Katie Sagal

Visit Haleiwa Town

We’ve all heard of Honolulu, Waikiki, and Hanauma Bay – the big name areas of Oahu that get all the tourist attention. While these more famous neighborhoods of Oahu are certainly worth a visit, some of the lesser-known towns on the island deserve a stop on your vacation itinerary, too. One of our favorite hidden gems of Oahu is Haleiwa Town, a bustling little spot on the North Shore nestled on the edge of Waialua Bay. It’s only a one-hour drive from Waikiki, but you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a whole new world. While it began as a sugar plantation in the late 19th century, modern Haleiwa has developed into the largest surfing town on the island of Oahu. Because of this rich history, Haleiwa Town combines the best of Oahu’s historical charm with the appeal of a tropical paradise. You’ll find everything from centuries-old buildings to lush forests and sparkling waters just perfect for snorkeling. It’s also conveniently located between two popular state parks – Hale’iwa Beach and Hale’iwa Ali’I Beach, both of which are idea for surfing, kayaking, and more. You can easily pick up some gear for Oahu Kayaking a little to the north and then sail the bay waters yourself down shore to Haleiwa. The water is this stretch is usually quite calm in the warmer months, although it has waves enough to make it popular for avid surfers. It’s also an ideal region for outdoor camping, either on the beach or in the jungle.

Image of Arch, Arch Bridge, Bridge, The famous Rainbow Bridge (technically named the Anahula Bridge), called so by locals because of its distinctive double arch.
The entrance to Haleiwa is marked by the distinctive Rainbow Bridge, which leads straight into a neighborhood filled with shops, restaurants, art galleries, and more. Due to Haleiwa’s designation as a State Historic District, all of the new construction adheres to the older aesthetic that characterized the Haleiwa’s sugar-plantation roots. So while you’ll find everything from traditional Hawaiian breakfasts to Mexican food, the buildings will all be part of a distinct early-era aesthetic. Of course, if you do stop in Haleiwa, you cannot miss the world-famous Matsumoto’s shave ice – the most popular desert in Oahu. Another famous local restaurant is Haleiwa Joe’s Seafood, which stands on the site of the historic Haleiwa Hotel, the construction of which in 1898 spurred the evolution of Haleiwa from a sugar plantation to the bustling town it is today.
Image of Nature, Outdoors, Sea, Sea Waves, Water, Surfing, Person, A surfer enjoying the waves near Haleiwa Town
Just a bit further north from Haleiwa is the hidden paradise of Waimea Valley. This nearly 2,000 acre-wide natural wonder contains botanical gardens, archeological sites, and even one of the most photographed waterfalls in all of Oahu. This is a great place to visit for travelers looking to explore traditional Hawaiian culture, as many of the conventions and cultural practices of historical Oahu are preserved in the maintenance of this unique geographic spaces. You’ll even find several rare plants among the botanical gardens that exist only on the Hawaiian Islands – identified by scientists as one of the most genetically unique biospheres in the world. Pay a visit to Haleiwa Town on your next trip to Oahu, and feel free to shop, dine, surf, and kayak to your heart’s content. Don’t forget that stop at Matsumoto’s!
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