Paia has come far from its beginnings as a sugarcane plantation town. Many of the wooden buildings still stand, but they've all received several new coats of paint in much brighter colors. This vibrant, artistic little community on the resort island of Maui is home to local art galleries, sleepy inns, unique seafood restaurants and, of course, beaches. Unlike many of the resort towns sprinkled all over Hawaii, Paia is welcoming without being too over the top; beautiful without having to try. The natural white sand beaches and sharp thrust of the wind make for scenic surfing conditions for a fun daytime activity, while the whimsical and friendly town center hugs the shore. Located just 15 minutes from Kahului Airport, Paia is perfect for travelers who want to escape a little further.
The widely-hailed "home of contemporary surfing" is situated on the North Shore of Maui, drawing surf fanatics all over the world to its shores all year round. Ho’okipa is most hopping in during the winter when the already impressive waves swell to their most ideal. A frequent host to events like the Aloha Classic and the Red Bull surfing competitions, this 8.4-square mile white-sand beach is a huge hit with windsurfers.
Since 2007, the Paia Contemporary Gallery has been shining the spotlight on dozens of America’s finest and most creative abstract artists, from Maui and far beyond. The renovated 1950’s Hawaiian plantation building that houses this space is clean, warm and inviting, serving as a community liaison between the artist and the patron. Fans of contemporary art would be remiss not to feast their eyes on the goodies in this humble little gallery.
Halfway between Kahului and Paia is a stretch of nearly untouched paradise. The view from this sweeping 17.2 acre crescent-shaped white sand beach is unimpeded by condo developments or commercial industry, revealing the West Maui mountains off in the distance, jutting up in the horizon. It’s a locals beach – on a nice day, which is most days, Mauians pack a picnic, surf a few waves, kick a ball around the soccer field on the premises, take hula classes and swim along the shore, basking in the surrounding beauty. A more extensive wander will take the visitor around World War II-era pillboxes, abandoned military bunkers protruding from the shores under palm trees.
The fish is so fresh that the restaurant prints the name of the guy who caught it directly on the daily-changing menu. This truly Hawaiian experience starts when the patron is seated at a table next to the trees with an ocean view and given lobster bisque as an amuses. The cocktails are big, festive and colorful, and more often than not topped with an umbrella. They offer a variety of daily specials, but noted recurring favorites include the coconut ceviche (served in a half-coconut with yellow and purple taro chips), as well as the stuffed mahi-mahi, brimming with lobster and crab. With all of these tasty ocean-fresh Polynesia-inspired dishes, it’s no wonder Mama’s has been one of Maui’s most popular eateries for 40 years.
It’s hard to be anything but totally zenned out in this clean and modern boutique hotel just steps away from the ocean.The design is simple, warm and inviting, with splashes of yellows and reds in the common spaces and dark hardwood floors. Each room is dressed up with 500 thread count sheets and bamboo and cotton blend towels – like home, but, y’know: better. Guests get to soak up the sun on the private beach or chilling in the café courtyard. The inn is located right in the downtown, and a fifteen minute drive from the the airport. This hotel might just be the key to a truly Hawaiian paradise getaway.