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Best Things to Do in Paia, Maui (2024)

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With a mix of old-school Hawaiian charm and new-age hippy vibes, Paia is more than just a town to quickly pass through on the road to Hana – it’s a destination in itself with a culture you won’t find anywhere else on the island.

As Maui residents, my family and I regularly visit Paia and love to spend the mornings at one of our favorite beaches and then head to Paia Town for lunch! Between the laid-back restaurants, stunning beaches, and eye-catching shops, you could (and should!) spend at least a full day exploring this historic Northshore town.

Baldwin Beach – one of Maui's most stunning beaches!
Baldwin Beach – one of Maui's most stunning beaches!

About Paia

Once a humble plantation town built in the 1800’s around the sugarcane industry, Paia has transformed into a quaint spot that has grown in popularity with both locals and tourists for being low-key and relatively affordable compared to other parts of the island. While sugarcane operations came to an end in the early 2000’s, Paia still has a country feel to it that will make anyone feel at home.

Paia’s transition from rural farming town to a free-spirited haven started when hippies immigrated to the Northshore in the 60’s and 70’s. Their carefree spirit has stayed firmly rooted in Paia’s culture ever since.

Only a few decades later, wind sport enthusiasts discovered Maui’s Northshore wind and waves near Paia, and today it’s considered the windsurfing capital of the world.

Paia has come a long way from its farming roots, but it hasn’t lost its small-town charm. It’s one of my favorite places on Maui to take friends and family. Once you visit, you’ll understand why!

Getting to Paia & Parking

Until recently, Paia was mostly known for being the last place to fuel up on gas before tackling the Road to Hana. While Paia still may not be on many tourists’ radars, it’s frequented by locals and is becoming increasingly popular every year – which means parking can be a real pain!

Depending on where you’re coming from on the island, Paia’s location on the Northshore is anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour’s drive away. If you don’t have a rental car for this trip to Maui, Paia is conveniently located right next to the Kahului airport, so a taxi or private transfer will get you there in under 20 minutes.

Getting to Paia & Parking

Overall, getting to Paia is straightforward from pretty much anywhere on Maui, but finding a place to park once you’re there can be a different story. If you look on a map, Paia covers a sizeable area, but the actual Paia Town is small, very small, and parking is competitive.

The town is shaped like a T, with two main drags – beachfront Hana Highway parallel to the coast and Baldwin Avenue perpendicular. If you’re looking to snag a free spot, you can try your luck at street parking on either of these two streets or the public parking lot on Hana Highway. As with any public parking, be sure not to leave any valuables in plain sight or just bring them with you – break-ins can even happen in paradise.

The last two times we stopped in Paia Town, we opted for paid lots. They aren’t too pricey (no more than $10 for a full day) and are convenient if you’re short on time. The parking lot up Baldwin Avenue and this one next to Paia Bay Coffee almost always have spots.

Things to Do in Paia

Discover Paia’s Beaches

Beaches don’t get much more picturesque than Baldwin Beach. Imagine a long stretch of golden sand beach and epic views of volcanic mountains plunging into turquoise waters – it is truly paradise! The water can be quite rough, so if you’re interested in swimming (or spotting sea turtles!), be sure to check out Baldwin Cove at the end of the beach near the parking lot.
Baldwin Beach Park

Baldwin Beach Park offers plenty of parking spaces, bathrooms, and showers in case you want to rinse off before wandering the streets of Paia town. There are also picnic tables if you want to bring your lunch and lifeguards on duty due to the strong currents.

Kaulahao Beach

An excellent place to see green sea turtles resting on the shore, Kaulahao Beach is a quiet piece of paradise perfect for laying out and relaxing. As long as you give the turtles at least 10 feet of space, there is plenty of room for both turtles and humans to sunbathe on this wide sandy beach.

There is parking directly in front of the beach, but you won’t find any lifeguards or bathrooms here.

Baby Beach

In Sprecksville, right outside of Paia, you’ll find Baby Beach. Once a local secret, this beach is now a favorite with locals and tourists alike. It’s naturally protected from big waves making it the ideal swimming beach for little ones or anybody that prefers calmer waters.

Afternoons can get uncomfortably windy, so arrive early to beat the wind and score a parking spot close to the beach since street parking space is limited.

Baby Beach

Ho’okipa Beach Park

This is the wind sports Mecca and THE place to come and watch windsurfers in action! You should also keep an eye out for sea turtles that are often seen bobbing around the exposed reef near shore. This is a beach where sightseeing is the main attraction and swimming is definitely secondary.

Take a Yoga Class

With its hippie roots, Paia is the perfect place to take a yoga class! Iyengar Yoga has a fantastic selection of yoga classes ranging from beginner to advance, plus restorative and healing classes. If you’re a more experienced yogi and you’re looking for a class that teaches breathing techniques and meditation, consider taking a Kundalini yoga and meditation class. For Vinyasa and different flow-based classes, Maui Yoga Shala is a must. They even do massages!
Yoga Class

Check out the Paia Shops

A lot of Paia’s charm is tucked away in the historic wooden buildings that now are home to quaint shops selling locally made items. Since Paia Town is so small, you can easily walk by all the shops and pop into whichever ones catch your eye.

After browsing through the cute boutiques, you have to check out Mana Foods, Maui’s best health food store. The isles are lined with island produce, fresh-baked goods, and even a smoothie bar – it’s not your average grocery store! It’s the best place to pick up and try locally sourced-food in Maui!

