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      About North Shore

      The North Shore has spectacular rugged natural beauty, both makai (oceanside) and mauka (mountainside). Its coastline hosts many scenic sandy beaches with honu (green sea turtles), varieties of tropical fish, and world-famous wave breaks. From Hale‘iwa east to Sunset Beach and Velzyland, the North Shore is synonymous with Big Wave Surfing. Across from Waimea Bay, Waimea Valley is an exploration of both its natural and cultural history.

      North Shore Marketplace - home to Cholo's and other great shops and eateries.
      North Shore Marketplace - home to Cholo's and other great shops and eateries.

      The quaint town of Hale‘iwa is a delightful step back in time to territorial Hawaii. Older buildings are preserved while new stores and shops carry on the territorial theme in building design. The easygoing mentality and slow pace of the North Shore inspire a sense of tranquility.

      The North Shore's persistent culture and broad range of home styles

      The North Shore is iconic Hawaii. There is a rumor that "laid back" started as a surfing expression. Whether it did or didn't, there isn't a better way to describe a significant characteristic of the North Shore culture. Laid back, casual, friendly, historic, and country are traits that mark this ironically vibrant coast.

      The North Shore is rural, and most residents would like it to stay that way. Large planned real estate projects are not likely to ever find a home on the North Shore, even as plantation closings have created large land areas for development. However, gentleman farms are trying to develop an acceptable community solution on portions of former Waialua plantation land.

      There are many lovely neighborhoods on the North Shore, from coastal enclaves to the upland acreage of Pupukea and from Waialua's traditional plantation-style homes to the golf course condos at Kuilima Estates East and West in Turtle Bay Resort. Most coastal neighborhoods are small clusters of custom-built homes. Pupukea's custom homes are on one acre or more of land.

      Where vacant land is still available, there may be no infrastructure other than a paved road.

      The last piece of available land in Waimea Valley has been dedicated to conservation rather than residential development, and it is a trend finding growing momentum. The residents of the North Shore are a very special community who respect and cherish the ‘āina (the land) and feel privileged to live in such an exceptionally beautiful place. Because residential growth is limited, property values have increased as North Shore real estate has become highly desirable.

      Creating a rich, vibrant history from earliest settlement through the twentieth century

      Hawaiian settlement on the North Shore began around 700 AD. Like many other areas in the Islands, the Hawaiians grew taro and sweet potato and created fish ponds as food sources, with one Waialua pond described as a mile in length. For many generations, the Hawaiians continued to sustain themselves with the natural riches of the various North Shore ahupua‘a (land divisions).

      The first Europeans to set foot on Oahu were the crewmen of Capt. Cook's third voyage in the Pacific. In 1779, Capt. Cook was tragically killed in Hawaii, the largest and southernmost island. After sailing west past Maui, Lana‘i, and Molokai, Cook's two ships headed along Oahu's windward coast to the north coast of Oahu.

      The ships weighed anchor in Waimea Bay for a few hours to get fresh water and food. In their journals, the ships' captains commented on the many villages observed and the generous hospitality received. Both also wrote that Oahu's northern coast was the most "beautiful country" they had seen in all their journeys through the islands.

      Sixteen years later, Kamehameha united the islands and awarded the rich fertile ahupua‘a of Waimea Valley to a trusted chief kahuna (high priest), Hewahewa. In 1820, the first Christian missionaries arrived in Honolulu and had a significant influence on the royalty as well as the kānaka (commoners). Hewahewa, along with Queen Ka‘ahumanu, accepted Christianity, changing the Hawaiian religious-based kapu system of rule and law.

      In 1832, missionaries sailed into Waialua Bay, establishing in Hale‘iwa the church today known as Lili‘uokalani Protestant Church. The missionaries also found the North Shore to be gloriously beautiful. William H. Gulick later wrote, "Alas! the pen cannot describe the glories of these wonderful scenes—the inspiration of the high hills and the solemn awe of the ceaseless breaking of the ocean rollers upon the extended coast."

      As the western influence spread from Christianity to culture and law, the Great Māhele of 1850 created further significant change in the islands. Before this act, the king was the sovereign owner of the land. Private ownership did not exist. However, as a result of the influence of Western culture, Kamehameha III apportioned the kingdom land and made private ownership possible.

      While many kānaka were realizing private ownership, westerners recognized the opportunities in developing the rich agricultural lands of the islands. John Emerson, the Waialua missionary, began growing sugar cane on the Waialua missionary land in 1836, before the Great Māhele. He used an ox-drawn mill. After the ownership act, two missionary descendants were the first to buy land in Waialua, and the first business- venture sugar mill and plantation was begun in 1865.

