further northeast (clockwise around the island) you'll run into towns like Kahuku and Laie.
Early Hawaiians occupied the Waimea Valley area, which today is the Waimea Valley, and parts of the Anahulu River as early as 1100 AD. Captain Cook (see The History of Captain James Cook) arrived in Waimea Bay (which today is Waimea Bay Beach Park) in 1779, and noted that the area around the Waimea Valley was "well cultivated and full of villages and the face of the country is uncommonly beautiful and picturesque".
In 1832, early missionaries arrived in the area and constructed the first church that would eventually be named the Lili'uokalani Protestant Church. The Church stands today near the Haleiwa Bridge.
Private ownership of land allowed businessmen to come into Waialua Valley and cultivate pineapple and sugarcane. The era of the sugar plantation emerged and immigrants from Asia and Europe descended upon the area to farm the fields. For more on that subject, be sure to read Sugar in Hawaii.
In 1898, the businessman Benjamin Dillingham started a narrow gauge railroad that would connect the profitable sugar plantations throughout O'ahu with Honolulu. He built a grand Victorian style hotel where Haleiwa Joe's stands today. It was named the Haleiwa Hotel and became a popular weekend getaway for affluent people living in Honolulu who wanted to spend a few days in the country. Eventually, the town beside the hotel took the name Haleiwa.
Many industrious Asian plantation workers left the fields to open shops and restaurants in Haleiwa creating the largest town on Oahu's north shore.
Today, the hotel and train no longer exist, but Haleiwa evolved into a popular tourist stop for surfers. The north shore is world renown for its great surfing spots such as Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay Beach Park, and Banzai Pipeline / 'Ehukai Beach Park. This is also a very touristy town yet somehow manages to maintain a small town, Main Street USA feel.
Sunset Beach as the name implies, is one of the best places to see a sunset on O'ahu. This stretch of beach is popular with surfers during the winter months and families during the summer. It's a popular, iconic Hawaiian beach.
North Shore Shark Adventures offers shark cage tours departing from Haleiwa Boat Harbor. An exciting adventure for visitors to see these predators in their natural environment.
Wyland Galleries North Shore has beautiful works of marine life and sculptures. You can find them, and many other shops, at the North Shore Marketplace.
Waimea Bay Beach Park is one of the most iconic and picturesque beaches in Hawaii. During the summer months, it's a popular playground with crystal blue water. It offers plenty of turtles and sea life to check out with your mask and snorkel. There's a large rock wall where you can make a 20 foot plunge into the ocean, though we don't recommend this. During the summer months, Waimea Bay Beach Park is an epic place to check out big wave surfers.
Waimea Valley is located across the street from Waimea Bay Beach Park. It's a beautiful park with a paved trail through lush vegetation and plants which are labeled with placards. There are ancient dwellings and exhibits to explore. At the end of your hike up the valley is a waterfall where you can swim in the pool below it (assuming the Leptospirosis threat is low). It's beautiful and pleasant and you'll also want to check out the Haleiwa Farmers Market which happens every Thursday afternoon.
You have to try Shave Ice (see 3 Great Places for Shave Ice on Oahu and 3 Great Places for Shave Ice on Oahu) while you're in Hawaii, and Matsumoto Shave Ice is the island's most popular. For over 50 years, Matsumoto's has been shaving ice and pouring their original syrup in Haleiwa.
Pupukea Beach Park / Shark's Cove Beach often has some great snorkeling on O'ahu, for more be sure to read Best Snorkeling Beaches on Oahu. It's a bit jagged, so where your "slippuhs", but once you put on your mask, snorkel and finds, you'll explore an undersea world unique with brightly colored tropical fish. Splendid place to spend a few hours explore Hawaii's beautiful marine life. Beside Pupukea Beach Park / Shark's Cove Beach is lovely Three Tables Beach, which has a beach area to relax after snorkeling.
The nearby Dole Plantation (technically in Wahiawa) was originally a fruit stand back in the 1950's but today it's one of Oahu's most popular tourist attractions. Over a million people visit the pineapple fields and learn about Hawaii farming. There's also a huge hedge maze for the kiddos as well as a narrow gauge railroad train.
Banzai Pipeline / 'Ehukai Beach Park is by far the most amazing place to watch big wave surfing on Oahu. During the winter months, watermen will challenge this break which has creates a large hollow tube that spits surfers out if their skilled enough to ride it. It's also one of the most picturesque beaches in Hawaii. The quintessential beach that surfers throughout the world drool over when looking through the pages of surfer magazine.
Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach) is an extremely popular place for visitors to Hawaii for one reason: seeing Honu - The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. Just about anytime of the day, any time of the year, there are turtles either basking on the shoreline, or peeking their heads through the ocean. You're almost guaranteed to see turtles here. In fact, this beach is such a tourist hotspot, with most tour busses stopping here and causing huge traffic problems, that there has actually been talk of relocating the turtles elsewhere. Now how dumb is that!
Haleiwa Beach Park is large beach and park just outside the town of Haleiwa. Here you'll be able to take Stand Up Paddle board or surfing lessons. During the summer, the fun Haleiwa Art Festival takes place, and should not be missed if you're visiting at that time. It's walking distance to the town, so grab a shave ice and check it out.
Haleiwa Fun Facts
Haleiwa's historic Anahulu Stream Bridge, more commonly known as Rainbow Bridge, is one of two oddly famous landmarks.
The other is the famous Haleiwa sign which we do not recommend taking your photo with due to the traffic dangers involved.
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