Dream Town: Haleiwa, Hawaii
Amid all the blonde, shirtless men clad almost universally in neon board shorts, artist and Haleiwa resident Colleen Wilcox says she, too, is a surfer—but she leaves Pipeline to the pros, especially in winter, when the waves can top 40 feet high. "But it's always fun to watch!" she says.
Located on Oahu's more rugged North Shore, the small community of Haleiwa (pronounced hal-ay-EEV-a)—a town of nearly 4,000 residents—is known first for phenomenal surfing. (Vans Triple Crown, the largest and longest-running surf series, is held here.)
Haleiwa, flanked by the Waianae mountain range with golden shores stretching up the east coast, is the type of town where old-school Volkswagens roll past tourists with custom-made boards hanging from the hatches.
The housing options in town include cute, plantation-style bungalows starting at around $600,000 and custom oceanfront homes starting at $1.3 million.
Artist Heather Brown has lived here for 14 years, and says the community is growing but still feels authentic—like home. "I have never lived in a place that I feel this strongly about," she says. "I can't imagine living anywhere else."
Restaurants: Banzai Sushi Bar serves anything-under-the-sun sushi in a casual, date-night setting. The menu at Luibueno's Latin American and Mexican Cuisine shines, with fresh fish tacos garnished with cilantro and shredded cabbage.
The Beach: Green sea turtles can be found munching on the algae-covered rocks at Laniakea Beach. The winds at Mokuleia are ideal for kite surfing, and just north of town, the best sunset views are at Alii Beach Park (where Baywatch Hawaii was filmed).
Activities: In town, Surf-n-Sea shop rents kayaks for exploring the surrounding waters. (Keep your eyes peeled on the shore for wild peacocks.) Try the challenging trails around nearby Pupukea and Kaena Point for hiking and mountain bike riding.
Lodging: At Turtle Bay Resort, rooms boast ocean views and tropical decor. Beach cottages have Brazilian walnut floors and private lanais. Rates start at $319; 866/827-5321 or turtlebayresort.com.
2. Locavores Rule: Haleiwa has become a hot spot for a new crop of cultivators working at the Dole pineapple plantation and Waialua coffee farm, among independent growers. "We're at the farmer's market every weekend," says North Shore resident Nancy Uber-Rose.
3. Location, Location, Location: The North Shore is decidely bohemian and chic, but the glitz and glamour of Waikiki is only an hour's drive south for high-end shopping plus upscale fare, namely the contemporary, regional cuisine at Chef Mavro restaurant.
4. The Historic Charm: In 1984, Haleiwa was designated a state historic, cultural, and scenic district, meaning all new construction is in the same plantation style as the existing 34 historic structures that now house new businesses and function as protected landmarks.