Beyond Honolulu: Destination Haleiwa
The North Shore of Oahu is world famous for its huge surf and beautiful beaches. Just over an hour away from downtown Waikiki, it is a great spot for a day trip. The drive north on the Kamehameha freeway takes you through suburbs and shopping areas, past canyons sporting cliff hugging houses, and up over the ranges where rural expanses of sugarcane and pineapples can be seen in all directions.
Roughly halfway to Haleiwa is the world-famous Dole Plantation. It’s worth a stop if only for the delicious Dole Whip soft serve ice cream and the fresh pineapple juice. Children might enjoy the train ride through the plantation, but most of the adults seem to congregate in the huge, overpriced gift store. Grab a Dole Whip and head back to the car, for as the road sweeps down towards the North Shore, the most amazing vistas open up.
One can’t miss the fact that Haleiwa is surfing central. Huge waves bombard the coast, sending plumes of white water onto the beaches. At some times of the year, particularly in winter, these waves can be six meters high and are definitely not for beginners. Just nearby, at Waimea Bay, perhaps the most famous surfing competition in the world, The Eddie, takes place.
But don’t despair. Haleiwa has plenty of other attractions to offer day trippers. Lining the road into and out of the town are many food trucks, some of which are renowned for their shrimp. Macky’s Shrimp truck’s menu lists coconut shrimp, lemon shrimp and spicy hot shrimp amongst many others. Closer to town crab shacks vie for space along the road with surf shops, ukulele shops and every conceivable type of shaved ice or snow cone. However the town is saved from looking like a tourist trap by the vegetable fields and local farms that are interspersed with the souvenir sellers.
The center of town is a small plaza of restaurants, art galleries and boutiques. Large trees spread their grand canopies overhead. It’s busy here, with locals and visitors alike grabbing a bite to eat or a colorful cocktail. Further down the main road is the Lili’uoki Church with its lovely old graveyard. On Sundays an open-air market operates here between 1 and 5 p.m.
The beaches are just a short walk away, or you could drive out of town, across the picturesque Anahulu Bridge and stop at the Haleiwa Beach Park. The beach here is very family friendly. The waves are usually gentle and the sand is a glorious white. There are life guards and surf schools, large grassy areas with barbecues, picnic huts, and even a children’s playground. You could spend all day here, playing in the ocean or sitting back watching the huge surf pound the shore in the distance.
Just ten more minutes down the road, however, is another wonderful treat. Lanaikai Turtle Beach is where the huge honu, or local turtles come to lay their eggs. You can usually tell when they are there, as the roadside is crowded with cars and people who want to witness this fabulous event. But be warned: these animals are protected and you may not touch them, or indeed, come within about a meter of them. Animal protection agents are on hand to ensure their safety. Even so, this is a beautiful place to visit and well worth the effort to get down to the beach from the road.
Heading back into Haleiwa is one of the world’s most photographed and, unfortunately, stolen location signs. The very beautiful Haleiwa Beach sign is a retro-designed piece depicting a female surfer on a huge wave. Cars are lined up five to six deep at times to get that one quintessential tourist snap.
Closer to town on the left is a welcome sight. The North Shore Macadamia and Coffee farm offers hot local coffee and scrumptious macadamia nuts, just right for an afternoon tea treat. Haleiwa township has retained many of its historic local buildings and has a unique and very laid-back vibe that is completely different to the fast-paced and frenetic world over the hills in downtown Waikiki. Its scenic beauty alone is worth the trip; the food and fun to be had are delightful extras.