If my recent Maui coverage has made anything clear, it’s this: I’m an East Maui kind of girl. And if there’s one town that I personally consider the soul of the island, it’s unassuming little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Paia. This funky new-age surfer town is essentially the hub of Maui’s North Shore, despite its diminutive size. There’s boutique shopping, a great yoga and fitness scene, and an impressive array of independent restaurants.
And as I raved in my review of the Aloha Surf Hostel, it’s an incredible base from which to explore Hana, Haleakala, and the many wonders of Maui’s upcountry — including some serious wine and vodka tasting. Sounds fab, you might be thinking, but I’m kind of past my hostel days, or I’m on my honeymoon, or I absolutely must be beachfront. I’ve got you covered — Paia has the perfect place for you, too.
Where to Stay
Paia Inn is the kind of chic little boutique property travel magazine editors drool over discovering. I actually dreamed of staying here for years after hearing my friend Kyle, who literally wrote the book on Maui, raved about it being one of the hippest places on the island to nab a room. A few years later, when my mom and her fiancé visited, I recommended it to them and they too came back singing Paia Inn’s praises. Finally, for Ian’s last two nights in the Aloha State, we checked in to check it out for ourselves.
Unlike the massive resorts that dot much of Hawaii’s oceanfront, Paia Inn blends seamlessly into its surroundings. And while it lacks some typical big hotel amenities like a pool, a gym, or an all-day restaurant, it more than makes up for them with other perks.
Paia Inn boasts private beach access, and complimentary beach chairs, mats, towels, and boogie boards for the sun-lovers, complimentary coffee and tea (as well as filtered water and ice) for the caffeine addicts, complimentary gym passes to nearby Fuzion Fit for sweat-a-holics, and the best cafe in Paia serving brunch daily from 8am-1pm (more on that later.) And they’ve added even more goodness since my stay, opening the lush-looking Coast Spa that I’m already mentally planning a return trip to check out.
Paia Inn has just nine suites — some are beachfront multi-bedroom units, others are petite city-facing studios. We found ourselves in the Junior Town Suite, which had a separate bedroom and sitting room and made us feel like we had our own little apartment in paradise.
The rooms are modern yet distinctly Paia-feeling, with colorful local artwork, plush cloud beds, and a simple yet luxurious design.
I also peeked into one of the smaller studio rooms one day when housekeeping was finishing up and I swooned over that, too — I seriously don’t think there’s a bad room in the joint.
Of course, we didn’t come to Hawaii to spend time indoors. We loved the tucked-away corners around Paia Inn, perfect for stealing away to read in the sun or curl up and nap in the shade. Despite being located smack dab in the middle of the hustle of Paia Town, once you step through the threshold, it’s an oasis.
The private beach access led to a secluded stretch where we spotted brilliant rainbows, watched local kids tackle waves in the distance, and one evening before sunset, stared in awe while a sea turtle the size of a boulder napped in the last golden hour of rays.
If you’re looking for a special boutique stay on Maui, I can’t imagine that there’s a better choice than the Paia Inn.
Where to Work Out
I was excited to check out Paia’s fitness scene. In our few days there, I managed to fit in a bar class at Infusion Barre, a core vinyasa class at Mesh Studio, and my favorite, a buti yoga class at Maui Yoga. Each studio was unique and charming, and I found myself wishing I could sign up for a monthly membership at each! Expect to pay about $20 for a drop-in.
Where to Shop
Paia has a dangerously adorable array of boutiques selling bikinis, boardshorts, surfboards, jewelry, ukuleles, organic bath products, and beyond! While some of them did give me sticker shock, fear not, there are sale racks and affordable surprises sprinkled in, too. My personal favorite is Alice in Hulaland, where I scored the beautiful gold mermaid leggings pictured above and made on Oahu, and Maui Girl, which sells a full rainbow of colorful bikinis.
Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a shopper, plan to spend a few hours at least window-shopping the cute storefronts of Paia.
What To Do
Other than hit the beautiful beaches, wander the cute shops, take a yoga class, and eat incredible food? Well dang — what else did you come to Paia for?
Just kidding — I’d set aside at least a day to drive the famed Hana Highway (you’ll get a serious head start compared to those staying in popular resort towns like Lahaina or Wailea), pay a visit to the incredible summit of Haleakala National Park, or explore the charming farms of upcountry. Of course, you can use Paia as a base to explore anywhere in Maui, but those are a few of my nearby favorites.
Where To Eat
Paia has a rockin’ list of places to eat for a town of its size — this is nowhere near a comprehensive rundown. We loved Flatbread Pizza, which has delicious pizzas and great craft cocktails and Paia Gelato, the best way to cool down in the middle of a hot day. If you have a car and make it to the neighboring town of Haiku, Nuka will wow you with sleekly presented Japanese fair.
But by far our favorite meal in Paia was brunch at our own hotel, the Paia Inn Cafe. We split a cardamon french toast and an avocado toast and two cold-pressed juices and immediately wished it wasn’t our last day so we could have eaten the same meal every single day of our trip. It’s an extremely popular spot and seating is limited — definitely make a reservation if you’re headed there on the weekend.
A Piece of Paradise
I’m sure it’s pretty clear by now that this hip little surf town stole a piece of my heart. If I were to win the lottery tomorrow morning, I’d have run a real estate agent in Paia by sunset. Don’t make the mistake of just seeing it from the window as your rush down the Hana Highway.
And with that, I was back off to Oahu… Mahalo, Maui!
Mahalo to Paia Inn for hosting us.
Confused on where we are? I’m catching up on the black hole of content from August of 2016 to April of 2017 — when I jumped forward to blog the summer of 2017 as it was happening. Right now, we’re in October of 2016 in Hawaii, and I can’t wait to turn my detailed notes and journals into blog posts from Jamaica, Thailand and Bali next! My apologies for any confusion with the timeline, and thanks for sticking with me.