Haleiwa town – check out the most popular things to do in the North Shore

The North shore area of Oahu is known for its gorgeous coastline and views, amazing surf and beaches and stunning sunsets to experience on the beach. The main town at Haleiwa is the main hub for the area with fantastic eateries, galleries and boutique stores and now their food truck courts which is the place to hang out for lunch time.

Haleiwa maintains that local style and country vibe but has amped it up a bit with chic shops, upscale dining, fancy surf shops and art galleries to browse through while you’re downing a big cup of shave ice. So, what’s to do in and around Haleiwa town – check it out below.

Exploring Haleiwa town and top things to do in the North Shore of Oahu

A brief history of Haleiwa

Haleiwa town started as a plantation town in the early 1900s and supporting the local sugarcane industry at the Waialua Sugar Company and with a rail line that connected the town to Honolulu with a passenger line and a sparkling hotel at the end called the Haleiwa meaning Hale or house and iwa or a frigate bird.

There are 30 historic buildings located around town and the town charter required that new buildings keep the same character and look of the sugar plantation era architecture. Eventually the town was designated as a state historic, cultural and scenic district in 1984 which keeps the look and character of the old sugar and plantation era intact around the whole town.

The area first attracted a surfing crowd and youth market initially drawn to surfing and the outdoor lifestyle and eventually the town and area became more popular and a trendy area with a unique small-town appeal that visitors love to visit and experience outside of Honolulu and Waikiki.

Here’s a video of Haleiwa’s historic past

A brief history of Haleiwa

What’s it like visiting Haleiwa today?

Today Haleiwa draws a mixed crowd that loves outdoor, adventure and of course surfing with the Seven-mile miracle of popular surfing in Hawaii and world-wide competitions drawing masses of admirers during the competition and even year-round. Visiting the North Shore beaches is big draw along with checking out the local vibe in the area around Haleiwa.

Outside of the surfing scene visitors love seeing an alternative and chill vibe in town and the surrounding coastal areas that attracts families, hipsters, adventure seekers and surfers. It’s easy to spend the whole day at Haleiwa and exploring the North Shore and staying overnight will give you a better and more relaxed timeframe to visit and absorb all the fun things to do in town.

How far is Haleiwa from Honolulu?

The drive from Honolulu or Waikiki to Haleiwa is around 45 minutes to an hour depends on the stops you take along the way. It’s about 25 miles away on Hwy 1 to Hwy2 and then exit at Hwy 99 to Haleiwa town.

Top things to do in Haleiwa and surrounding areas

Visit Waimea falls

Visit Waimea falls and botanical gardens

Swim in a gorgeous waterfall at Waimea falls with a pleasant hike to the base of the waterfall and enjoy this unique and safe experience in the north shore. Outside of the short .75 hike on paved road to the waterfall, you can also explore the many tropical gardens and ancient mock villages of how this valley looked in the past with the early Hawaiian settlers to the area.

Check out this fun tour through the valley and waterfalls below

Enjoy the most family friendly beach at Waimea Bay

Enjoy the most family friendly beach at Waimea Bay

Directly across from Waimea Falls is the Waimea Bay Beach park which is the most popular beach area in the north shore with excellent facilities, beautiful white sand beach and gorgeous water to swim in. This beach and water are perfect in the summer time when the water is calm allowing for easy swimming, snorkeling and jumping from the huge rock pile on the left side of the beach area.

Check out Waimea bay highlights to visiting and enjoying a day on the beach here

Snorkeling at Sharks Cove

Snorkeling at Sharks Cove

Another family friendly activity is to go snorkeling at Sharks Cove located between Waimea Bay and the Bonzai Pipeline and is a protected bay with beautiful water that is only 8ft to 15ft deep. Filled with beautiful coral and tropical fish and other sea life you can enjoy a relatively safe area and even explore some caves and lava tubes around Sharks Cove.

One of the most popular places to explore and snorkel in this protected bay, Sharks cove is the place to snorkel in the North Shore.

Check out this fun tour experience here

Get some Shave Ice as Matsumotos

Get some Shave Ice at Matsumotos

The local institution shave ice spot is definitely Matusmoto’s shave ice started as a grocery store and made some delicious shave ice with their own home-made sauces and toppings. This became an instant hit and Matsumoto’s grocery business changed to a more tourist focused destination on its own.

So many fun choices with ice cream on the bottom, condense milk and delicious syrups you can choose for your favorite flavors

Check out this video about the family business and how it got started

More beach day fun on the North Shore

More beach day fun on the North Shore

So many wonderful beaches to enjoy on the North Shore to snorkel, surf or just relax on a nice sandy beach. Check out Sunset beach, Laniakea Beach, Haleiwa Beach or even the gorgeous and remote beaches at Mokuleia beach on the far western side of the island. Check out this post on the most popular beaches on the North Shore to explore here for more inspiration.

Adventure fun around Haleiwa

Adventure fun around Haleiwa

You can rent your own, do a tour experience and enjoy rivers around the Haleiwa bridge and calm Haleiwa to do some fun kayaking, boogie boarding or Sup boarding (Sea & Board Sports Hawaii rental shop) for a fun adventure experience on the water.

