Oahu’s North Shore is a quieter alternative to the hectic holiday excitement of Waikiki and Honolulu. It’s a land of big waves and beautiful nature, where visitors can stroll flower-strewn valleys dotted with old Polynesian homes and temples, and swim in waterfall-fed pools.
The cultural hub of this peaceful slice of Oahu is Haleiwa, an artsy surfing town located on Waialua Bay. Here, plantation-era buildings have been turned into boutique shops, art galleries and restaurants. Surfers head out to hit the waves of Waimea Beach, Sunset Beach and Ehukai, while landlubbers can explore the coastline and lush jungle interior on foot, horse and mountain bike. Most accommodation is in fairly simple bed and breakfasts, and there’s only one resort-style hotel. The town is a 50-minute, scenic drive from Honolulu and Oahu’s only airport.
In old Hawaiian, an ahupua’a was the most important unit of land, each one containing all the resources a community needed to survive. The Waimea Valley is one of the few such areas that still has a visible presence on Oahu. Today it is a beautiful conservation site blending nature and history. A colourful and exotic botanical garden contains 5000 tropical plants, including many native Hawaiian species. The valley is dotted with archaeological sites, from religious shrines to thatched huts. And a crystal-clear waterfall cascades down black rocks into a pool, excellent for swimming, which is up to 30 feet deep.
The first people to settle on the islands of Hawaii were Polynesian seafarers, at the time perhaps the most advanced navigators in the world. This cultural center introduces visitors to the diverse cultures of the Polynesian people, drawn from Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Tonga, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the Marquesas. The center has a great array of exhibits, including outdoor villages with arts and crafts displays, canoe rides, cooking demonstrations, dramatic history lessons and a spectacular show.
Over the past couple of decades, this terrific independent bakery has placed firm roots in the soil of Oahu’s North Shore. As well as its bread, it’s famous for its pies and pastries, and serves a variety of sandwiches and hot dishes throughout the day. Particularly recommended are the chocolate-haupia pie and the pineapple macadamia nut cheesecake.
Turtle Bay Resort is at the heart of North Shore tourism. Overlooking the blue Pacific, with easy access to five miles of pristine beach, its variety of rooms and suites are complemented by a luxury spa and memorable restaurants. There are perfect pools, a golf course, tennis courts, and all the information on surfing, hiking, horse riding and mountain biking any visitor could ever need.