Paia is a one-stoplight beach town on Maui’s North Shore with several restaurants and cafes, boutiques and galleries, and lots of good vibes.
Paia is the first stop on the fabled Road toHana, but also the first stop to “everything alternative” on Maui. If you have ever been to Humboldt County, CA, it’s the same vibe…You might even run into the same pot-smokers, gurus, or new age seekers here.
Characters abound in Paia. On Hana Highway, which is the “main drag” in Paia, hitchhikers are common, decked out in dreadlocks, beads, mountain man beards, purple garb, or even top hats.
|A few of Paia's characters, including my friend Jeffrey "Smartmouth" on the bottom right corner.|
If you wonder “Where have all the flowers gone?” the answer is: to Paia where you may still find plenty of hippies and colorful flower children. Paia is one of the few places on Maui where one can find buskers on sidewalks, usually outside of Mana Foods.
By the way, Paia is usually pronounced "Pah-ee-yah."
|Entering the town of Paia after arriving to Maui. This road is Hana Highway, and up ahead is the one stop light in Paia, where Hana Highway intersects with Baldwin Avenue. These are the two main streets in Paia.|
- Paia Beach Park – on the outskirts of town, within walking distance of shops and cafes.
- Proximity to Hookipa Beach – known for windsurfing and great for watching large waves in the winter.
- Mama’s Fish House Restaurant – on the eastern outskirts of town, a landmark restaurant to which many tourists make a pilgrimage.
- Paia Mantokuji Mission – a Japanese Buddhist temple with annual community festivals
- Paia Dharma Center – a meditation center with a stupa – a holy sanctuary.
- Health and holistic services – acupuncture, massage and yoga right in town, a dentist
- Charley’s – the oldest restaurant in Paia, and where Willie Nelson sometimes gives surprise performances.
- Mana Foods - Arguably, Maui’s most popular health food + grocery store. Anyone who lives on Maui long enough will end up shopping at Mana because of their outstanding prices and quality.
- Accommodations – Paia Inn in the heart of town and several hidden beachfront cottages.
- Prices – Overall, dining and shopping in Paia seem less expensive than in more touristed areas of Maui. Parking is plentiful and mostly free at public lots.
|A few images of Paia: Stupa of the Maui Dharma Center, Paia Mantokuji Mission, Mana Foods, storefront on Baldwin Avenue, and Paia Fish Market|
Lately, Paia has received a lot of attention as a charming beach town with a refreshing ambience, an authentic town with “local color,” which is considered less “touristy” than other towns on Maui.
But Paia wasn’t always so popular in the mainstream.
For years, Paia was seen as the gawky country cousin to Lahaina: not as suave, chic or presentable. Paia had rough edges, like a permanent pile of garbage and broken household items right on the main shopping strip or boarded-up windows of a closed bakery next to a new boutique. Some old-time Maui families owned land in “downtown” Paia and created eyesores – they didn’t want Paia - or Maui - to change.
Paia was funky. An ex-boyfriend who adored Lahaina on his first trip to Maui had a remedy for Paia: give everything a fresh coat of paint and a good cleaning. Open more shops, cater to tourists.
|Pot smoker crossing sign, just outside Paia. This sign has finally been replaced.|
He wouldn’t recognize Paia now. Paia has undergone a transformation in the last few years, some would say it’s practically gentrified. Gone are unsightly eyesores. Paia even has a paid parking lot (shocking).
But for all its changes, Paia still retains a funky, earthy, mellow, hippie vibe. People watching is a fun spectator sport in Paia. Plus, there’s always the beach.
|Vintage map of Maui. Paia is at the top. The area called Kuau on the map is part of Paia.|
You may also enjoy:
Night-Blooming Cereus in Paia
Halloween Night in Paia Town
Pearl Butik in Paia
Bohemians and Hippies on the Beach and Other Hangouts
New Year's Eve Gong / Bell Ringing in Paia
The North Shore of Maui
Remembering the Paia Street Poet, Bill Keys
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