Surfing lessons on the North Shore

Check out this two hour surfing lesson here for a fun adventure experience learning the basics on land before you head out into the water and hone in on your basic techniques here in safe and easy waters.

Check out this fun video surf lesson below

Stand up paddle lessons

You can pick up Sup paddle quickly here on the North Shore with this fantastic class with an expert guide on the beginner-friendly waters of the Anahulu River. You’ll love this experience!

Here’s a fun video tour of Haleiwa SUP boarding experience

Shark Cave dive

This shark cave dive is fully secured and you take out the boat to local waters and out to the cage area where you can view local sharks in the safety of a strong cage you can enter in and experience the thrill of being close to a shark experience in the water.

Check out the highlights to this cage tour experience below

Go hiking inland around the North Shore

Go hiking inland

You can find some cool trails to explore around Haleiwa like the Waimea waterfalls or up Mokuleia Trail which cover two different trail experiences and even the gorgeous Ehukai Pillbox hike with beautiful coastal views from above. Check out these 10 fantastic hikes you can do around Haleiwa and the North Shore area.

Here’s a fun and inspiring tour to the Ehukai Pillbox and experience below

Experience the Banzai Pipeline

Experience the Banzai Pipeline

In winter time visitors come to see the big waves and the famous Banzai Pipeline just off Ehukai Beach park around Waimea Bay. It’s a time to see some adventurous surfers and also the big surfing competition. The area is packed to watch the surf action, competitions and lively atmosphere around the North Shore during the winter time.

Sunsets are amazing around Haleiwa

Sunsets are amazing around Haleiwa

If you are looking for some fantastic end of day experience, head out to the coastal areas and beaches to enjoy a wonderful sunset experience. The best coastline for that is practically anywhere on the Northshore but the favorites here include Sunset beach, Alii Beach Park or check out Waimea Bay for an incredible sunset experience.

Lot’s of good places to hang out late in the afternoon to sunsets here on the North Shore to experience

Check out this fast and easy sunset experience below

The best food truck venues to enjoy a cheap meal at Haleiwa

The best food truck venues to enjoy a cheap meal at Haleiwa

There are some fantastic food truck courts in the North Shore set up for delicious eating and cheap too! You’ll get some good eats with local food trucks around the various food truck courts in Haleiwa, Kahuku, Waimea Bay and other grouped areas along the North Shore. Here are some of the best ones to look out for

Leonard’s Malasada truck – yes Leonard’s has a malasada truck with inspired fillings, the truck travels from the bakery up to the North Shore for a brisk business that always sells out

Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken – In Kahuku with their half chicken with rice and mac salad as the popular dish along with a spicy sauce that compliments that smoky chicken flavor.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – One of the classics and most well known for local shrimp dishes over rice plates

Fume’s Kahuku Shrimp Truck – One of the best garlic shrimp places that serve it up super spicy or just plain tasty

Elephant Food Truck – serving Thai food and some good vegan dishes like that vegan pad Thai

North Shore Tacos– offering different taco plates with locally caught fish along with pork, chicken or beef dishes

Or check out the best rated food truck venues on this Yelp guide here for the best of the best to try around Haleiwa.

Here’s a fun video tour of the food trucks in the area below

Haleiwa Surf Museum

Did you know that there is actually a surf museum here to experience on the North Shore? Makes sense since this is the surfing capital here on the North Shore. The museum was created in 1993 with a variety of displays and collections from the area and all the popular competitions that have occured in the area.

Check out the details to visiting here for more information and visiting.

Here’s some more fun adventure tour experiences around Haleiwa area

Ziplining experience

If you are looking for a thrilling experience on the North Shore, then Ziplining is fun and available here. What’s not to like with amazing views from above and a thrilling fast ride up in the skies looking on down the North Shore Landscape. You start with an ATV tour to get to the top of the hills and then go down 8 zipline tours on this fun experience.

Find out more details to a ziplining experience here for information and booking.

Here’s a quick video tour experience below

Horseback riding experience in the North Shore

Enjoy this horseback riding experience at Waialua on the North Shore on this beach front ride experience and going through some oceanfront trails and learning some fun techniques. Family friendly up to age 10+ to participate.

Check out the tour video highlights below

Full day tour experience on the North Shore

If you would rather leave all the driving and expert guides and just enjoying the experience, check out this fun all day tour in the North Shore you can do with your family and just be present and enjoy.

Tour highlights include:

Windward coastal drive

Visit a Macadamia nut farm

Check out Sunset Beach

The Banzai Pipeline

A choice of snorkeling or waterfall tour and swim

Check out these other posts on visiting Haleiwa and the Northshore area

Visit the North Shore of Oahu and places to explore

Beach day at Waimea Bay for swim, surf and snorkeling fun

Explore and hike Waimea Valley

Waimea Falls experience

Free or cheap things to do in Oahu

A Diamond Head Hike in Honolulu

Family friendly beaches in Oahu

Top things to do in Honolulu

Top things to do in Waikiki now

Horseback Riding in Hawaii

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visit Haleiwa town
visit Haleiwa town

Have you visited Haleiwa?

Have you visited Haleiwa?

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Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.