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25 things to do in Haleiwa
When most people think of Oahu (or even Hawaii, in general), they often think of Waikiki. Waikiki is a neighborhood in the city of Honolulu, and there is so much more to Oahu than just Waikiki.
Today we’re going to talk about things to do in Haleiwa and the neighboring areas on the North Shore of Oahu.
Where is Haleiwa?
Haleiwa is about 25 miles away from Honolulu, the capital city of Hawaii. It’s always important to remember that Hawaii miles are not mainland miles.
It takes about 45 minutes to get to Haleiwa from Honolulu on a good day, and considerably longer if there is traffic.
You’ll definitely need a rental car, I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best prices on rental cars in Hawaii.
Is Haleiwa worth visiting?
Since this post is all about things to do in Haleiwa, you probably already know the answer! Yes, Haleiwa is definitely worth visiting.
If you’re visiting Oahu and never leave Honolulu, I believe that you are truly missing out! While there are plenty of things to do in Honolulu or Waikiki, Oahu is so much more than that.
The History of Haleiwa
The community of Haleiwa was originally developed to support the sugar plantation industry in the early 1900s. At the time, the sugar plantation industry was the primary source of jobs on Oahu’s North Shore.
In 1947 the Haleiwa Airfield was the only airfield able to provide defense against the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
Today, Haleiwa is known as the surf capital of the world. There are an abundance of surfing beaches and the North Shore of Oahu has produced many professional surfers.
Even if you’re not a surfer there are plenty of other things to do in Haleiwa. Plus, just watching the surfers on the North Shore is a pretty epic experience!
How do you pronounce Haleiwa?
If you’re going on a Hawaii vacation, some of the towns’ names can be overwhelming. It’s a good idea to take some time to learn how to pronounce a few basics before you go. Otherize, you’ll stand out as a tourist for sure.
In Hawaiian, “w’s” usually make a “v” sound in the middle of a word. Haleiwa is pronounced: Hah-lay-ee-va. I have a blog post with some other popular Hawaiian words if you want to check it out.
If you’re wondering, “hale” means house in Hawaiian. Iwa is Hawaii’s largest bird. A seabird, which is also known as the frigatebird.
You’ll see other names with Hale at the beginning, such as Haleakala on Maui. If you’re curious, Haleakala means house of the sun.
You might also want to check out 20 things you should never do in Hawaii so that you avoid being that tourist.
Things to do in Haleiwa
Now that we’ve talked about the location of Haleiwa, the history of Haleiwa, and how to pronounce it, let’s talk about some of the fun things to do in Haleiwa.
Snorkel at Sharks Cove
If you’ve ever been to my blog before, you know how much I love snorkeling.
Sharks Cove is one of the best places to snorkel on Oahu. The shore does get crowded, but you probably won’t notice when you’re in the water.
Sharks Cove is located between two very popular surf spots, Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline. The waves peak between December and February, so the summer months are the best time to snorkel Sharks Cove.
You can also wade and explore Pupukea tide pools on the south side of Sharks Cove. This is the only part of Sharks Cove that’s particularly kid-friendly.
Kuilima Cove is only about 15 minutes away and is more protected from the North Shore’s large waves. Kuilima Cove is a pretty spot for families and new snorkelers. Never underestimate the power of the ocean, when in doubt, stay out.
You might also enjoy reading about the best places to snorkel in Hawaii.
You probably already know that you can find any kind of shopping imaginable in Waikiki, from the ABC Store to Gucci. While high-end shopping is in Waikiki, in Haleiwa, you’ll find cute surf shops and some local stores too.
Haleiwa also has an art scene, and you can check out the work of local artists and photographers in town.
If you’re looking for adventure, you’ll find it on the North Shore Zipline with Oahu Zipline. This 3-hour guided zipline tour includes Oahu’s longest ziplines ranging from 500 feet to nearly half a mile long.
Cage dive with sharks
Diving with sharks is one activity that is exclusive to Oahu. There are two ways to dive with sharks in Hawaii. I prefer the second – more on that in a minute – but you can do a cage dive too.
If you’d love to see sharks but prefer not to swim with them, you can always watch the sharks from the comfort of the boat.
If you have any type of seasickness, I recommend taking some ginger or whatever medicine you take before this adventure. You’re going to need it!
Dive with sharks
Yes, you can also dive with sharks in Oahu without a cage. Before you keep scrolling, hear me out.
I recommend diving cage-free with One Ocean Diving. I love what One Ocean Diving is doing to educate the public about sharks. They are a very misunderstood animal.
Visit a Macadamia Nut Farm
I LOVE macadamia nuts. If you also love macadamia nuts, you’ll love visiting the aptly named “North Shore Macadamia Nut Farm.”
Grab some macadamia nuts to go, you’ll need some fuel for all of your North Shore adventures.
If you’re not visiting Hawaii any time soon, you can also order mac nuts, kukui nut oil, kona coffee, and other goodies on North Shore Macadamia Nut Farms website.
