Monday, October 3, 2011

Oahu's Haleiwa: Surfing Capitol of the Universe

Four of the world's top pro surfing venues are strung along a few miles of the rural Kamehameha Highway of Oahu's North Shore: Haleiwa Ali'i, Waimea Bay, Pipeline, and Sunset Beach. When the sandy-footed set is looking for a break from the beach, they head to Haleiwa.

Don't expect the glitz and glam of Waikiki (or even Lahaina). Haleiwa began in 1832 as a missionary settlement, and, even though escapees from Honolulu have sought weekend refuge here for more than a century, the place has retained its country vibe. An assemblage of wood-frame businesses are spread along a couple miles of beach-front parks. Most of the action is at the North Shore Marketplace, where you'll find the Patagonia store, that surfing great Rell Sunn helped set up in 1994. Coffee shops, galleries, and eateries draw well-heeled locals from the hills.

Shave ice sellers at Matsumoto's and H. Miuras enjoy long lines of customers. To get surfing lessons (Haleiwa has one of Hawaii's best breaks at Puaena) and gear, check of rustic Surf-N-Sea, next to the town's signature bridge. People watching, beachcombing, and canoeing are popular pursuits for visitor's not ready to ride the waves.