Maui Waui :: Paia

[trip style = sun + beach]

{Editor's Note :: Last week I was in Maui investigating as many corners of the island as I could possibly fit into a one-week trip. Over eight days I stayed at five hotels ranging from beachfront boutiques to mega-glitz Goliaths. Yes, I packed light. In the next few weeks I'm going to be talking about the highlights and areas I'd recommend, starting today with Paia.}

Pa'ia [pah-ee-ah]

You don't have to go far from Maui's main airport in Kahului {OGG} to reach Paia. From the adjacent rental car pick-up area to the small town stuck between rustling sugar cane fields and a bevy of North Shore beaches, it's all of a five-minute commute.

With boho-beachy boutiques and independent ocean-to-table restaurants sprinkled over the first few miles of the Hana highway, Paia embodies day-to-day Maui devoid of big-name hotels or mega resorts. The locals are chill and health-focused, and within a few days, I feel fully educated in Island Life 101.

Paia is all about the wind-swept, salt-in-your-hair {instead of product} beachfront culture. It's not uncommon to see people dining and grocery shopping barefoot, hair still dripping from a surf session. What's so attractive about the place---aside from its natural beauty and vibe---is its confidence. This one-of-a-kind historic town doesn't try to be somewhere else, Paia is comfortable with its size, location and islandy flow, and confidence is the cornerstone of beauty.

Eat Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in an indoor-outdoor setting, Cafe Des Amis is unique to Maui dishing up Mediterranean and Indian food, versus Hawaiian regional cuisine. My lunch above is an apple, brie and avocado crepe with a dollop of sour cream and a light salad. Also check out the Paia Fish Market, a busteling restaurant sporting large communal tables and grab-your-own cutlery, where cooks fry and flip just-caught fish and fries for a constant line-up of hungry locals.

For those who want an upscale beachfront dining experience, head to Mama's Fish House, perhaps the most famous restaurant on this island. Dripping in tiki-glam, the island eatery takes fresh catch to a new level naming the fisherman who troll local waters each morning to reel in that evening's fare. Open for lunch and dinner.

Stay Find the Paia Inn right in the center of town on a plot of palm-shaded land that reaches from Paia's trendiest shops to the beach. A favorite of celebs---one such A-lister was staying at the same time as me---and Apple execs, one of Maui's only boutique hotels caters to the type of crowd that wants to go incognito and dive into local life. Room types range from basic town-view standards to indoor-outdoor private garden suites to beach villas. Rates start at $189.

Do Two must-visit beaches near Paia are Baldwin and Ho'okipa. Baldwin is sprawling and unspoiled, perfect for a lazy afternoon sunning session or a long walk along its mostly flat shore. Hookipa is a windy and wavy world-famous stop for and windsurfers and surfers frequented by the likes of Laird Hamilton. Finally, don't leave Paia without popping your head into a few boutiques. I love the curated finds for stylish guys 'n gals at Imrie.

[photos by @tripstyler snapped while exploring Maui with Tourism Maui]