Haleiwa and Oahu’s North Shore: Surfing Capital of the World

North Shore Oahu, the surfing capital of thew orld
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Did you know that many avid and professional surfers consider North Shore Oahu the surfing capital of the world? This charming Hawaii coastal region is always worth visiting, but seeing big-wave surfers take on enormous swells is an unforgettable experience. 

Today we’re talking all about  Haleiwa and Oahu’s North Shore and why it’s the surfing capital of the world. What makes this part of Oahu so special? And, why do surfers from all over the world come here to experience big wave surfing?

One of Hawaii’s Best Small Towns

The historic town of Haleiwa is the economic hub of the North Shore, but it can still be considered a “small town” for sure. Since 1984, all new buildings must adhere to a design plan that reflects the Territorial architecture of Haleiwa’s earlier sugar industry period. 

In fact, according to the Haleiwa Chamber of Commerce, the town is home to 34 historic buildings featuring plantation architectural styles influenced by the Waialua Sugar Company.

By regulating the way Haleiwa “looks,” officials have also preserved how Haleiwa “feels.” Whether you stroll in and out of Mom and Pop shops or stop at Matsumoto Shave Ice for a quick treat, you’ll notice the town still maintains its plantation-era feel.

haleiwa shopping center
Haleiwa used to be a plantation village, but now it’s a quaint shopping district that features boutique shops, restaurants, and surf digs.

Many stores cater to the surfing community (this small town is the surfing capital of the world, after all). But you can also find local boutique art galleries, restaurants, and small retail shops that help keep Haleiwa’s charm intact. No Wal-Marts here!

Some of the World’s Best Surf Spots

Surfing is the main event on Oahu’s North Shore — and for good reason. Some of the best surf breaks in the world are located along the North Shore. Ahead is a breakdown of some of the most legendary surf spots that continue to beckon big-wave surfers from all over the world to Hawaii.

Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay was an influential surf spot during the dawn of big wave surfing in the 1950’s. That’s when Adventurous surfers began to challenge the powerful winter waves of Waimea (as well as Makaha Beach on the west side), giving birth to the big wave-riding phenomenon. Waimea Bay is one of the surf spots that host world-renowned surf competitions, including the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational.

Waimea Bay Big Wave Surfing
Waimea Bay Big Wave Surfing

Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline): The Surfing Capital of the World

While we included the entire stretch of North Shore Hawaii as the surfing capital of the world, many athletes and experts will narrow it down to one specific surf break: the Banzai Pipeline. This spot is famous for its barreling waves.

This is also one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world, so it’s for professionals or VERY competent amateurs only. 

Ehukai Beach is home to The Pipe Pro (formerly known as the Billabong Pipe Masters)  and is one of the venues for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, even though the waves here break over a sharp reef, no more than a few feet from the surface. These speeding, thrilling waves are part of Banzai’s unique draw – and why this spot is so dangerous. 

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach spans from Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) to Sunset Point and encompasses a dozen different reef breaks. This two-mile length of sand is considered the longest stretch of rideable surf spots in the world. Naturally, this is also a venue for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

Sunset Beach in North Shore Oahu, the surfing capital of the world

How You Can Visit the Surfing Capital of the World

In order to see big-wave surfers in action, you need to visit Oahu during the winter swells, which are typically November through April (with peak surf occurring in January and February). You don’t want to swim in the waters – or even take surf lessons – when the winter swells are in – but it’s a great time to sit on the beach and watch these incredible athletes in action. 

Haleiwa and the North Shore of Oahu are must-sees when visiting Hawaii. 

Once you’re there, you’ll immediately feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the surfing culture of long ago. 

So, make sure you take the time to trek up to the Haleiwa and the North Shore — it’s not every day you get to see monster waves up close, and live to tell about it!

North Shore Tours

Whether you go to the North Shore specifically to see history in the making at the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, or simply want to experience the charm of a surfing town, Haleiwa and Oahu’s North Shore are extraordinary destinations and worth the trip from Honolulu. Hawaii Aloha Travel thinks so, too. That’s why we offer the Circle Island Tour and Secret Oahu North Shore Tour through our partners at Secret Hawaii Tours. We’ll take care of all the arrangements — all you have to do is sit back and enjoy!