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History of Haleiwa Town (Infographic)


Hawaii is among the numerous countries that will never be erased from the list of many people’s dream destinations, which is not surprising. In this archipelagic state, you will find a rich cultural heritage with ancient sights, friendly locals, clean beaches, and delectable foods. You can experience all these in any of Hawaii’s major islands.

Now, if you are traveling to Hawaii but are undecided about where to spend your vacation specifically, we have a suggestion for you–Oahu.

Oahu, also known as the Gathering Place, is the third-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Its nickname suits it best because despite not being the largest island, it welcomes the most tourists all year round. 

Dole plantation, Pearl Harbor, Waimea, and Byodo-in are just a few of the places you can visit in Oahu. But that is not where it ends. The ever-popular North Shore is also located in Oahu, and here you can find the quaint little town of Haleiwa, where you can enjoy a cultural tour Hawaii.

History of Haleiwa

Haleiwa (pronounced as hah-lay-ee-va) is a small beachfront and historic surfing town located in the district of Waialua, one of the first and largest Hawaiian settlements on the island of Oahu. The origins of the town’s name can be traced back to 1865 when the missionary Rev. Orramel H. Gulick established the Waialua Female Seminary when he moved to the town to help his fellow missionary, John Emerson. The name Haleiwa was the name of the seminary’s dormitory. 

The term Haleiwa also holds several meanings. In Hawaiian, “hale” means house, while “iwa” translates to a frigate bird. When these two words are combined, they lead to “house of the frigate bird” as its meaning. However, the term “iwa” can also be associated with the poetic symbol for an attractive person. So in a figurative sense, Haleiwa could also mean “home of attractive people.”

Despite all these origins and meanings, the name Haleiwa was only permanently established in the area by the Haleiwa Hotel when Benjamin Dillingham opened it in 1898. When the hotel was finally opened, Haleiwa was translated as “beautiful home.” For years, it has served as an accommodation for numerous affluent visitors. However, the doors of this distinguished hotel closed in 1943, and the building was torn down a decade later, in 1953. 

With the numerous plantation-era buildings scattered throughout the town, Haleiwa truly holds a strong presence of history, and they have successfully maintained its historical roots. The Queen Liliuokalani Church (formerly known as the Waialua Protestant Church) was first established by the Emerson family of missionaries in this town back in 1832. Up until today, the building and entry gate of the church is still standing alongside the early church graveyard. 

Furthermore, the steel and concrete beamed double arch bridge in the northern entrance to the old Haleiwa Town is the Anahulu bridge, or Rainbow bridge was built in 1921. The bridge spans over the Anahulu stream and is a famous destination for paddleboarding, kayaking, and river jumping.

In addition, the town has also become home to immigrants and hired farm laborers from Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, China, and the Philippines. It also nestled citizens from Portugal, Norway, and Scotland. All these have brought Haleiwa the colorful diversity of races.


Want To Visit Historic Haleiwa Town

Go Hawaii Tours specializes in Oahu Island Tours and in one of their tours to the North Shore they have Haleiwa as a stop on the itinerary.  The Tour is called the North Shore Dole Pineapple Tour and is an incredible way to get out of  Waikiki and see the best of what the North Shore has to offer. During the tour when you get dropped off in Haleiwa you will most likely encounter various shops, such as boutiques, surf stores, and shave ice stalls.   Check out the North Shore Dole Pineapple Tour for more info.


Fun Things to Do in Haleiwa Town

  • Surfing

Since the town is located on the Oahu North Shore, surfing is only expected to be among the activities you can enjoy here. As a matter of fact, Haleiwa has been hosting surf competitions over the years. With the waves reaching from 6 feet up to 15 feet high, watching the big and beautiful waves as surfers play with them is truly a fantastic sight to see.

You can also find the largest beach park in the town, Ali’i Beach Park. There is no admission fee, and there is even an adjacent marina. If you feel like going on a picnic while by the beach, there are grassy areas with picnic tables in Ali’i. 

Taking photos is not going to be a problem either, as you can go to the lava rock wave break during sunset to take spectacular pictures. This spot is a favorite among amateur and pro photographers for its picturesque view. 

  • Shopping

What a vacation without shopping! Here in Haleiwa, you will be welcomed with many world-class art galleries, charming souvenir shops, and craft boutiques. You can also shop for soap, paintings, wine, and food. You will be amazed by the amount of art that depicts the town’s local nature, culture, and heritage. Not only that, the scents and flavors of the handcrafted native wares are an experience that will truly let you taste the flavors of tropical Hawaii.

  • Eating

As mentioned before, Hawaii promises a plethora of delectable dishes you have to try, and that includes the town of Haleiwa. Here, you can find various selections of food vending trucks situated at the heart of the district. There is also a food park area where picnic tables and flavorful local fare are set. 

The food trucks offer dishes that range from barbecued chicken, pitaya bowl with bee pollen, coconut shavings, spicy tuna, and a whole lot more. But among all these dishes, the shrimp trucks that offer boiled, friend, plain, or spicy shrimps are the most popular ones. 

If, by any chance, you crave Thai or Japanese food while in Haleiwa, they have those restaurants sitting around. These restaurants can even rival the establishments you can see in Bangkok or Tokyo. They also have Mexican dishes and fantastic plates of seafood dish selections. When it comes to dessert, the Matsumoto Shaved ice or II Gelato is just there waiting for you to taste. 

Hawaii is indeed a beautiful place to spend your vacation on. So make your getaway more enjoyable and hassle-free by hiring a tour operator who can guarantee you a memorable and authentic Hawaiian experience.


Go Hawaii Tours is a local tour operator that embodies the Aloha philosophy wherever we go. Our team comprises dedicated tour operators whose commitment is to provide you with nothing but the best experience. 

If you want to know more about us, our tours, and how we do it, you can check out our website at