Any visit to Oahu is incomplete without a trip to the island’s famous North Shore, known mainly for its monstrous winter waves.
But even in the summer, when the waves gently lap like a newborn puppy’s tongue, there are plenty of things to do here. Don’t be fooled though: While Wikipedia calls Haleiwa the “largest commercial center on the North Shore,” this can be a bit misleading. Sure, there’s a half-mile stretch of shops, restaurants, and shave ice stores. But at its heart, Haleiwa is a sleepy surfer village.
Here are a few things to do on your visit to the North Shore:
1. Stop at “Turtle Beach” on your drive up.
The green sea turtles of Laniakea Beach, commonly referred to as “Turtle Beach”, are a total must see! They come close to the shore to feed on the seaweed that grows in the rocks, but tend to stick around for a while to catch some sun. The turtles we saw were all around 40-50 years old and weighed around 200 lbs! If you’re a brave one, you can grab your snorkel gear and swim with them. Just don’t get in their swim path, or they might nip at you.
2. Treat yourself to some Hawaiian shave ice at Aoki’s.
We didn’t quite understand the appeal of shave ice at first. We saw long winding lines all over Oahu and thought, It’s just a snow cone! What are all these people doing waiting 45 minutes for a snow cone??? Well guys, it turns out we were wrong. Trust us and just get one, eat it, smile, and shut up! You’ll see long lines at the other shave ice shops in Haleiwa, but we’re here to tell you, Aoki’s is the place. Just make sure you order yours with vanilla ice cream and condensed milk syrup (it’s called the “cream splash” on the menu, but ew, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to say it).
3. Check out the Art…Is “Gallery.”
Along the main strip in downtown Haleiwa, you’ll see a colorful lawn of painted surfboards and other lawn adornments. Stop inside to chat with the Artis family band, who will likely play you a song or two. Quite a unique experience.
4. Ogle the old-school cars.
If that’s your thing.
5. Shop for local crafts.
When we visited, a craft fair/flea market had set up shop in the churchyard. Even if there isn’t one on your trip, there will be plenty of tents along the road hawking seashells, jewelry, scarves, windchimes, and all kinds of other trinkets.
6. Go surfing.
We only stayed one night in Haleiwa and have very little surfing experience, so we didn’t even attempt to catch any waves. Plus, everyone knows winter is the only season to surf the North Shore (insert self-righteous scoff). But, if you’re at all into surfing, body boarding, boogie boarding, stand-up paddle boarding, or any other sort of boarding*… when in Rome, am I right?
*except water-boarding. That’s torture, and totally against the Hawaiian way of life, man.
7. Have the best lobster roll of your life at Aloha Lobster.
Aloha claims to have the best lobster roll in Hawaii, but we went as far as to award them the title of Best Lobster Roll in Swoon Diver’s History. The melt-in-your-mouth lobster, the buttery bun, the creamy wasabi sauce, the garlic fries. Yumbo. (The Estonians are convinced that “yumbo” is a commonly used American word, signifying when something is beyond “yummy”. We tried to tell them otherwise, but they are adamant. We’ve been using it ever since).
8. Stay with Cab at his Slow Food / Eco-Yoga / Bed & Breakfast.
Cab is a permaculturist, yoga instructor, slow-food chef, and a kick-ass host. You can take one of his many bikes to the nearby beach. He’ll make you a delicious breakfast in the morning, mostly from food he collects around his property. We feasted on grilled organic ahi tuna, arugula salad, wild chicken eggs, poi, soursop, and pomello. If you have time, ask him to list the fruit trees and bushes he has. You’ll be there a while. Don’t be shy about the morning yoga. He’s a great instructor and it will start your day off right.