Warm and welcoming, Paia, Maui is the definition of a bohemian beach town. This one-time sugarcane plantation is presently known for its chill surf culture. In fact, one of its top attractions, Ho’okipa Beach, has been touted as the “windsurfing capital of the world.”
If you don’t care about surfing, you might mistake Paia for merely a backwater town where road-trippers gas up on a trip to the Hana Highway. But for such a tiny area, it packs a lot of variety. If you stop by and look closely, you’ll discover a charming mishmash of quirky shops, rustic restaurants, and funky boutiques.
Indeed, Paia is as diverse as they come, boasting tattoo parlors, yoga studios, a kava lounge, and a Buddhist stupa. Then, there are the lovely beaches and the thriving food scene. You could easily spend a day or two here, basking in the chill, island life vibe.
In this guide, we’ll cover the top seven things to do in Paia, Maui’s hippie surf town, should you want to add some spice to your itinerary. Check it out!
Visit Paia’s Beaches
While the beaches of Paia are renowned for their spectacular waves, luring avid surfers of different skill levels, they are still worth visiting, even if you’re not keen on surfing. These gorgeous beaches have crystal-clear waters, making them suitable for swimming and snorkeling.
Like all beaches in Maui, the beaches of Paia boast spectacular views. You’ll find plenty of nice spots to relax and work on your tan. Visit at sunset to enjoy a relaxing stroll along the shore and admire the awe-inspiring sunset views.
Below, check out some of the best beaches in Paia.
- Hookipa Beach Park – A hotspot for windsurfing and kiteboarding. Ho’okipa is also worth visiting for its gorgeous landscape and dozens of green sea turtles.
- Baldwin Beach Park – A long stretch of sand, protected swimming spots, and spectacular sunsets. It also has bathrooms, showers, barbeque areas, picnic tables, and lifeguards.
- Paia Bay – With its big waves, the bay is a hit with bodysurfers and bodyboarders. But it is also idyllic enough for a picnic lunch. The eastern end of the beach has lush greenery with its rows of palm trees. The western side is rockier but quieter.
Explore the Boutique Shops
Paia has an eclectic collection of boutique shops, where you’ll find anything from trendy clothing and handmade jewelry to unique art pieces and organic skincare products. Some stores have pretty hefty prices. But considering that you’re in Maui (arguably Hawaii’s most expensive island), the shops in Paia are relatively cheaper.
Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, exploring the boutique shops in town is still a must-do. It lets you peek into the island’s rich culture and local talent. In addition, window shopping can be a relaxing experience, especially in a town as artsy and quaint as Paia.
Most boutique shops in town feature products that locals themselves designed and crafted. One of these is Heart in Paia, where you can get one-of-a-kind jewelry straight from the artist. If you’re into surfing, check out High Tech Paia, a surf and board rental shop that sells customized t-shirts and hoodies.
Have Lunch or Dinner
Another draw of Paia is its vibrant dining scene. Unlike the more touristy resort towns, which are rife with over-priced restaurants, Paia caters mainly to the local crowd. For this reason, you’ll find plenty of cheaper and more casual food options here.
Be sure to check out Mama’s Fish House, famous for its sea-to-table and seasonal ingredients. Located on a beachfront, this restaurant features colorful Polynesian decor and stunning ocean views. For a more casual atmosphere, head to Paia Fish Market and sample its mouthwatering seafood plates, shrimp tacos, and salmon burgers.
Not a fan of seafood? Flatbread Company serves freshly baked wood-fired pizzas with locally sourced toppings. But whatever your food preference is, don’t miss Mana Foods. Known as the best (and cheapest) natural food store in Maui, it sells high-quality, organic items, such as baked goods, all-natural dairy products, and home-grown produce.
Indulge in a Tasty Treat
What better way to cool off on a hot Hawaiian day than by having some ice cream? How about trying the famous shave ice? The great thing about Paia is that it has loads of shops that offer tasty treats, including organic gelato and decadent pumpkin pie.
Paia Gelato serves unique Hawaiian flavors with a hint of Italian twist. You can’t go wrong with its bestseller, Sandy Beach, a concoction of coconut candy and peanut butter with lava sea salt. If you’re craving a local favorite, head to Ululani’s Shave Ice. Pick from its soft, fluffy ice creations topped with all-natural syrups made from sugar cane or tropical fruits such as guava, mango, passion fruit, and pineapple.
Want a refreshingly healthy treat? Check out Choice Health Bar for their refreshing fruit juices and smoothies. Or, you can visit Paia Bowl’s pop-up shop at the Better Things Cafe for delicious acai bowls. For a little bit of everything – local craft beer, organic brownies, coconut cream mousse, and more – drop by Kuau Store Deli & Market Maui.
The Great Paia Lha Bab Peace Stupa
The Great Paia Lha Bab Peace Stupa sits at the entrance to the Maui Dharma Center and is a tribute to the late Lama Tenzin, the center’s first resident teacher. In 2007, the 14th Dalai Lama consecrated the monument on his historic visit to the island.
