Visions of clean, white-sand beaches, palm trees, and perfect surf usually accompany a first-time visit to Hawaii. But it’s not until you reach the country, away from Honolulu—the high-rise-laden, bustling nucleus of Pacific commerce and tourism—that you truly feel the “Hawaii” of your imagination. Haleiwa, the gateway to the seven miles of wave-filled wonder that are the North Shore, blends the stereotypical idyll of island leisure and a truly local-centric feel, while also providing the backdrop for the most substantial yearly aggregation of the surf world.
There’s a reason the surf world migrates to the North Shore every winter. The surf along the stretch from Haleiwa to Turtle Bay is hands-down the best surf in America, and among the best in the world. Perfectly formed reefs and sandbars create dozens of warm-water breaks that accommodate swells from September through May. Heavy localism, shallow reefs, and potentially deadly conditions prevail—but that only makes the surfers who score all the more deserving.
Haleiwa, and the surrounding community, is a place where the ubiquitous reign of surf culture dominates, where surfing is (maybe even subconsciously) engrained in the lives and lifestyles of everyone who lives there—even those who don’t surf. Amazingly, the North Shore has avoided major development, and that’s the way the locals want to keep it. Nightlife is almost non-existent—apart from a drink at a mellow bar or maybe some live music. Granted, the dense metropolis of Honolulu is just a short drive away, but even there one might find the presence of diverse culture lacking.
Quality of Life
For all those who come to the North Shore from the mid-November to late-December contest season, the North Shore seems merely like a glorified tradeshow. But Haleiwa is a ski town of the surf world: a quiet, beachside town in the off-season, then transforming to a bustling center of surf hype for the peak winter months. Many who rent or own homes there are transient, favoring just one version of the North Shore’s dual personality. The year-round residents must then simply endure the onslaught of hoards of tourists each year, savoring the months when the circus is touring elsewhere and life returns to being slow and simple. Beneath it all though is a tight-knit community, one that locals find hard to leave and newcomers find even harder to get into.
Average Water Temp: 76
Average Air Temp: 76
Median Income: $49,916
Median Home Price: $508,718
Most Common Industry: Construction
Nearest city with pop. 200,000+: Honolulu, HI (31 miles, pop. 375,571)
Premier Surf Spots: Haleiwa, Pipeline, Backdoor, Sunset, Rocky Point, Backyards, Log Cabins, and many more