I stood in line at Paia Bay Coffee & Bar, patiently waiting to order my avocado toast and matcha latte listening in on the conversation between two guys behind me: “I’m proud of myself for skipping happy hour last night and going to yoga instead, I really needed to open my root chakra”. That entire micro experience is exactly why Paia Maui should be on your Hawaii bucket list, along with these hikes in Oahu. Paia is a small hippie beach town well known for being the last place to fuel up before the road to Hana, but there are plenty of things to do in Paia town.
On my two most recent trips to Maui, I’ve stayed in Paia. The first trip was pre-pandemic and most recent trip was at the end of February 2023. There are a few shops and restaurants I mentioned the first time this blog was published that are no longer there. Thankfully, they’ve been replaced by equally delicious restaurants and cute shops! So I’ve removed the places, including the one mentioned in the introduction, that are no longer open, and replaced them with the new spots!
Paia offers two main streets with amazing restaurants, boutique shops, stunning beaches, and no high rise resort in sight. The people of Paia are an interesting mix as well. Some people are locals, some are tourists like me, and others look like they planned to backpack here for a few days and just never left.
If a hippie, chilled out, small beach town vibe is something you’re after, then Paia, Maui may just be the spot for you.
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Where is Paia, Maui?
Paia is located on Maui’s North Shore, it’s a short drive (20 mins) from Kahului airport, a 45 minute drive from the busy Kaanapali and Lahaina, and 20 minutes from Kihei. Expect a bit of traffic as you get closer to town as it’s only a two lane road to and from the center of Paia.
The majority of things to do in Paia are centered around Baldwin Avenue and the Hana Highway. Put Paia Fish Market or Mana Foods into your GPS and it will take you directly to the heart of Paia, Maui. You’ll know you’ve made it when you see the slightly western looking buildings.
What’s the Weather Like in Paia, Maui?
Much like the rest of Hawaii, temperatures range from 65o to 87o throughout the year with November to April being the rainy season. You’ll definitely experience more humidity from May to December, so have your swimsuit ready to cool off in the ocean.
How Much Time to Spend in Paia?
I highly recommend staying in Paia if you can, especially if you really want a relaxed vacation. While it is a small town, there are plenty of beaches, restaurants, and shops to check out. Plus, staying in Paia allows you to do it all without feeling rushed.
If you don’t want to spend all of your time in a hippie beach town, consider staying one night. You can spend the first full day exploring everything there is to do in Paia, then get up early the following day and have a jump start on the road to Hana with a car full of yummy snacks from Mana Foods.
Otherwise, plan for a day trip here to soak in the chilled vibes, relax on the beach, and eat yummy food.
Where to Stay in Paia?
While you’ll find more accommodation options in Kaanapali and Lahaina there are a few great hotel options in Paia. I won’t be recommending any Airbnbs as many are not owned by locals and I want to honor local businesses.
Budget Friendly: Aloha Surf Hostel
You’ll likely recognize Aloha Surf Hostel from the Instagrammable surf board wall leading to the entrance. Aloha Surf Hostel is a short 5 minute walk down Baldwin Ave to the center of town. So, even if you don’t stay there, take the short walk to snap your surf board wall photo.
I’ve stayed in Aloha Surf Hostel for each of my trips to Paia highly recommend it. It’s incredibly clean, friendly, and quiet. Plus, they offer free tours daily to beautiful spots around Maui, including the road to Hana!
Dorm rooms start at $49.95+tax and privates start at $129+tax.
Not So Budget Friendly Option: Paia Inn
If you’ve got a little bit more wiggle room in your budget or are looking to treat yourself, Paia Inn would be my top choice. This boutique hotel is excellently located in town just steps from Paia Bay and across the street from Paia Fish Market.
Plus, the rooms look beautiful, some offering Ocean Views.
Rates vary so check here for current rates and availability.
The Best Things to Do in Paia Maui
It surprised me that the first thing I did upon arriving in Paia was go shopping. See, I’m not much of a shopper, I prefer to spend my money on trips and matcha lattes. But, I was wearing a maxi dress with too thick of fabric for the 10:00 am heat and humidity. I definitely did not follow this Maui packing list!
Plus since I don’t shop much, I figured I could do a bit of window shopping – what could it hurt?
The first shop I stopped into is called Mahina and I knew my wallet was in trouble. The clothing was the perfect beachy chic style. Clothing that would keep me cool and cute. Plus it was reasonably priced. I walked out with a new pair of jean shorts, a cute tank top, and a bralette all for under $90. Which I thought was pretty good!