      Other factors were also creating changes on the North Shore. Cattle grazing in the early 1840s saw the decline of the native population as cows couldn't be kept from ruining agricultural fields. Then, by mid-century, the diseases introduced by the westerners had further depleted the native Hawaiian population, from more than 6,000 before Cook's ships anchored in Waimea Bay to little more than 1,600 by 1848.

      As the Hawaiian population dwindled on the North Shore in the late 1800s, Chinese immigrants from the plantations began cultivating rice on former taro lands. The influx of Asian immigrants made rice a profitable venture. Taro farming continued, but Asians began growing and milling more of the product than Hawaiians.

      The Waialua Sugar Company did not become successful until around the turn of the century when Castle and Cooke, one of Hawai'i's Big Five, purchased it, building a new mill and improving irrigation and water storage. A railway was extended to transport sugar to the harbor in Honolulu.

      While very successful, rising production costs and unchanged commodity prices over the final decades closed this last Oahu plantation in 1996. This 12,000-acre plantation had once employed over 2,000 workers, many Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Filipino immigrants. Waialua and Hale'iwa are home to many of these former employees and their descendants.

      Hale‘iwa's origins begin with Oahu's first destination-oriented hotel. Benjamin Dillingham, a visionary who early realized the profitable future of sugar cane, was a board member of Waialua Sugar. He had created a narrow-gauge railway to haul sugar cane to the harbor from several plantations and provided passenger transportation to and from western Oahu.

      In 1898, Dillingham extended the rail line to the Waialua Sugar plantation and his soon- to-open Haleiwa Hotel. In August 1899, railway cars transported the first affluent passengers through the Ewa Plain, up the Waianae Coast, around Ka‘ena Point, and on to the new hotel. That same year, the railway was extended along the scenic North Shore to Dillingham's sugar plantation investment in Kahuku.

      The hotel was on forty acres along the Anahulu Stream, long before Hale‘iwa's small boat harbor. The hotel was a luxurious fourteen-suite two-story structure of the opulent Gilded Age, with an ornate ballroom, bungalow-style cottages, beautifully landscaped grounds, and very modern features such as electric lights, hot and cold running water, and telephones.

      There were only a few buildings around the area at this time, but their number increased with the early popularity of the hotel and the influx of Waialua Sugar workers. Many industrious Asian plantation employees started tailor shops, laundries, meat and vegetable markets, and other services that locals and the hotel's tourists needed.

      Though the name Haleiwa referred to the hotel, it also began to be applied to the surrounding area.

      With the growth of Waikiki as a tourist destination and more people driving to the North Shore, the hotel's popularity sadly declined. It was closed in 1929 and reinvented as the Haleiwa Beach Club. It opened as an officer's club during World War II. A significant piece of Hale‘iwa's history was lost when the hotel was finally torn down in 1952.

      The 1950s marked the emergence of big wave surfing though surfing had been practiced in Hawai'i from the beginning of its settlement. It is thought that the Tahitians brought the sport of surfing with them. In 1779, one of the officers of Captain Cook's third voyage wrote in his journal about the skill he had seen as he described Hawaiians on Kealakekua Bay surfing on planks and avoiding being crushed on the rocks.

      Makaha on the Waianae coast was the first "big wave" beach enjoyed by California surfers around 1953. But these surfers eventually made their way over to the foreboding North Shore to find coastal coves and beaches creating huge waves. Waimea Bay became the first challenge and first big wave surf destination. Other wave breaks and ocean conditions produced different sets of challenges.

      Eddie Aikau was the first internationally recognized Hawaiian big wave surfer. The annual Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational at Waimea Bay memorializes Eddie.

      Sunny skies and forty-five foot waves!

      When talking about weather on the North Shore, swells and waves are the first subjects. Huge surf swells can bring out loads of spectators as well as surfers. The big swells generally occur in the winter months, and recently, the waves reached heights that hadn't been seen in years.

      In summer, the ferocious waves turn into gentle teasers to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and lots of other ocean fun.

      Sun is the next item in the weather forecast. With so many spectacular beaches to enjoy, the sun is one ingredient that makes it a memorable day! The North Shore has about 275 fully sunny days. Wow! And there are also many "landlubber" activities to enjoy in the sun, such as hiking trails, horseback riding, and zip lining in Kahuku - with stunning North Shore vistas.

      Umbrella weather on the North Shore is the exception but generally happens in November. Visiting historic Waimea Falls and the beautiful botanical garden can be enjoyed even on rainy days. Whether sunny or rainy, the North Shore is chock full of memorable experiences that never end for the local resident.

      Like much of Oahu, September is generally the hottest month, averaging about 86°F (30°C), but it can go into the 90s. If the trade winds are blowing, it doesn't feel quite as hot. The most pleasant months are January, February, and March when many surf events are held. Average temperatures drop 10-15 degrees.

