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Known as the country of Oahu (and opposite of ‘Town’ a.k.a Honolulu), Haleiwa is a quaint little place on the north shore with a history in the sugar cane plantation industry of the 1900’s. The word Haleiwa means ‘house of the frigate bird’ in Hawaiian and today the town’s architecture still resembles the early 1900s, with little change made to the buildings. In fact, in 1984 Haleiwa was designated a State Historic, Cultural and Scenic District. Which means all new construction must adhere to stringent specifications in order to preserve the Territorial architecture of Haleiwa’s early sugar industry times.
In the distance of Haleiwa you can see the Waialua Sugar Mill, a historic testament to the industry that created the neighborhoods and communities surrounding it. Right before the 20th century a development was created that turned Haleiwa into more of a travel destination for tourists rather than just a place of work for locals. Businessman Benjamin Dillingham built Haleiwa Hotel, the finest hotel of the north shore in 1898. The new construction helped generate new businesses and expanded tourism in the area. Today Haleiwa Joe’s sits on the former Haleiwa Hotel property and it notorious for their dinners over a spectacular sunset view.
Haleiwa has become a popular tourist destination, as it is now adorned with boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes, souvenir stores and more. Stretching along Kamehameha Highway, you can walk the length of Haleiwa and saunter through the charming streets and shops in an afternoon. Some of Haleiwa’s highlights include Matsumoto’s Shave Ice (Obama’s favorite shave ice place!), Cholo’s Mexican Restaurant (with a great margarita bar!), Wyland Art Gallery, and a variety of surf shops including Surf N Sea built in 1921, Hawaii’s oldest surf & dive shop.
One of the main reasons why Haleiwa has become so increasingly popular is because of the world famous surf breaks scattered along the coastline. Waves like Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay are just a few of the popular surf spots where surfers test their mettle during the winter months. October through May marks big wave season on the north shore and from November through December the most prestigious surfing events take place, known as the Triple Crown of Surfing.
The quiet town and neighborhoods of Haleiwa come alive in the wintertime with pros, photographers, media outlets and fans coming far and wide to witness the show. During the summer time, the beaches are tranquil and expansive, with miles of sand idea for beach combing and walks. Known as the Seven Mile Miracle, the north shore is a bi polar place and a far cry from Waikiki’s city lights and concrete sidewalks. Visit Haleiwa and you’ll either get the bustling big wave season experience or the quiet, calm days of the sleepy countryside.
Recently in the news but with a long history of discussion, Haleiwa is undergoing major renovations that will inevitably alter the historic charm of the town. It has many locals in an uproar, saddened that their beloved home is being beautified to tourist standards. While Haleiwa residents are upset about the changes, “the times they are a changing.” Due to the overwhelming population growth on the north shore, both in residents and visitors, landowner Kamehameha Schools has proposed a revitalization of Haleiwa.
Kamehameha Schools plans to increase the amount of leasing space by nearly 100 percent to about 30,000 square feet on the 4.2-acre site, and to build a rear parking lot with 110 parking spaces, including a bus loading area. The changes will affect the block of historic Haleiwa Town that is home to Matsumoto and Aoki shave ice stores, among other shops. Since the changes are now in effect, it’s up to the locals to look on the bright side of the situation.
Kamehameha Schools is committed to maintaining the rural look of the buildings, providing space for local shops with Hawaii-made products. They wish to support the community’s vision to retain and enhance Haleiwa’s country character, instead of plopping chain stores and franchises in the new spaces. Shops such as Mahina (women’s clothing boutique), Spalsh! Hawaii (bikini and swimwear store), T&C Surf (surf shop) and Whalers General Store and Fruit Stand are a few of Matsumoto’s new neighbors. Plus restaurants such as Uncle Bo’s, Fatboys, Rajanee Thai Cuisine and Island Vintage Coffee will also open their doors by fall of 2014.
With Haleiwa’s notorious “Keep the Country COUNTRY” sticker seen just about everywhere along the stretch of highway, it’s not hard to see why locals are upset about the changes. However, it’s ignorant to deny the growing population of our world and to think that a beautiful place will forever remain unspoiled. Unfortunately this is becoming the case with most desirable areas too, and not just Hawaii. Those who’ve had the pleasure of enjoying the country parts of Oahu up until now have been lucky to experience the town during a quieter time in history. Change is inevitable and just as our grandparents witnessed things like the Industrial Revolution, the Internet and now something as technologically savvy as the iPhone, so too will we experience our own share of industrial transformation.
The world is growing and we must either be open to the changes or be left behind. At least Haleiwa will never be like Waikiki! I believe it will always remain the quieter counterpart to Oahu because the local mentality is very community oriented, progressive yet traditional and like-minded. Clean beaches, maintained bike paths, no chain restaurants or franchises (except for the Coffee Bean in Pupukea!), small schools and friendly neighbors will hopefully always be quintessential to the north shore. Haleiwa will always be country.