That shop ended up being the only place I bought anything. The other clothing shops were much more expensive and I couldn’t justify spending money on clothing I might only wear in Paia.
Aside from clothing shops, there are a number of bikini boutiques, home goods stores, and art galleries located on Baldwin Ave and Hana Highway.
Luna and Tide
This is a really cute home goods store with Turkish towels, jewelry, and other unique gifts to take home for family and friends. Or for yourself!
Aside from clothing shops, there are a number of bikini boutiques and art galleries located on Baldwin Ave and Hana Highway.
Relax on Paia’s Beaches
This would not be a complete post about the things to do in Paia without sharing the beautiful beaches in Paia. There are four beaches within walking distance to Paia town along Hana Highway.
Paia Bay Beach
Paia Bay Beach is the closest beach to town, within a 10 minute walk from Baldwin Ave and Hana Hwy.
This beach is a great spot for boogie boarding and swimming with a few trees for shade.
Just beyond Paia Bay is Secret Beach, which is, in fact, a nude beach. And if you’ve never had a swim in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean with no barrier between your skin and the salty sea (in broad daylight). I highly recommend it.
You can only access Secret Beach by walking from Paia Bay or Baldwin Beach.
Baldwin Beach Park
Baldwin Beach Park is a hot spot for windsurfers when the conditions are right. If you’re not a windsurfer, don’t worry. There is two miles of expansive white sand and the waves excellent for swimming. A lifeguard is on duty at this beach and there are covered picnic tables, restrooms, and showers. What there isn’t, is too much shade. So be prepared with reef safe sunscreen and a UV protecting shirt.
Heading in the opposite direction from the beaches mentioned above is Kaulahao. This small beach is one of the best spots to find Hawaiian green sea turtles relaxing from their under the sea adventures. I wouldn’t recommend swimming here as there are large lava rocks close to shore. But definitely come and relax with the sea turtles!
Please: Give Sea Turtles their space…at least 6 feet. A measurement we should all be very familiar with these days.
Grocery Shop at Mana Foods
I found it strange that everything I read about Paia recommended going to Mana Foods, until I went for myself. Mana Foods is everything I want in a grocery store and rivals anything I’ve seen in San Francisco. There is a small coffee bar when you first walk in that offers up one of the best matcha lattes I’ve had, and I’ve had a lot.
As you continue in, to the left you’ll find a homeopathic alcove, filled with various protein powders, essential oils, vitamins, minerals, and other supplements to support your vitality. Further down is a hot and cold food section with one of the best kale salads. Everything is the same price by weight. You fill up a cardboard container and pay at the counter.
At the back of the store is a bulk food section that again is more all-encompassing, and cheaper, than what I’ve seen at Whole Foods. And what I just described is only the left side of the store. I haven’t even gotten to the aisles yet, where I discovered the exact coconut butter popcorn I’ve been searching for for months, a freezer section full of Talenti flavors I’ve never heard of, and all the way to the right is a fresh produce section.
The other entertaining thing about Mana Foods is the variety of people you’ll find. This is where you’ll discover the backpacker who never left, the local doing his weekly grocery run, and the tourist like me eyes wide open at all of the goodies lining the shelves.
Stop here to grab snacks before the road to Hana.
Eat Poke and Shave Ice from Tobi’s Shave Ice
I didn’t understand the shave ice craze until I sat down at Tobi’s and gave it a try. There must be something to it if it’s all over the island right? Well, I get it now! It is truly the best thing to eat on a hot Hawaiian day. It will cool you down without weighing you down like ice cream would! You’re able to get 3 flavors, I chose Passionfruit, Pineapple, and Guava. It was delicious!
I also got their Poke plate while there with the Tsunami marinade and my friend got the Hawaiian marinade. I thought the Hawaiian was better, but both were delicious and the perfect lunch before we flew back to California.
Enjoy and Acai Bowl from Surf Club Tacos
On my first trip to Maui, there was a really cute Acai spot called Paia Bowls. While it’s not longer there, just down the street is a spot called the Surf Club Tacos. The people who work here are so friendly and welcoming. Giving us tips for our trip while we decided what to order. I settled in for my first Acai bowl of the trip and it hit the spot.
That being said, as the name suggests, it’s actually a taco spot. While I didn’t indulge in the tacos on this trip, they do look delicious and will be on the menu for my next trip!
Have a Morning Coffee/Tea at Better Things Cafe
In the intro of this post, I mentioned Paia Bay and Coffee Bar. I was disheartened to find it closed as well on my recent trip. I left it in the intro because I do feel like that conversation encapsulates the energy in Paia.
