Catch a Rare Glimpse at an Empty Haleʻiwa

The normally bustling North Shore visitor hub is now nearly a ghost town.

I grew up in Haleʻiwa, so believe me when I say that the streets of this little beachside borough have never been this quiet. Due to COVID-19, as well as the latest stay-at-home, work-from-home orders, dozens of businesses around Haleʻiwa have closed their doors, some temporarily, others permanently. That, coupled with the fact that the Islands’ normal influx of visitors—about 35,000 a day last year—ceased once a mandatory two-week quarantine was put into place for transpacific passengers, has made Haleʻiwa into a ghost town. The emptiness is scary—for businesses and locals who rely on visitors to pay their rent and to put food on their tables—but also fascinating. 

Never before have I seen Haleʻiwa like this, with no cars in the streets and no massive line forming in front of Matsumoto Shave Ice. And hopefully, it’s the last time I’ll have to see it like this. But for now, let’s dive into the oddity of it all.

Haleʻiwa’s main drag is normally bumper-to-bumper, so the lack of any sort of traffic here is not normal.
Photo: Kevin Allen


If you’ve ever waited 30 minutes in line for a plate of Giovanni’s famous garlic shrimp,
this picture may be a little upsetting. Yes, the shrimp trucks are still open, however, only for takeout.
Photo: Kevin Allen


North Shore Marketplace is known for being one of Haleʻiwa’s oldest, and busiest, marketplaces.
However, with many businesses closed due to the pandemic, visitors and locals were hard to find.
Photo: Kevin Allen


Restaurants and cafés, like Coffee Gallery, are allowed to remain open only for takeout.
When I asked the barista on staff how his day was going, he simply replied, “Slow.”
Photo: Kevin Allen


The same stillness can be found at the Waialua Sugar Mill.
Photo: Kevin Allen


The headcount of the Haleʻiwa Store Lots’ outdoor gathering space? Four—or five, if you include me.
Photo: Kevin Allen


Surf n’ Sea, another Haleʻiwa mainstay, has shut down its retail services for the time being.
Photo: Kevin Allen


Sure, Laniakea Beach isn’t in Haleʻiwa, but many of the North Shore’s beaches featured a similar absence of beachgoers.
Also, it took me five minutes to drive from Haleʻiwa to Laniakea Beach, a route that normally takes 20 to 30 minutes due to traffic.
Photo: Kevin Allen


Categories: O‘ahu What To Do, Travel Safety