My cousin Lauren recently married her love in Maui and this was a destination wedding for most everyone except the bride and groom – who are lucky enough to call Paia in Maui their home. My parents, Johnny and I took this perfect opportunity to visit Hawaii for the first time and we were thrilled to stay in a local town and see just what it means to be on island time.
Paia is a historic town on Maui’s north coast that is known to be a little (or a lot) “hippie” (no, not hipster, think truer hippie), down to the locals walking in the streets without shoes, as well as the extra laid back attitude, even for island living. It’s fantastic.
The small downtown area boasts a handful of unique shops, including wonderful local beauty products and a wealth of swimsuits, as well as fantastic and fresh restaurants. We visited two of the restaurants twice, Paia Fish Market and Charley’s Restaurant, because they were that good.
Paia Fish Market serves up some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had, along with local beer from Maui Brewing Co. They’ve also got a mean fish sandwich on the menu and offer up plenty of fried seafood options. With a casual atmosphere, you wait in line at the counter and sit community-style at one of the picnic tables they’ve packed in. The place seems to always be crowded at mealtime, and it’s easy to see why, but they keep the line moving.
Charley’s Restaurant is famed as a favorite spot of Willie Nelson’s (told you it’s hippie-ville!) and for their macadamia nut pancakes that are the size of your head. At night it turns into a local watering hole with live music and antics.
Milagros was another stop on the map in Paia, serving a sort of Hawaiian take on Mexican food, with enchiladas, tacos and margaritas with island flavors. I had the fish sandwich, which is obviously a popular item on every menu in Paia, and the sauce and other unique ingredients made it an awesome choice. Like most everything in Paia, it’s casual with a nice patio and really good food.
We had Café Mambo for lunch one afternoon where I had an awesome Tuna Melt with juices that run down your arm as you eat the delicious mess. There’s another location in New York, but it’s clear each are tailored to their audience and this is by no means a chain experience. It only made me want to check out the sister restaurant in the Big Apple.
Outside of eating, we spent time at two of the local beaches, Baldwin Beach Park, a larger and more crowded area with lifeguards and bigger waves, as well as Paia Bay, which is just north of town and offers a smaller area that’s less crowded and calmer waves. Baldwin did have a calm, almost like a lap pool, area on the south end where people swam and played without waves large waves breaking or a heavy undertow. The bay is little more “local” with a private atmosphere and great snorkeling with bright fish below. Massive turtles hang out here and you can see them coming up for air or flipping about from the beach. One swam close enough that I could reach out and touch it while snorkeling – really cool stuff.
The Road to Hana starts just north of Paia and offers several stops along Hana Hwy with hikes, waterfalls and more attractions. Its stops are popular destinations when visiting Maui and we took the opportunity to go to the first stop, Twin Falls, one morning. About 15 minutes down the road, Twin Falls is a rainforest located on Wailele Farm and as the name suggests, has two waterfalls on the property. About 100-200 yards in to the trail, you come across the first waterfall and pool, but the most impressive waterfall is at the end of roughly a 1.5-mile path. The hiking is an easy walk, but the final destination includes some difficult maneuvering around sharp rocks in a shallow stream. It’d be best to wear shoes you can get wet, but we all learned the hard way and battled through with bare feet and tennis shoes in hand. Once you get to the fall, the shallow pool is filled with swimmers as sunbathers relax on the nearby rocks.
At the beginning of the path to Twin Falls, there’s a fruit stand in the parking lot with fresh pineapple, coconut smoothies and more tropical treats, which we took full advantage of after the hike. I’m sure the rest of the Road to Hana is incredible, but if you want a rather quick but beautiful hike through bamboo and other tropical natural beauties, Twin Falls is an easy stop.
Stay tuned for the rest of our trip and adventures in and around Kula. For now, I’m still daydreaming about heading back to island time. Lauren and Kyle, thanks for giving us such an awesome excuse to visit your magical town!