Thankfully, there is another coffee shop that has taken up residence on Baldwin Ave called Better Things Cafe. I had three matcha lattes there during my recent trip and they were all great.
However, the best thing was the bagel we picked up before the road to Hana. Honestly, it was the best bagel I’ve ever had. It had the perfect amount of cream cheese and additional sprinkling of Everything Seasoning on top of the cream cheese.
It also seemed to be a great place to get some work done if needed!
Drive the Road to Hana
I’ve officially driven this bucket list road trip three times. The first time I was much younger and with my family. It happened to be pouring rain the day we went so all of the food places were closed and we all got seriously car sick in the back of the rental van.
On my second trip, I joined the group tour with Aloha Surf Hostel. We got to swim in waterfall pools, see the black sand beach in Waianapanapa State Park, and do the complete loop.
The third time was truly the charm as my friend and I took the rental car on the winding roads and had a blast! We downloaded the Shaka Guide which is an audio guide that tells you about the best places to see, gives you timing updates, and share the rich history of the Hawaiian islands.
Two things have changed in recent years on the road that are important to note:
- An advanced permit is required for Black Sand Beach. You likely need to get this well in advance of your trip. No same day permits are available. We didn’t know this so we were unable to visit on the third trip, however, I’m happy I was able to see it a few years ago. Book your permit here.
- Swimming in the waterfall pools is not permitted in most of them. It used to be allowed, but it’s becoming less common. There are also some waterfalls along the road that are local favorites so it’s not recommended that tourists stop. In fact, there were No Parking signs near these. Respect it!
A few quick tips for the road to Hana:
- Start early! We hit the road at 7 am and found it was the best time to start! We were able to see all of the top things on our audio guided tour with minimal crowds and cars!
- Bring snacks. There are food trucks to eat and a few restuarants along the way. But have some car snacks for the in between. And plenty of water!
- Haleakala National Park requires a $30 entrance fee. If you want to see the seven sacred pools or hike the Pipiwai trail, make sure to budget for it or bring your National Park Pass.
- The only gas station is located in Hana town. Make sure you start the day with a full tank of gas!
- A portion of the Road to Hana is unpaved (past Haleakala National Park) and many rental car companies will not cover you if you decide to drive it! Plan an out and back instead of the loop.
Take a Yoga Class
As I mentioned, Paia is a bit of a hippie town, which means there are holistic undertones to everything here from the Acai Bowls to the nude beaches. And there are also a few yoga studios to check out. Unfortunately, I have not participated yet, but I did think that Maui Yoga Shala looked appealing. But hey, got to leave something for next time right?
Where to Eat in Paia, Maui
I’ve already mentioned a few great places to eat in Paia, but I want to call out a few more.
Paia Fish Market
But, the place that should be top of the list is Paia Fish Market. Paia Fish Market has since expanded to other locations in Hawaii, but the one in Paia is the original. You order at the counter, then find a spot at one of the few tables inside. You’ll likely have to share a table with strangers – so be prepared to make some new friends.
It was recommended that I order the Mahi Mahi burger, so I did, with a side of fries. The Mahi Mahi burger was simple, fresh Mahi Mahi coleslaw, tomato, and cheese. But OMG. The crunch and flavoring of the coleslaw mixed with the freshness of the fish were amazing. Highly recommend it!
Mama’s Fish House
Mama’s Fish House is one of the best restaurants on the entire island!
If you want to eat at Mama’s Fish House, book a reservation right now! I just checked their website for updates and they’re booked out 3-6 months! That’ll tell you how good this place it! It’s a bit on the pricier side as well so it’s great for a special occasion dinner.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to eat here yet.
The menu changes daily based on what fresh fish the fishermen catch that day.
Cafe de Amis
We stopped at Cafe de Amis for a late night snack after spending the day at the beaches in Kihei. We’d had a large poke plate as a late lunch and weren’t super hungry so we split a Strawberry and Cream crepe. It was delicious!
They also had yummy smelling Indian curries. This place was busy everytime we walked by, so it’s worth a try.
As someone who traveled around Europe with a quota of one gelato per day, I’d have to say that the gelato from Paia Gelato is top three.
They offer up tropical flavors that combine well with traditional gelato. I got the POG and dark chocolate which was heavenly. The POG flavor is a heavenly concoction of Passionfruit, Orange, and Guava. That with the dark chocolate is a match made in heaven, which I’m starting to believe could be Paia.
Paia is beautiful. It feels off the beaten path while still providing all of the amenities we want from being on the well-trodden path. So, if you’re craving a place where you can come as you are while enjoying the beauty that Maui is well known for without being overcrowded, then Paia Maui is just the spot for you.