Watch surfers at Banzai Pipeline.
The Banzai Pipeline is a surf reef break located off Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea.
In the summer, you might be able to swim or snorkel at the Banzai Pipeline, but don’t even think about it in the winter. I’ve seen 40-foot waves in the winter, they are no joke!
This surfers paradise is not for beginners. The reef has many sharp edges in the shallow water and everyone should exercise caution.
It is, however, a fantastic place to watch experienced surfers, get a tan, and eat your macadamia nuts.
A surfer at Banzai Pipeline.
Take a surf lesson
Maybe watching the surfers has inspired you to try it yourself? I’ve booked surf lessons for many clients and every single one has been happy that they did it.
As a bonus, everyone did better than they expected! You probably won’t become a professional surfer in one lesson, but taking a surf lesson in Hawaii is definitely a bucket list item.
I recommend this 2-hour surf lesson where you’ll spend 15 minutes on land learning the basics. The rest of the time, you’ll be in the water. Bonus, there are dogs!
Rent a jetski
This may surprise you, but there aren’t many places where you can rent jet skis in Hawaii. The Watercraft Connection in Haleiwa is one place where you can.
Check out the North Shore Surfing Museum
Hey Museum lovers, if you’re looking for things to do in Haleiwa, you know I’ve going to mention a museum any time that I can!
North Shore Surfing Museum was established in 1993 t0 display vintage artifacts related to surfing. This museum is small and free to the public and is a must-see in Haleiwa.
Other must-see museums and historical spots on Oahu include:
- Bishop Museum
- Iolani Palace
- Shangra La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design
- Hawaii State Art Museum
- Polynesian Cultural Center
- Pearl Harbor (obviously, but I had to mention it.)
Visit the Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation is technically not in Haleiwa but north of Honolulu on the way to the North Shore. It’s worth stopping in on your way or on the way home.
Admission to the Dole Plantation is free, but you can take a tour of the Plantation Garden for an additional fee. This fee is $7.25 for adults, $6.50 for children, and children under 4 are free.
I have a blog post about the best pineapple farms to visit in Hawaii, and Dole Plantation definitely made the list!
A must-do is to get a Dole Whip at Dole Plantation. Yes, THE Dole Whip that you can get at Disney. This dairy-free soft-serve is perfect for cooling down on a hot day.
Go horseback riding
You can experience the beauty of the North Shore on a 1.5 hour horseback ride with authentic paniolos (cowboys) at the Gunstock Ranch.
You’ll enjoy a leisurely ride through open pastures and shaded forests on your way up to an unforgettable panoramic view.
The Gunstock Ranch also offers a 1-hour sunset horseback ride.
I’ve talked about the Kualoa Ranch in my post about the best tours in Oahu, but The Gunstock Ranch is a great activity for horse-lovers on the North Shore.
Take a selfie at Colette Miller’s Global Angel Wings.
Up your insta-game by taking a selfie at Colette Miller’s Global Angel Wings. The Global Angel Wings Project was created in 2012 to remind humanity that we are the Angels of this Earth.
Visit the iconic Rainbow Bridge.
Haleiwa’s iconic Rainbow Bridge is located near the Angel Wings and is another great photo op. The bridge was built back in 1921 and goes over the Anahulu River.
Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Get an acai bowl at Haleiwa Bowls.
Acai bowls are so popular, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere any time soon. Haleiwa Bowls offers some of the best acai bowls and smoothies you’ll find anywhere.
Even if you aren’t in the mood for an acai bowl, it’s worth a stop to check out this popular spot in Haleiwa and grab a coffee or tea.
Check out the food trucks.
Haleiwa is famous for good trucks, there are too many to mention! Although you’ll hear a lot about shrimp trucks, Haleiwa has food trucks for just about anything you can imagine. Some of the best-rated food trucks in Haleiwa include:
- Pupukea Grill (Hawaiian)
- Aji Limo Truck (Peruvian, Japanese)
- No7 Japanese Food Truck (Japanese, Sushi)
- Surf in Salsa (Mexican)
- Haleiwa Seafood (Seafood)
- Jenny’s Shrimp (Shrimp)
- Mack’s Handcrafted Soda + Pops (Drinks)
Keep in mind that the food trucks in Haleiwa are very, very popular and can have very long wait times. It’s best to go before you’re starving, just in case!
Enjoy a luau
The Toa Luau is one of the newest luaus on Oahu and the only luau in Haleiwa.
At Toa Luau, you’ll immerse yourself in the beauty and excitement of Polynesia on Oahu’s historic North Shore! This authentic luau has excellent food and entertainment. It’s quickly becoming the highest-hated luau on Oahu.
If you’re looking for the best luau on Oahu, I have a blog post with even more to choose from.
Matsumoto’s Shave Ice
There’s a reason why getting shave ice at Matsumoto’s is a Haleiwa must-do.
Started way back in 1951, Matsumoto’s is worst famous for having Hawaii’s best shave ice. Matsumoto’s is located near the North Shore Surfing Museum, so make sure to grab shave ice before or after checking out the museum.