Shops in Paia

Where to Eat in Paia

Breakfast

Whether your idea of breakfast is just a coffee or a more filling, savory meal, there are a couple of breakfast places in Maui that tick all of the boxes and have something for everyone.

Better Things

If you’re more of a coffee and light breakfast kind of person, then this popular coffee shop is right up your alley. Their baristas serve up coffee and non-coffee drinks, plus they have a sweet selection of baked goods and savory toasts. It’s an adorable shop that I love visiting any chance I get.

Paia Bay Coffee Bar

In addition to delicious coffee staples (e.g., lattes, americanos, and mochas), this cute shop has specialty espresso drinks fit for paradise, like their Vegan Coconut Caramel and Roayl Rose lattes, plus a huge selection of tasty food to choose from. My favorite breakfast dishes I’ve tried are their biscuits and French onion soup gravy with gruyere cheese and the pineapple croissant sandwich, but really you can’t go wrong with whatever you order!


Pro Tip: They are also open for lunch and dinner and have happy hour from 3-5 pm. They serve beer, wine, and cocktails and have great non-breakfast food options for later in the day.

Lunch/Dinner

After spending time on the beach and under the sun, you’re bound to be ravenous. Here are some of my can’t-miss restaurants in Paia that my family and I frequent on a regular basis.

Cafe des Amis

It’s basically our family’s tradition to come here at least once a month after spending the morning on the beach – we love it that much! Their menu is a unique blend of French/Mediterranean and Indian cuisine that never disappoints. The savory crepes are out of this world, and we usually always get a curry or two with a salad and their house vinaigrette (my kids would drink it straight if I let them!).

asher-family

Milagros Food Co.

With some of the biggest portion sizes on Maui, Milagros is the place to go if you have a big appetite. The Mexican-inspired menu has tasty plates like burritos, loaded nachos, and tacos, as well as lighter options like salads and grilled fish sandwiches. Be sure to stop by for their happy hour from 3-6 pm for $5 drink specials.

Mama’s Fish House

Mama’s Fish House is a Paia institution and one of the most, if not the most, sought-after dining experiences on the Northshore. Don’t let the humble name fool you – this restaurant is one of the priciest in Paia but comes with an experience that’s well worth the cost.

The traditional Polynesian decor and airy interior open up to stunning views of Mama’s Beach, where you’re guaranteed to spot sea turtles sunbathing on the beach! If you’re serious about dining here, make a reservation as soon as possible – they’re often booked up months in advance.

Mama’s Fish House

Pro Tip: Make a day out of the Mama’s Fish House and Mama’s Beach experience. The beach is not easy to access unless you are using the restaurant’s valet parking, so pack your beach essentials to enjoy this secluded slice of paradise before or after your meal– you’ll likely have it all to yourself!

Vana Paia

Where Japanese meets Hawaiian cuisine, Vana Paia is a gorgeous restaurant to enjoy a refined meal under the sprawling branches of a Hau tree. Their menu revolves around the freshest seafood they can get, so it can change daily, but the heart of their menu is sushi with freshly caught fish and local produce. The ambiance, delicious food, and beautiful plating make for an unforgettable dining experience.

Dessert

End your day in Paia on a sweet note with one of these locally-made treats!

Ululani’s Shave Ice

It doesn’t get any better than this shave ice! They have more gourmet syrup flavors than you could ever hope for that are all made from 100% pure cane sugar and natural fruit juices and concentrates. You can also add a scoop of coconut ice cream to the bottom of any shave ice – a necessity, in my opinion!

Ululani’s Shave Ice

Paia Gelato

While many would consider gelato and ice cream to be the same, they are distinctly different from one another. Gelato is softer, lower in fat, and oftentimes has stronger flavors, so if a European gelato is what your heart desires, this place will not disappoint.

Artisan Ice Cream

If you’re craving ice cream, then look no further. This shop churns up some of the best local organic ice creams I’ve ever had. My kiddos love the vegan coconut ice cream sweetened with coconut sugar!

ice cream shop

What to Bring to Paia

Beach Gear

By now, you should have at least a few Paia beaches picked out that you want to visit. I always bring a quick-dry travel towel because it takes up barely any room in my beach bag, and they dry super fast, so I don’t have to worry about lugging around a wet and stinky beach towel to town afterward. A sand-repelling beach blanket is another one of my musts. It comfortably fits our family of four and is lightweight.

Sun Protection

Whatever method of sun protection you prefer, bring it! You’ll absolutely need it if visiting any of Paia’s beaches and it would be wise to be protected when you’re walking around town too. Our family uses a combination of reef-safe sunscreen, rash guards, cooling towels, hats, and polarized sunglasses. We visit the beach at least once a week, so we make sure we are well protected from the sun every time!

Underwater Camera Gear

The water at most of these beaches is crystal clear, so it’s perfect for taking pictures and videos underwater with an action camera or even using your phone in a waterproof phone case! Whether it’s a camera or a phone, I always secure it to a floating wrist strap in case of any accidental drops.

Beach Attire

When in Maui, you’ll basically live in your beach clothes, so be sure to pack a comfortable bikini or pair of swim trunks. We like to wear rashguards when in the water to avoid too much sun exposure, and when it’s time to grab lunch at a restaurant in town, be sure you have a swimsuit cover-up on hand.

Conclusion

Now you know that Paia is a stand-alone destination and not just a quick pit stop on the Road to Hana. For me, an ideal day in Paia would start with a coffee and light breakfast from a local cafe and then visit one of the many nearby beaches for a couple of hours before it’s time to head back to town for lunch and some shopping.

I hope this guide will help you discover one of my favorite small towns in Maui!

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