At 27 feet, the stupa features a roof shaped like a monk with hands clasped over his head in prayer. Inside is a wheel, said to hold millions of written intercessions for peace. You help spread love and peace as you spin the wheel and ring the chime.
A lovely garden with a small pond surrounds the stupa. It’s a serene spot to sit, meditate, and reflect amidst a busy day. You can also join the monks for their morning or evening prayers. Nearby is a gift shop with handmade items, such as mala beads and Tibetan singing bowls.
Start the Road to Hana
After spending some time in Paia, start a trip on the Road to Hana. Spanning nearly 65 miles long, the narrow and winding Hana Highway connects Kahului to the remote town of Hana. It passes through a lush tropical rainforest, majestic waterfalls, around 620 curves, and more than 59 bridges, many of which date back to 1910. Several lookouts dot the highway, offering incredible views of the Maui coastline and the ocean.
An interrupted drive from Paia to Hana takes a little over two hours. You can rent a vehicle or book a guided tour for a hassle-free road trip that lets you focus on the panorama. Along the route, you’ll see spectacular attractions, including the Twin Falls, Waikamoi Ridge Trail, Wailua Falls, Bamboo Forest, Maui Garden of Eden, and the Hana Lava Tube.
One of the most famous viewpoints on the Hana Highway is the Ho’okipa Lookout, which overlooks the beach and makes the perfect spot for watching surfers. Some roadside shops boast the world’s tastiest home-baked banana bread. So, be sure to add this delicious treat to your shopping list.
Bike to Paia from Haleakala
Beyond the town of Paia lies Haleakala National Park, home to one of the world’s largest dormant volcanoes. A fantastic way to explore the area is to join a Haleakala Volcano tour. You can zipline through treetops, watch the sunrise from the mountain’s summit, or go on a helicopter ride.
If you want an excursion that blends exercise with sightseeing, go for a self-guided bike tour to Paia from Haleakala. You’ll feel an exhilarating adrenaline rush as you cycle downhill on the volcano’s slopes while soaking up the gorgeous views.
Most trips take around four to five hours, depending on your speed and how many stops you make. Once you reach Paia, you can indulge in retail therapy, relax at the beach, or reward yourself with a tasty treat.
Is Paia Worth Visiting?
Yes, Paia is worth visiting. It’s one of the most unique small towns in Maui – rustic and mellow yet funky and full of life. Along with its beaches, surfing, and windsurfing, its eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and art galleries makes it wholly interesting. To top it all, Paia is an excellent base for exploring popular attractions, such as the Road to Hana and the Haleakala National Park.
Where is Paia Located?
Paia is on the North Shore of Maui, Hawaii, about eight miles east of Kahului, where the island’s main airport is. Before gaining popularity as a surf town, Paia was mainly referred to as the last stop before entering the scenic Road to Hana. Over the years, Paia has attracted not only free-spirited hippies, artists, and avid surfers but also tourists traveling on the Hana Highway.
Are There Places to Stay in Paia?
Yes, there are plenty of places to stay in Paia. Choose from vacation rentals, bed and breakfasts, and small hotels. The town center has more options to fit all kinds of budgets. If you want a more secluded and peaceful setting, there are great accommodations on the outskirts as well.
- Paia Inn – A boutique hotel located in the heart of Paia, offering luxurious rooms and suites with ocean views, a courtyard pool, and an on-site restaurant.
- The Inn at Mama’s Fish House – A charming inn with spacious rooms and suites located on a private beach next to the iconic Mama’s Fish House restaurant.
- Paia Vacation Rentals – A Paia vacation home is the best option for those looking for a home away from home.
What is the Weather Like in Paia?
Paia is generally warm and sunny all year round, with average temperatures between 70°F and 85°F. The pleasant weather makes Paia perfect for beach outings and outdoor activities. Summer is drier and balmier, while winter can bring lots of rainfall and cooler temperatures. But no worries, the rains usually do not last long.
Like the rest of the Maui North Shore, Paia is known for its trade winds, which makes it a popular spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding. In winter, the waves can get enormous and extremely dangerous. If you plan to go surfing or swimming during this season, be extra careful and take heed of the safety signs.
What is the History of Paia?
The rich history of Paia has its roots in its plantation past. In the late 1800s, when sugar plantations became the top industry in the area, Paia quickly grew into a bustling town. It welcomed a diverse population of workers from around the world. Its economy was based on sugar until the last plantation closed in the late 20th century.
Today, Paia is a vibrant community that celebrates its multicultural heritage through its food, art, and events. At the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, visitors can learn snippets about the colorful history of Paia and the role the sugarcane industry played in shaping Maui.
Meet the Authors
Aloha! We’re Justin and Katie, the owners of Maui Hideaway. We’ve been visiting Hawaii together with our family for 20 years and would love to share the experience of the islands with you. Whether you’re looking for a place to stay or just some vacation advice, we’re here to help!
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