Haleiwa has protected coves and a river that is perfect for stand-up paddleboarding.
There are plenty of places to rent boards, or you can take a stand-up paddleboard lesson.
If you’d like my personal recommendation, I recommend the Twilight GLOW night paddle, where you’ll see turtles make their way back up the Anahulu stream.
Haleiwa is one of the last remaining “dark areas” on earth, and this is one of the things to do in Haleiwa that you’ll never forget.
Haleiwa Beach Park
With some of the calmest waters on the North Shore, it’s easy to see why Haleiwa Beach Park is so popular. Haleiwa Beach Park is the best beach on the North Shore for families and beginner surfers.
Haleiwa Beach Park
Located just outside of Haleiwa, you can easily walk to the beach (about 10 minutes) if you’re exploring the town on foot.
If you want to find sea turtles, Lanaikea Beach is the place for that.
Watch sea turtles at Turtle Beach.
The actual name of this beach is Laniakea Beach, but it’s commonly known as Turtle Beach. As the name implies, this is one of the best places to see turtles in Oahu.
Remember that it’s a federal crime to touch or bother the turtles in any way, so keep a good distance between you and the turtles.
In fact, it’s illegal to touch most of the animals in Hawaii including dolphins, monk seals, and more. Remember that this is their home, and you are a guest. Always be respectful to both the human and non-human locals of Hawaii.
If you’ll be going to the Big Island, I have a post about the best places to find sea turtles on the Big Island.
Hike Ehukai Pillbox
Ehukai Pillbox hike is one of the most popular hikes on Oahu. Chances are, you’ve seen photos of this hike on Instagram.
Pillbox hike is a 2.3 mile moderately trafficked hike that is considered moderately difficult due to how steep it is.
It is also called Sunset Pillbox Hike because it has some beautiful views of Ehukai Beach (also known as Banzai Pipeline) and the North Shore coastline.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, the North Shore is the place for you! From epic waves to swimming with sharks, to skydiving.
If you have had enough adventure for the day, you can skydive at what Skydive Hawaii calls “the world’s most beautiful dropzone.” They aren’t wrong!
Let’s say that you’d love to see the North Shore from above, but maybe jumping out of a plane is outside of your comfort zone.
If that is the case, why not take a helicopter tour instead? Although you take off some Ko Olina (so technically, this isn’t one of the things to do in Haleiwa) but you will fly over the North Shore in this complete island helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian.
I only recommend Blue Hawaiian Helicopters as they are absolutely the best in Hawaii. You can read my helicopter tour review here. No Oahu spoilers are involved as the photos in this review are from Kauai.
Watch the sunset on sunset beach.
Wrapping up the list of the best things to do in Haleiwa is watching the sunset at Sunset Beach. Due to the geography of Oahu, the North Shore actually faces west which makes it the perfect spot for watching the sunset.
Traffic is really bad around this time, so why not watch the sunset from the beach instead of sitting in traffic?! I can’t think of a better way to end your day in Haleiwa. Well, other than the Twilight GLOW night paddle!
Where to stay on the North Shore of Oahu
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and Honolulu, the North Shore is the perfect place to stay during an Oahu vacation.
Turtle Bay Resort
Located in Kahuku, Turtle Bay Resort is in a rural area and located on 5 beachfront acres. It is about 11 miles, or 20 minutes, from Turtle Bay to Haleiwa. Turtle Bay Resort is a great location for those wanting to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center.
You may have seen Turtle Bay in movies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Baywatch: Hawaiian wedding. Turtle Bay Resort is one of the highest-rated resorts on Oahu. Please don’t take my word for it, check out the reviews on TripAdvisor.
Turtle Bay Resort is full of amenities including two championship golf courses, four restaurants, and the Nala Spa. The resort has 410 rooms from regular rooms to ocean-view suites and up to 4-bedroom villas.
Other places to stay in Haleiwa
If you’ve never used Airbnb, make sure to sign up with my link to get $55 off your first stay.
I also have blog posts about the best luxury resorts in Oahu. These resorts are located all over the island, so check them out and decide where you want to stay.
If you’re set on Waikiki, I have a post for that too! Here are the best places to stay in Waikiki.
Things to do on the North Shore of Oahu
I hope you enjoyed this post with 25 things to do in Haleiwa. Did any of your favorite things to do on the North Shore get left off this list? If so, let me know in the comments! I always love hearing more suggestions.
Want more things to do on Oahu? Check out:
More Hawaii Travel Tips
If you can’t get enough of Hawaii, don’t miss some of my top Hawaii posts:
- Is Hawaii safe?
- 10 things to know before going to Hawaii
- How much does it cost to go to Hawaii?
- What is the worst time to go to Hawaii?
- How to survive the flight to Hawaii
- 25 things to do on Kauai
- 50 things to do in Maui
- The 7 Best Things to do on the Big Island
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I am only taking on a few clients for 2021. You can contact me if you’d like more information. I would recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
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