This small surfer community on Oahu's North Shore stands proud as a perfect mix of preservation and bohemian personality.
1 of 5Photo: Peter Joli Wilson
On the sandy shores of Pipeline Beach, the waves do not disappoint the dozens of surfers and spectators who gather here October through April for the thrilling daily water show. One after another, the thunderous aqua walls crash onto the wide beach, each one more powerful than the last.
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.)
2 of 5Photo: Linny Morris
Its second claim to fame is a little sweeter: shaved ice at M. Matsumoto Grocery Store, which has been serving the snow cones, coated in homemade syrup and enhanced by sweetened azuki beans or vanilla ice cream, since 1951.
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.
3 of 5Photo: Linny Morris
Kamehameha Highway runs through downtown, where the brightly colored boutiques, restaurants, surf shops, and galleries line both sides of the street.
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."
4 of 5Photo: Linny Morris
Main Street: Kamehameha Highway is the economic and social hub of the North Shore. Wyland Gallery carries works of art from local and national artists, and for beach-house-happy decor, BaliMoon's unique furniture and accents are imported from six countries.
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.
5 of 5Photo: Linny Morris
Why We Love it ...
1. Sunshine 360: Well, maybe not every day, but most days on the North Shore are pretty perfect, with temperatures hovering in the low to mid-80s. "The town is filled with inspiration in every season," says Brown. "There's always something exciting to do."
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.