O‘ahu Walking Tour: Discover Hale‘iwa’s Most Iconic Historic Sites

We try walking tours that uncover O‘ahu’s rich history and culture.

We walk through our historic neighborhoods every day, but do we really know about the history and culture that shaped and molded them? I didn’t, that is, until I got a glimpse into O‘ahu’s past by trying historic walking tours in downtown Honolulu, Chinatown, Waikīkī and Hale‘iwa, all offered by established nonprofits. With historic buildings, ancient stories, old traditions and timeless architecture, these tours (plus a few extras) will give you a better sense of this place we call home. We published an article every Thursday in July. We started with downtown Honolulu, headed to Chinatown and then made our way to Waikīkī. Our last stop: Hale‘iwa.


SEE ALSO: O‘ahu Walking Tour: Take a Journey Back to When Waikīkī Was Home to The Ali‘i


We often trek to Hale‘iwa to grab some grub or surf, but the area has a rich history that mixes both local and foreign cultures. The two-hour tour of historic Hale‘iwa is all about what the area was like before it became a tourist destination. I’m the only one on my tour and meet my guide at the North Shore Chamber of Commerce office, located next to the Waialua Community Association building. The chamber has offered these tours for a decade, and my guide has been leading them for several years (he lives on the North Shore and often drives to Hale‘iwa town with his wife to grab lunch and dinner).


The chamber’s office, a quaint one-story house (there’s a bathroom with a shower inside) with dark green trim, was donated by nearby Ace Hardware. The house, located on Ace Hardware’s property, was a telephone operating business and residence before volunteers moved it to its current location.




My guide tells me that Hale‘iwa translates to house of the ‘iwa, a large black bird that can sometimes be seen flying over the town. The ‘iwa is also seen around town in other forms—in a painting on the side of a storefront and as part of a wind vane (instrument used to show direction of wind) on the steeple of the Lili‘uokalani Protestant Church. Another translation of Hale‘iwa is the home of beautiful people, possibly referencing the name of a girls seminary built in the area.


SEE ALSO: O‘ahu Walking Tour: Eat (and Explore) Your Way Through Chinatown


A few interesting stops on the tour: The Lili‘uokalani Protestant Church, originally built in 1832 and then rebuilt at its current location in 1960, sits on a nice patch of green space slightly away from the tourist hustle and bustle. Queen Lili‘uokalani often stayed at her Hale‘iwa home and worshipped at the church. There’s a small circular stained-glass window at the front that looks beautiful when the afternoon sun streams through it. The church is also an active burial site, where people including Gideon La‘anui have been laid to rest. (La‘anui was known as the chief of the Waialua area.)




Sites along the way include the Waialua Courthouse, the Hale‘iwa Shingon Mission, the former site of the Hale‘iwa Theater (now a McDonald’s), the once-popular Fujioka’s Supermarket (now Mālama Market), Hale‘iwa Harbor and the famous Rainbow Bridge. We end our tour at Hale‘iwa Beach Park and head back to the chamber’s office. It’s around lunchtime, so we get caught in some traffic on Kamehameha Highway (it’s only two lanes).



The tour spans about one mile, but depending on how far you want to (or can) walk, you have the option to drive to certain places. Just ask your guide. We walked for a few blocks and then drove the rest of the way. It’s a pretty easy walk, and my guide proved to be knowledgeable and insightful about Hale‘iwa’s history and the ways the area has changed over time.


SEE ALSO: O‘ahu Walking Tour: Explore Downtown Honolulu’s Most Famous Buildings


What You Need to Know

  • When it happens: Tours are scheduled by appointment and subject to the availability of the chamber’s volunteer docents (there are just a few docents, so try to be flexible when scheduling).

  • How to sign up: Call the chamber at (808) 637-4558. For more information, visit gonorthshore.org.

  • Cost: $10 per person.

  • Tips: Wear comfortable shoes and bring a hat or sunglasses. I brought water with me, but if you forget, the chamber sells chilled water for $1 per bottle.

  • Parking: There is free parking in the small lot (about 20 stalls) next to the chamber.