      Commuting from the North Shore

      Commuting from the North Shore is a challenge in skill and patience. During non-rush hours, it can be an hour's drive into Honolulu. However, during rush hour, it can be closer to two hours. It can be 10 miles or more just to access the H-2 freeway. The farther away from the destination, the greater the possibility of other factors, such as road closures, to further slow the commute.

      Limited education options on the North Shore

      The North Shore public schools are in two districts. The eastern half is in the Windward District and bordered in the west by Pupukea Rd. The North Shore Windward District elementary school is Sunset Beach Elementary School (Pk-5). The intermediate school (6-8) and high school (9-12) are on one campus in Kahuku.

      The western half of the North Shore is in the larger Central District. The North Shore zone is from Pupukea Rd. west to Mokulē‘ia. The elementary schools are Hale‘iwa Elementary School (Pk-5) and Waialua Elementary School (Pk-5). According to Great Schools' evaluations, both schools have above-average overall scores. Wailua Intermediate (6-8) and High School (9-12) serves the entire North Shore Central District area.

      Other than St. Michael's Catholic School (Pk-8) in Waialua, other private school options are in Central Oahu, Kapolei/Ewa Beach, Kailua, and Honolulu. Some are non-affiliated college prep schools, and others are Christian schools.

      North Shore medical services

      Being "country" on the North Shore means that major medical facilities are not nearby. Honolulu and Leeward O'ahu have several state-of-the-art medical facilities; however, the closest is more than 20 miles from Hale‘iwa and farther away from other parts of the North Shore.

      Serving the eastern side of the North Shore, the Kahuku Medical Center is a small hospital with comprehensive services. From Kahuku, it is 30 miles down the Windward coast to the larger Castle Medical Center in Kailua.

      For residents on the North Shore's western side, Wahiawā General Hospital, located on the central plain and ten miles from Hale‘iwa, provides comprehensive services.

      Queen's Medical Center West Oahu is 11-12 miles farther south in 'Ewa Beach. Queen's Health Care also has a center in Hale‘iwa for primary care services and family and internal medicine.

      A revitalized town returning to its roots

      Today, Hale‘iwa is the North Shore hub of commercial activities for locals and offers trendy tourist shops, galleries, and restaurants for locals and visitors alike. Designated a state historic, cultural, and scenic site in 1984, all new commercial building design in town must reflect the popular territorial architecture of Hale‘iwa's past. The most recent revitalization project, Hale‘iwa Store Lots, caters to tourists with more shops, galleries, and restaurants - and famous shave ice!

      Hale‘iwa is also home to many trusted ocean gear and activities shops. Ocean excursions usually begin at Hale‘iwa's small boat harbor. The first event in the Van's Triple Crown of Surfing is held at Hale‘iwa's Ali‘i Beach.

      Food trucks and fine dining

      Food trucks are a staple on the North Shore. Whether watching a surf contest, enjoying the beach, or meandering through Hale‘iwa, it is so handy to pop over to a food truck for a yummy plate lunch. However, Waialua, Hale‘iwa, Pupukea, and Turtle Bay all have places to pick up local 'kine food, healthy salads, or familiar burgers and fries.

      Hale‘iwa restaurants and the Turtle Bay Resort offer casual fine dining on the North Shore. Hale‘iwa Joe's sits on the former site of the Hale‘iwa Hotel. It provides that delightful Hawaiian experience ambiance with mid-century decor, views of the ocean and harbor, and memory-making dreamy sunsets. Fish is the featured item with various preparations of ahi, calamari, shrimp, and crab for pupus. For the main entree, fish is baked, fried, steamed, and my favorite, grilled, grilled salmon. Ono!

      Across the iconic Rainbow Bridge and a little farther down the road is the Haleiwa Beach House, with spectacular ocean views and more dreamy sunsets enjoyed while dining on the lanai. Delicious fish, steak, and chicken are on the dinner menu.

      Traveling northeast along the coast to almost the northernmost point on Oahu is the Turtle Bay Resort. The resort has recently gone through what management is calling a transformation, rather than a renovation. Either way, the resort is spectacular. And what has not changed is that the three projecting "towers" still provide ocean views from every guest room.

      The new restaurant choices include Roy Yamaguchi's Beach House, Alaia, with a menu of mainly North Shore sourced ingredients, and Lei Lei's on the golf course. With the sliding doors open, lush green fairway, a colorful setting sun, and a tasty seafood scampi, I enjoyed the time spent at Lei Lei's while waiting for the big surf contest traffic jam to go away.

      For those who love the thought of living in an area of Oahu that hasn't gone urban but retains its striking natural beauty and the traces and spirit of older eras in Hawai'i, the North Shore is a wonderful place to call home.

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