Set on Oahu’s famous north shore just minutes from world-class surf, funky Haleiwa is the Hawaiian antithesis of urban Honolulu. Gone are the brand-name glamorous stores of Ala Moana Mall, and enter the small, locally-owned boutiques with tanned and beautiful staff. Surfboards poke from the back of trucks that cruise the two lane roads, and boardshorts, bikinis, and rubber slippers are the de facto outfit of choice. Haleiwa, however, has two different moods—and they change with the time of year. In spring, summer, and early fall, Haleiwa is a sunny, laidback beach town where where you can start the day with a shark diving tour and finish with a barbecue at the beach. The waves are flat, the skies are blue, and you’re fare more likely to pack a snorkel than a surfboard or boogie board to the beach.
In winter, however, the entire surf world descends on Haleiwa and the buzz in the air is electric. Parking spots can be harder find, and the streets are a bit more crowded, but the chance to watch the world’s best surfers is worth the added crowds. For a short time, maybe 8 eight weeks at most, Haleiwa becomes the place to be—even more than Honolulu. Growth of the town itself, thankfully, is still relatively slow, and whether it’s ordering shave ice on a sunny day or watching the waves from shore, Haleiwa is a town that remains exactly the way that everyone likes it.
Haleiwa is located approximately an hour from central Waikiki. By following the road up the leeward coast, past Kailua, Laie, and Kahuku, Haleiwa is approximately 90 minutes if you drive directly without stopping. Waves are largest from November-March, with December and January being the peak months for surfing, contests, and crowds.