Haleiwa is an area bustling with tourists and traffic and streets lined with shrimp trucks, shave ice shops and surf stores. But, can you believe that before Haleiwa transformed into a surfing mecca and a popular tourist spot, it was a sleepy country town?
"It was a very quiet little town," said local historian Boyd Ready.
As you drive into Haleiwa, the vast area from Weed Circle to Haleiwa Beach Park is plentiful in water and fertile soil. Seven streams, including the Anahulu, run through Haleiwa and bring water to the sugar fields of Waialua Agriculture Company.
"When the sugar mill started, they were able to use the freshwater springs at the base of high lands and pump that water up. They were able to dam up the lake by Lake Wilson, the largest fresh water of the state," said Ready.
Though thousands of immigrants came to work in the sugar plantation in the late 1800s, the town itself didn't exist until Benjamin Franklin Dillingham opened the Haleiwa Hotel in 1899 on the site where Haleiwa Joe's now sits.
"As the commercial activity of the town increased, the town's name spread out to cover the whole commercial area called Haleiwa," said Ready.
Haleiwa, or home of the Iwa bird, was the summer home of Queen Lili'uokalani. Her house sat between Loko'ea Pond and Anahulu Stream. Long-time resident Vanderlyn Ana's family used to host the Queen.
The Queen would attend services at the nearby Lili'uokalani Protestant Church. Inside the chapel hangs the clock the Queen gave to the church in the 1892.
"This clock is extremely unique. In fact, it's one of its kind. Rather than numerals on the clock it has the letters of her name. The 12 letters – it spells Lili'uokalani," said Bernie Paik-Apau of Lili'uokalani Protestant Church.
Take a close look and you can see the intricate details of the clock. There are seven different dials indicating different time references.
"It used to work maybe some 15 years ago and we did have someone who took care of it for us and it was running. But, he passed away and since then we really haven't been able to find anyone who can really make this clock work again," said Paik-Apau.
While Haleiwa may have been the playground for Hawaiian royalty, in the early 1900s it was deeply rooted in sugar and rail.
"I remember the trains that serviced the sugar plantation because when the sugar cane fell down we used to eat it," said Francis Forsythe, a long-time resident.
Haleiwa became the commerce center for the thousands of plantation workers with a bank, mom and pop stores and the once iconic Haleiwa Theatre.
One relic of the past that remains strong is Matsumoto's Shave Ice. Mamoru and Helen Matsumoto opened the shop in 1951 to serve plantation workers.
"It started as a grocery store because my parents used to sell canned goods, vegetables, meat and soda, chips and preserved plums," said Matsumoto's Shave Ice owner Stanley Matsumoto.
But the grocery store wasn't profitable and the Matsumoto's started shave ice to make ends meet.
"Eventually we phased out the grocery side and we started selling T-shirts. The first T-shirt was done in 1976," said Matsumoto.
Now the shop is booming with an average 1,100 customers a day yearning to try the sweet azuki beans and 40 different flavors of shave ice.
It's not only the yummy shave ice that keeps the north shore busy. As the sugar industry started to decline after the 1950s the surf scene grew exponentially.
"There was a surf movie called "Ride the Wild Surf" in early 1963 and they filmed a lot of it here in Haleiwa. It really popularized Haleiwa and in the 1960s it became the most popular place to surf," said Triple Crown of Surfing Founder Randy Rarick.
During the winter months the population of four thousand quadrupled for the Triple Crown of Surfing.
"Surfing is what I call the industry of the north shore. The industry has put north shore on the map and Haleiwa on the map. Haleiwa is the surf capitol of the world because of that," said Rarick.
The town is also looking to the future.
Landowner Kamehameha Schools started construction on a new 27,000 square-foot shopping center slated to open in September.
Despite the renovations and new shops that have been added to the heart of Haleiwa over the years, the town still holds true to its historic character and country charm to this day.
Haleiwa is home to 34 historic buildings, including the post office that retains its 1920s shell.
The sugar cane of yesterday is replaced by new types of farming.
Twin Bridge Farms in Haleiwa grows local asparagus. The 80-acre plot right next to town produces 250 pounds of asparagus a day and supplies its signature Waialua Brand to grocery chains across Oahu.
"We harvested already this morning. It's being packed right now. It's going to be in the market tomorrow. So, it's that fresh," said Milton Agader of Twin Bridge Farms.
Agader and his partner Al Medrano, both former sugar company workers, opened to keep farming alive in Haleiwa.
"We have good lands. We have water. We have a well that fills this farm. The soils are good, high production fields and well trained. Just keep the open space open," said Agader.
Despite changes and growth, residents say the laid back feeling remains the same.
"It's a tremendous feeling living in Haleiwa because we feel that there's no place else in the world that could come close to Haleiwa. We have the ocean, the surfing, the river," said Jake Ng, a long-time resident.
Haleiwa is also home to more than 30 historic buildings and you can check out the buildings on a walking tour with the North Shore Chamber of Commerce.