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Haleiwa Town – Historical and Cultural Center on North Shore Oahu

Haleiwa Town – Historical and Cultural Center on North Shore Oahu

Haleiwa (pronounced ‘hah-lay-ee-va’, Hawaiian transcription Hale’iwa) is a small beachfront town on the North shore Oahu. It has two great beach parks with beautiful sky and water views. The natural grace of the island is easy to enjoy here. Major surfing competitions are held in Haleiwa town every year. Local shops range from surf shops and gift shops to amazing offerings of talents from around the globe.

Rich volcanic soils, coastal flats and fresh water wetlands that first attracted natives in 1000 AD, helped to foster the area as mainly an agricultural sugar farm region in the early 1900’s. This region became home to immigrants, hired for farm labor, from several Asian countries (Japan, China and Korea) as well as Portugal, Norway, Scotland and the Philippines. This has created a lush and diverse cultural identity for the area.

Laid-back life in Haleiwa
Laid-back life in Haleiwa

Haleiwa town has a strong presence of history with several plantation-era buildings. This area has maintained its historic roots in modern times. The Queen Liliuokalani church (originally the Waialua Protestant church) was first established by the Emerson family of missionaries in 1832. The building and entry gate still stand alongside the early church graveyard. Several of the shopping places, as well as the court house and visitors center are also located in quaint historic facilities.

Queen Liliuokalani protestant church in Haleiwa town, North Shore Oahu
Queen Liliuokalani protestant church in Haleiwa town, North Shore Oahu

The northern entrance to the old Haleiwa town is the Anahulu bridge (also known as the ‘Rainbow Bridge’). This steel and concrete beamed double arch bridge was built in 1921. It spans the Anahulu stream and is popular for paddle boarding, kayaking and river jumping. This part of town is a great tourist excursion giving a real feel to the cozy, romantic history of the area. Check out the town’s website for local attractions in and around Haleiwa town.

Surfing in Haleiwa

Haleiwa has hosted many surf competitions over the years and has some great wave action every season. With surf from 6-8 ft. up to 10-15ft. in high winds, it’s great to watch the waves or surf. This year the Hawai’i Surf Association Surf Series hosts a competition here. The largest beach park is Ali’i Beach park, with free admission and an adjacent marina. Grassy areas with picnic tables give way to palms trees and open beach front. Many head to the point of the lava rock wave break at sunset for some spectacular photos. A favorite spot for both amateur and pro photographers for the wave action or the natural beauty.

Ali'i Beach park in Haleiwa
Ali’i Beach park in Haleiwa


This hamlet also features world class art galleries as well as charming souvenir and craft boutiques. Local selections include: soaps, paintings, wines, shrimp trucks and fruit stands. The art is amazing and inspiring in its capturing of the local culture and nature. The scents and flavors of the handcrafted native wares give a true taste of tropical Hawai’i.

Art displayed on the streets of Haleiwa town, North shore Oahu
Art displayed on the streets of Haleiwa town, North shore Oahu

Eating in Haleiwa

There is a great selection of food-vending trucks located in the heart of the tourist district. A food park area has picnic tables and a range of flavorful local fare. The most popular are the shrimp trucks with boiled, fried, plain or spicy selections. Other trucks have more traditional foods like: Barbecued chicken, Pitaya bowl with bee pollen and coconut shavings or Spicy Tuna and Quinoa.

The shopping centers feature restaurants with great food from many nations as well.

Thai and Japanese sushi establishments to rival those in Bangkok or Tokyo. Mexican food as good as San Antonio. Of course, there is also an abundance of fantastic fresh seafood. And when you feel like dessert Matsumoto Shaved ice or Il Gelato (3rd place in the World Gelato competition 2016). Try the ‘spaghetti’ gelato, or some of their locally grown coffee.

Haleiwa town is a great place to spend an afternoon or a week vacation. Only one-hour drive from Waikiki, it is close to all the North shore Oahu attractions and out of the high traffic areas of Honolulu. It’s easy to unwind and entertain in Haliewa town and stock on souvenirs to bring back home.

6 thoughts on “Haleiwa Town – Historical and Cultural Center on North Shore Oahu

  1. Dear Joan,
    Good story, makes me want to visit there. I liked the beach.
    (No big thing but it’s pronounced Hahlay-eeva), i is pronounced ee). Really liked the whole article.
    Aloha, Dennis

  2. How about naming the Thai, japanese & mexican establishments by name & give some local businesses some love?

    1. Aloha Michelle,
      This article was written by an Oahu local. She didn’t provide the details on food establishments at the time of the writing. If you are willing to amend the article with current information on local businesses, we would be happy to update the article.
      Kind regards,
      Homey Hawaii team

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