From rural plantation town to the “Windsurf Capital of the World,” Paia has seen its fair share of radical changes since its inception in 1896.
But one thing remains the same for this small town on Maui’s breezy North Shore: It’s a historical gem and surfer’s Shangri-La that has shot to the top of the list of leading worldwide destinations.
Nestled between Kahului and Haiku on the famed Hana Highway, this little jewel of a village boasts some of the finest surf spots, restaurants, galleries, and shops on the Valley Isle.
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Passing through a day or planning to stay for a week? Here’s the 411 on what this hip little hamlet has to offer:
Express an interest in seafood on your Maui vacation and there’s no doubt Mama’s Fish House will find its way into the conversation. And for good reason: this iconic Maui eatery on the edge of Paia in Kuau has been electrifying diners since 1973. Voted one of the top ten restaurants in the US by Trip Advisor, this family-owned beauty sits on a gorgeous cove and serves fish reeled in daily by local watermen. Try their Opakapaka Ceviche on a sultry evening—it’s a refreshing medley of melt-in-your-mouth fish, juicy mango, and sharp Maui onion.
Those in the mood for a more kickback Maui restaurant experience, give Café Mambo a shot. This buzzy, vibrant little place offers a range of fresh dishes—including the Hawaiian fave, slow-roasted Kalua Pork—and a smattering of locally- brewed brews on draft.
Have a hankering for something sweet? Pop into Paia Gelato, where Italian artisan ice cream meets flavors found only in paradise—from ultra-luscious lilikoi to the heavenly Sandy Beach (where peanut butter is mixed with lava sea salt and coconut candy for a delectable feast).
What started with a store for plantation hands who worked the sugarcane fields 120 years ago, downtown Paia is now one of Maui’s shopping meccas, featuring boutiques that range from elegant and unexpected to wholly eclectic.
Ladies looking to score casual, island-inspired styles should mosey on over to Mahina, a Hawaii-wide chain that specializes in chic ensembles, strappy shoes, and outstanding accessories—all at pocketbook-pleasing prices. Consistently voted the “best boutique” on Maui, this is the go-to place for warm service and that perfect date-night look.
Need a hip hat or a new pair of shades, sun bunny? Stroll on into Alice in Hulaland, a tiny shop with a ton of character. From trendy t-shirts to kitschy knickknacks, consider this one-stop shop a mini museum of Maui’s mishmash sensibility.
For those hoping to find home goods that’ll turn their neighbors green with envy, head into Indigo Paia—a husband and wife-run boutique that features brag-worthy photography and an impressive array of ancient textiles.
Enhancing its vibe as a juncture between myriad cultures—from surfers and celebrities to farmers and fashionistas—Paia is also home to a splendid collection of small galleries with loads of style.
Representing over 300 local artists in the realms of woodwork, photography, painting, glassblowing, and more, Maui Hands presents an energizing and soulful assortment of notable pieces, from koa bronze mobile structures to Ni’ihau shell necklaces.
Meanwhile, Soley Aloha presents a peerless assemblage beautiful photography from across the island. Here, you can pick up wall art worthy of any home worth sprucing up, as well as clothing with their iconic “ALOHA” logo and even surfboards. Read a recent interview with the owners of Soley Aloha.
The beauty of tight-knit communities is brought to life under the plantation-style roof of Maui Crafts Guild—a co-op gallery that boasts 100% locally-made handcrafted art. Guild members that span from basket weavers to jewelers man the bright, joyful place, where patrons can peruse opalescent glass designs, hand-painted scarves, exquisite silk robes, and fabulous souvenirs.
Escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Paia for the beaches that made this tropical treasure famous.
Driftwood and dunes meet turquoise blue at Baldwin Beach Park, a mile-and-a-half long stretch of white sand beloved by locals. With shore-breaking waves that are a sight unto themselves, Baldwin offers sweeping views of the West Maui Mountains and a quiet respite from the South Shore’s busier beaches. Arrive early for a silent, spellbinding stroll where after a good swell you’ll be sure to see a number of lovely shells. (A word of caution: Leave the shells on the shore, lest Pele’s infamous ire follows you home.) With showers and ample parking, this is also a great place for a picnic. Just keep an eye on the breeze: Winds get pretty fierce by mid-morning.
Past Paia town, you’ll find one of the finest and most formidable surf breaks in the world at Ho’okipa—the place that gave rise to Paia’s fame as the “Windsurfing Capital of the World.” Home to the Aloha Classic (a Pro-Am competition), winter swells reach an astonishing thirty feet and draw spectators and ocean-enthusiasts from around the globe. Located at Mile 9 off Hana Highway, it’s impossible to miss—and the ideal spot to break out a cooler and chair and watch the pros at play. Bonus points: Kelly Slater’s got nothing on the adorable honu that surf close to the shore at sunset.
Maui Yoga & Dance Shala is the brainchild of Nadia Toraman—one of the most talented and recognized faces in Maui’s ever-growing yoga world. Located at the historical Old Train Depot in Paia, the Shala offers a wide range of daily classes, including Tahitian Dance, Meditation, and Vinyasa.
The Maui Dharma Center—a Tibetan-style temple in the heart of Paia—calms the spirit as much as it intrigues. The beautiful Lha Bab Peace Stupa broke ground in 2005 and was blessed by the Dalai Lama two years later in front of a crowd of 500. Standing twenty-seven feet tall, the stupa serves as a beacon for peace and love for locals and visitors from around the world. With daily prayers, evening teachings, and Tibetan language classes, this is the spot to unwind, rewind, give thanks, and glimpse within.
In the mood for a killer margarita? Jarabe your way into Milagro’s, where Southwest meets the South Pacific in the form of their sweet-and-salty Li Hing Mui Rita.
And no trip to Paia is complete without visiting Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon. This rustic outpost has been serving locals and visitors alike since 1969, and has since gone down in history as attracting the likes of no one else than North Shore rezzie and country crooner, Willie Nelson. Be sure to check out their calendar: This divey bar and grill often features live entertainment.
The Inn at Mama’s gives the concept of quaint an island spin with its Polynesian-themed cottages and cozy suites. Within close proximity to downtown Paia and bordering Ho’okipa Beach, this is the perfect place to wake up to a breathtaking view of kite surfers taking to the sky and sea.