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. 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 itself.
Paia offers two main streets with amazing restaurants and boutique shops. Off of Hana Highway are stunning beaches. There are no high rise resorts, there isn’t any jockeying for lounge chairs on the beach, but you can still get awesome acai bowls and matcha. 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 may just be the spot for you.
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. 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 found 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.
There are a number of fantastic restaurants and cafes in this small beach town to suit any taste bud and budget. Fancy a crepe? Head to Cafe de Amis. Craving Mexican food? Check out Milagros. Just need a pizza night? Go to the Flatbread Company.
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!
Enjoy an Acai Bowl from Paia Bowls
Paia Bowls is owned by two local surfers and offers up a number of healthy options. You can get the traditional Acai Bowl, one of their creative and delicious smoothies, avocado toast, and other healthy tonics. Enjoy it on their outdoor patio surrounded by lush greenery.
Then Get Gelato from Paia Gelato
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.
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 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.
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.
If you walk for ten minutes in the direction of Paia Bowls, pass Paia Bowls and turn left at the basketball courts, you’ll discover the first beach, Paia Bay. A relaxing 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.
And a bit further down is Baldwin Beach Park, a hot spot for windsurfers when the conditions are right. Baldwin Beach offers two miles of expansive white sand and is 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 sunscreen and a UV protecting shirt.
In the opposite direction from these beaches is a Kaulahao, a small beach where you can find 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!
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 locations to take yoga. Unfortunately, I did not have time during my two days in Paia to participate I did think that Maha Yoga looked appealing. But hey, got to leave something for next time right?
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.
Where to Stay in Paia
For a budget-friendly option, I highly recommend Aloha Surf Hostel. It’s incredibly clean, friendly, and quiet. I had a room off of reception and I didn’t hear anyone outside. Plus, they offer free tours daily to beautiful spots around Maui, including the Road to Hana!
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. It’s excellently located in town and the rooms look beautiful!