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Visiting Historic Haleiwa

Things to see while visiting historic Haleiwa.

Paddleboarding on the Haleiwa River, one of the things you’ll see when visiting historic Haleiwa.

Plans for Visiting Historic Haleiwa

When some Oahu residents say they’re heading out to the country, they could very well mean two things. They could be heading out to the North Shore, they could be visiting historic Haleiwa or both.

In Haleiwa, residents and visitors can enjoy the laid-back charms of a less urbanized area of Oahu. In the summers, they can head out to nearby Waimea Bay. Here, they can relax in the calm clear blue water and enjoy a nice time on the beach. While in the winters, they can watch surfers brave the huge waves in the world’s most prestigious surfing meets.

Haleiwa’s History

In Hawaiian, Haleiwa means house of the iwa. The iwa is a species of seabirds you can find throughout Hawaii. Many know it as as the frigatebird.

Local sugar magnate Ben Dillingham first developed the town of Haleiwa in 1898.  Dillingham had a sugar refinery in the neighboring town of Waialua. He constructed a train line to haul sugar cane from Waialua into Honolulu. To maximize his investment, he also built a luxurious hotel in the area. He did this to attract Honolulu resident to pay for train rides and to stay at his Victorian-style Haleiwa Hotel.

While the hotel is no longer there, the town of Haleiwa has still retained its old time Hawaiian charm. The venerable double arched and narrow Rainbow Bridge over the Anahulu River is one of the town’s most prominent landmarks. It’s also the northern entrance to old Haleiwa Town. The Anahulu River, as one of the longest estuarine watercourses on Oahu, is a popular spot for kayaking and standup paddleboarding.

Haleiwa has two beautiful beach parks. Haleiwa Beach Park is to the north and Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park is to the south. It also has a small boat harbor in Waialua Bay. In recognition of its cultural and historic value, the City and County of Honolulu designated the town as a State Historic, Cultural and Scenic District in 1984.

Haleiwa Today

In Haleiwa, you won’t find tall concrete skyscrapers, but only small wooden framed buildings lining the main street. Here, you can find a nice assortment of small shops, highly rated restaurants and places that serve treats unique to Hawaii, like the iconic Matsumoto Store. At Matsumoto’s, you can enjoy arguably Hawaii’s best shave ice treat in an incredibly wide range of flavors and accompaniments. This is makes Hawaii’s shave (not shaved) ice different from its snow cone counterparts found elsewhere. The ice in shave ice is shaved, not crushed. In turn, this gives it a smoother and softer texture and flavor.

Haleiwa Hot Spots

There are other places to frequent in Haleiwa. Haleiwa Joe’s is a restaurant with casual ambiance and local seafood dishes. Kono’s Restaurant is an informal diner famous for its breakfasts, lunches and kalua pig. And the Opal Thai and Macky’s Kahuku Sweet Shrimp are popular food trucks. Then there’s the Haleiwa Art Gallery, which displays arts and crafts from local artisans. There’s also a branch of the Wyland Galleries, which has become known for its art depicting images of endangered marine mammals.

Each July, the town hosts the Haleiwa Arts Festival showcasing local artists and craftsmen. While in the winter of each year, the town is abuzz with visitors who come to watch the gigantic waves along the North Shore. The crowds are even larger during the time the Van Triple Crown of Surfing contests are held. You’ll find them at Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park, Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline during the months of November to December of each year.

Enjoy ocean sports?  Appreciate local art? Looking for a nice countryside meal? Or just like hanging around the beach? If so, visiting historic Haleiwa should definitely be in your plans.

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