Pronounced “pie-EEE-ah” and established in 1896, historic Paia Hawaii is the
last town before the world famous road to Hana.
This is where you will need to fill up your car
rentals, as it is also the location of the last gas station before you head
off on the road. While you’re at it, do some shopping for a picnic lunch, the
best dining available along this scenic highway. One of the major things to
do in Paia is to browse through its many charming shops, where you can purchase
handicrafts and artwork, sarongs and bikinis, boogie boards, and diving gear.
Paia attractions in the little town include these brightly painted shops, as
well as numerous cafes and restaurants.
Paia Maui Shopping
Paia Hawaii played an important part in the state’s and island’s history,
becoming the most important town on the north shore in the late nineteenth century
when the Alexander and Baldwin Company built the first sugar mill on the island.
If you are interested in this fascinating period of Hawaiian history, visit
the Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum in Puunene, about three miles from the
town of Kahului. This is
one of the finer museums on the island. The sugar mill’s work force included
local Hawaiians but primarily consisted of imported laborers from Japan, China,
and Portugal. This melting pot helped to form the character of the region, as
it did all over the islands. The little town boomed during the 1930s and 1940s,
but began to decline with the waning of the sugar industry in the 1950s. While
the mill still looms over the town, it was finally shut down in 2000. (It’s
now a local rum business.) But you can see the legacy of this era, as Paia Hawaii
is still ringed with acres of rolling cane and pineapple fields.
Some of the greatest Paia attractions are its many beaches. After the decline
of the sugar industry, hippies discovered the laid-back beaches along the north
coast in the 1960s and helped to revitalize the town. For a while, their flowery
dress and psychedelically painted mini-buses provided more Paia attractions
for gawking tourists. Many of these 1960s hippies never left, and their mark
can be seen in the many alternative shops in town. Today these old hippies have
become the establishment, dealing with a new wave of hippies and windsurfers
who began arriving in the 1980s when nearby Hookipa Beach was found to have
just about the best windsurfing in the world. International windsurfing events
are held here, but be careful if you are not an expert. The surf can be deadly
at this beach. Things to do in Paia include watching the competitors and experts
out on the waves off this beach.
Paia vacation beaches that are suitable for novice surfers and swimmers abound. The entire coastline from Kite Beach (known worldwide as a kite surfing beach) on the west to Hookipa on the Hana Road to the east is a long string of beaches. Great for toddlers and younger children is Baby Beach, and you can hire child-minders here. Paia Bay Beach is popular with youth surfers and also has a skateboard park, tennis courts, and volleyball nets. Baldwin Park Beach is good for the entire family, as it has a long stretch of sand and waters protected by a reef. There is even a lagoon for the toddlers.
For a Paia vacation you will find one lovely inn right in town, only a very short distance from one of the main beaches. Outside of town, you will find a number of charming bed and breakfast inns, little beachside cottages, and numerous vacation rentals. Although your Paia vacation will undoubtedly include a drive on the Road to Hana, you won’t find a great deal of lodging on this 52-mile stretch of road, except at Wailua Bay. However, there are several camping spots available.