I was a sunburnt pagan now. I felt privy to mysteries. ― William Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
We just realized we have spent more time on the North Shore of Oahu than anywhere else in Hawaii. Every time we have planned a trip to Hawaii, we look at all the Islands and weigh the compelling reasons for each destination. Somehow we repeatedly end up here.
I can’t name one particular reason. It is not that easy to get to the North Shore. The traffic can be heavy as Oahu is the most populated of the Hawaiian Islands. The groceries are more expensive here than they were in Scandanavia, and that is saying something! The weather can turn quickly and get very wet, very fast, with dangerous surf. So what is it about this stretch of coastline that keeps us coming back for more? It is a combination of experiences we have had here as a family that creates a magnetism we have not felt in many destinations.
No two days on the north shore of Oahu are the same and yet it has a timeless quality. I realized this as we were eating a piece of chocolate-haupia pie from Ted’s Bakery as waves grew with an impending storm on Sunset Beach.
There is a sense of history here that is complemented by cutting edge thought. I felt this balance as we were walking through historic Haleiwa Town past modern art galleries and local boutiques full of innovative designs.
There are flavors here that are easily accessible and yet completely surprising. I noticed this as we finished our shave ice from Matsumoto’s and moments later were in a vegan cafe feasting on portobello sandwiches.
There is an easy bohemian aesthetic that is accepting, colorful, and intentional. This aspect of the culture revealed itself as we perused the Waimea Farmer’s Market which smelled of everything from curry to sticky buns. No shoes required as families picnicked on the lawn in the most beautiful, welcoming setting I have experienced in a weekly market.
There is enough room for all but it is a unique fit. Not everyone loves it here. I understood this when a well-heeled woman was incensed that an “Island car” blocked her in on the Bonzai Pipeline. She was yelling into the surf to find the culprit. There is a luxury here in the form of prized golf courses and beachfront estates but there are also people living in cars, tents, and other alternative housing solutions.
There is no one way to describe the North Shore and perhaps that in itself is the allure. It is revealing in new ways all the time and yet there are reliable aspects to its very nature that are unyielding.