Rich with island history, the charming town of Haleiwa is about a one-hour drive from the scuba diving spots in Waikiki. Marked by the historic Rainbow Bridge over the Anahulu River, Haleiwa welcomes you to the North Shore of O’ahu. Known for its legendary beaches and big wave surfing, this social and artistic hub of the North Shore is a favorite refuge for Hawai’i residents and a must-see for visitors. The quaint locale is a mecca for surfers, beach goers, fishing enthusiasts, craftspeople, and artists.
The name Hale’iwa translates to a couple different meanings. In Hawai’ian, “hale” means house and an “iwa” is a frigate bird; this meaning lends way to “house of the frigate bird”. “Iwa” is also a poetic symbol for an attractive person, so in a figurative way, the name Haleiwa means “home of attractive people”. Another point of reference stems from a Protestant school built on the banks of Anahulu Stream. Haleiwa was the name of the dormitory building of the Waialua Female Seminary.
However, the name was permanently established in the area by the Haleiwa Hotel. Benjamin Dillingham opened the Haleiwa Hotel on the North Shore area back in 1898. When the hotel opened, the name was translated as “beautiful home.” The hotel was a popular beach resort destination on the O’ahuRailway and Land Company train line from 1899 to 1943.
Today, Haleiwa is the economic hub of the North Shore, filled with country ambiance and local style. Many of the structures were built in the early 1900s, supporting the look of a laid back surf town with its prevailing paniolo (Hawai’ian cowboy) styled buildings. Nowhere else on O’ahu will you find quaint shops, eateries, and more housed in plantation era buildings, all less than five miles away from the world famous surf beaches of Waimea Bay, Ehukai (Banzai Pipeline), and Sunset Beach.
Influenced by the Waialua Sugar Company, the town is home to 34 historic buildings featuring plantation architectural styles. It was designated a State Historic, Cultural, and Scenic District in 1984. Unique, locally-owned businesses range from boutiques to boat charters, from surf shops to shaved ice stands.
The historic Haleiwa town is well worth a day-trip on its own, but if you’re just looking for some fun in the sun, you can also find that here! Two beach parks surround the Haleiwa Small Boat Harbor located in Waialua Bay: Haleiwa Beach Park is to the north of Haleiwa, and Haleiwa Alii Beach Park is to the south.
Massive waves pound the North Shore during the winter months. Each November and December, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing takes place at these beaches. The competition consists of three events for men and three events for women. When any of the events are taking place, locals and visitors alike from all over the world flock to the North Shore. With the only way in and out being a two-lane highway, this creates a traffic nightmare, but if you get there early enough to park, you’ll be treated to one of nature’s greatest spectacles – some of the world’s highest and most exciting waves, and the best surfers in the world tackling them. So get yourself a proper foam surfboard and give this amazing watersport a go.
Swimming and/or surfing is not advised during large wave periods unless you are an experienced waterman.
Summer months on the North Shore carry much calmer ocean conditions where you can explore several of the magnificent reefs just off the coast.