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

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 and attracted first a surfing and youth market and now more trendy and unique small-town appeal that visitors love to visit and experience outside of Honolulu and Waikiki.

A brief history of Haleiwa

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. 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

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.

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.

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.

Get some Shave Ice as Matsumotos

Get some Shave Ice as 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Have you visited Haleiwa?

Have you visited Haleiwa?

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  1. Waimea Valley Waterfall - Oahu Travel Now - […] Visit to Haleiwa town […]
  2. Oahu snorkeling - This Hawaii Life - […] A visit to Haleiwa on the North Shore […]
  3. Family activities Oahu - Oahu Travel Now - […] fun North Shore destination, exploring the old western town of Haleiwa with converted buildings and storefronts filled with galleries,…
  4. Diamond Head hike - […] Road trip to Haleiwa town in the North Shore […]
  5. North Shore beaches - This Hawaii Life - […] fantastic beach park close to Haleiwa town and it is a perfect place for easy swims and even learning…
  6. The best time to visit the North Shore of Oahu - This Hawaii Life - […] Haleiwa town on the North […]

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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.