Charming, sleepy, quaint, laid-back…….these are just a few of adjectives to describe Haleiwa. Located on Oahu’s famed North Shore, this former plantation-town-turned-surfing-headquarters is a must-see! There are two ways to reach Haleiwa from Waikiki. You can take the uber-scenic route as described in my “Driving Oahu” blog post, or you can take the shorter route and hop on the H1 freeway westbound, and then merge onto the north-bound H2 freeway until it ends near Schofield Army Base. From there, you will meander through the pineapple fields past Dole Plantation until you reach Haleiwa. I usually prefer to take the longer (and more scenic) east-northeast drive to Haleiwa, and take the freeway route back to Waikiki, however, it is up to you.
If you arrive in Haleiwa from the north, you will cross the iconic Rainbow Bridge, which spans the Anahulu River (sometimes referred to as Anahulu Stream). The Anahulu River is one of the most popular paddle boarding spots on Oahu. It is also excellent for kayaking. There are several places to rent SUP’s and kayaks in Haleiwa, however if you select our North Shore Exploration and Farm Adventure Activity*, you will be able to kayak and/or paddle board the Anahulu, in addition to other activities!
Another popular rental in Haleiwa are surfboards – after all, Haleiwa is within a short drive to all the legendary Hawaiian “big wave” surfing locations**. Haleiwa is also home to many surf shops, such as T&C Surf and Surf n Sea. These shops sell surf boards, clothing, jewelry, slippers and a lot more!
There is also an open-air shell market called Sea Shell Man which specializes in souvenir and decorative shells, shell “wind chimes” and more! My husband and I stopped here on our honeymoon in 2011, and he bought a large conch shell. It makes for lovely décor in our home, and every New Year’s Eve, he goes outside and blows it at midnight!
Haleiwa also has many popular restaurants, some favorites being Haleiwa Joe’s, Spaghettini, Waialua Bakery & Juice Bar, Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican and Rajanee Thai. There are also quite a few food trucks around town, if that is more your thing. There is also a McDonald’s, if you choose to go, try the saimin…it’s surprisingly ono! I couldn’t talk about eating in Haleiwa without mentioning shave ice. This is a Hawaii staple! Most of our Oahu-based Packages include a “farewell shave ice” in Waikiki on your last day, but you also must get a shave ice while you are in Haleiwa. It is the perfect way to cool down, or finish off a meal. The most famous is Matsumoto’s, hands down. This family store has been in business over 50 years, and boasts an attached gift shop. Another favorite is Aoki’s.
While in Haleiwa, if you have a baby or small child, or know someone who is expecting, you must stop in the Growing Keiki (Hawaiian word for child) shop! I absolutely love this little boutique. Toys, books, onesies, swimsuits, aloha wear, hats, swaddle blankets and so much more! Everything is Hawaii-themed, and a lot of the merchandise is designed by local artists. Speaking of artists, there are several art galleries in Haleiwa, with many specializing in “surfer art”, a la Heather Brown and others.
No matter what you do in Haleiwa – whether you stop for lunch & shopping, kayak and paddle board with our North Shore Exploration & Farm Adventure Tour, come for the waves and surfing lore or simply pass through on your way to the next magical spot Oahu has to offer, Haleiwa has something for everyone!
*As of January 2021, this activity is temporarily closed for repairs, however it should be up and running soon. Your booking agent will provide further details.
**Especially in the winter months, Oahu’s North Shore boasts some of the largest waves in the world. Never attempt to surf these waves unless you are a highly-skilled, professional surfer well-versed in big-wave surfing, as they can be deadly!