Why Hale‘iwa, North Shore, should be your next surf destination

Believe it or not, the north shore of O‘ahu can be a great surf spot for beginners and experienced pros alike.

The popularity and buzz around spots like Banzai Pipeline, Backdoor, Waimea Bay, and Sunset Beach, where professional surf contests or big wave events take place, can be a deterrent for many beginners and first-time surfers. This is a contributing factor to why people avoid taking lessons on the north shore.

Some of the other elements that make these spots so dangerous include high wave heights, strong rip current, shallow reef, and steep, pitching waves.

While it is most definitely true that these spots are not beginner-friendly, there are many spots on the north shore that are suited to beginners and even first-timers, including Hale‘iwa (pronounced Ha-leh-E-Va), one of HOKALI’s featured locations!

Read on to learn more about the surf spot and why you should book a lesson there!

Hale‘iwa is a small town located on the western end of the north shore. It is a historic surf town known as the artistic epicenter of the north shore.

If you are arriving from Honolulu, you can pass through Hale‘iwa on your way to the beach. You will follow a two-lane road and pass a number of cafes, restaurants, galleries, shopping boutiques, and food trucks.

Unlike Waikiki, which is about an hour drive south, it is not as bustling or jam-packed and has a much mellower pace. This is partly because there are no hotels nearby, the closest being Turtle Bay further north, towards Kahuku, the northern most tip of the island.

It is a very quaint town and a true gem on the north shore that caters to the country lifestyle of its people.

What season should I go?

Easy answer: any of them!

Hale‘iwa and the north shore see the biggest wave heights during the winter season because strong Northwest swells come from far away from the Pacific.

Surfers from all over the world flock to this historic surf town for peak winter waves. This is also the season where everyone who lives in town is making the hour-ish trek up to score, when the south side is smaller!

Therefore, you are guaranteed to have a great experience during the winter. The only days you really cannot surf are stormy surf of XL surf days when the waves are way too big and messy.

During the spring and summertime, however, there are still days where you can expect to score some small waves. Only a few days may be completely flat, but surf schools operate all year round and will make sure that you accomplish the basics of catching waves and standing up on your own.

No matter where you are learning to surf, it will be most beneficial to seek out a professional instructor and consider booking a surf lesson with a HOKALI vetted coach or surf academy.

As we have said before, safety is the most important thing when it comes to surfing and you definitely do not want to paddle out somewhere where you will be considered a risk to yourself and others.

Hale‘iwa Beach Park and Pua‘ena Point, right next door, are great places to practice catching waves and standing up.

The beach itself is a narrow sand beach lined with palm trees. You are likely to see canoes, kayakers, and surfers. The rocky ocean bottoms means it may not be the best place on the north shore for swimming, but it is a great place to set up a picnic and enjoy the sun.

Experienced surfers either paddle out from Hale‘iwa beach park and paddle to the break, or park on the eastern end of the beach and walk through some foliage out to the tip of the shore, known as Pua‘ena point.

Pua‘ena point provides a great little inlet where surfers and beach goers alike can post up and enjoy the sun. Though the shore line is rocky, it is great for kids and families because the surf does not break on shore and the conditions are not rough.

Where else to explore in Hale‘iwa?

There are many rewarding places to shop and dine in Hale‘iwa. Make sure to check out Matsumoto Shave Ice and Hale‘iwa Bowls for one of the best açai bowls on the island.

Other popular lunch spots include Giovanni’s Shrimp, Kua‘aina Burgers, and Waialua Bakery, for delicious sandwiches, smoothies, and baked goods.

There are also great vegan and vegetarian options in Hale‘iwa, including Beet Box Cafe for breakfast and lunch.

You will notice as you drive through Haleiwa that many of the traditional chain stores, like the one McDonalds or 7-Eleven, have kept their vintage signage.

What to be cautious of?

Check the surf report. Although the conditions at Hale‘iwa are generally safer than the previously mentioned spots, the north shore can occasionally, as mentioned, witness XL days, where conditions are very unmanageable and you definitely do not want to go out.

You will likely know what to expect on these days, because lessons won’t be offered. Look up to a week ahead of time on Surfline or a similar app if you are planning on surfing!

Thankfully there are very few dangers in the water, however, one big “threat” to consider is… traffic! This is more of a headache than anything.

Traffic moving specifically from the western end of the north shore to the eastern end, basically between Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach, can be very congested at times, because of the popularity of beaches in that stretch! Consider booking a surf lesson on a weekday when crowds are more tame.

Hopefully this has inspired you to book a surf lesson in Hale‘iwa!

It is definitely one you do not want to miss!

And the best part is that you can make an entire day out of it. Start by hitting the beach, getting your early morning surf endorphins, dry off and enjoy a delicious meal, perhaps check out some of the shops and boutiques in Hale‘iwa town, and end your day with a beautiful sunset. Time flies when you’re having fun!

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