Paia is known as “the biggest little town on Maui,” and with good reason. The small population of 2500 has taken this town a long way. The scenic business district, bordered on one side by the ocean and on the other by the majestic slopes of Haleakala, offers everything you could ever need as a visitor… and it does so with character. What used to be a flourishing sugar cane plantation town has evolved into an array of locally owned, green minded shops, restaurants and businesses — all of which are housed in the old plantation style wooden buildings of the sugar mill era. The buildings have been restored and painted in vibrant new colors, adding bright life to the already pleasant atmosphere. And when the only market in town is a health food store (Mana Foods), you know you’ve got a good thing going. The variety and quality of restaurants is outstanding, and is complimented well by tasteful shops, boutiques and galleries. You might find that friendly service and smiling people are quite common around here — the laid back locals seem to have found peace with the lifestyle they’ve created. Along with the stellar eats and eclectic shopping, there’s a plethora of activities to keep you moving. Bike down thirty-something miles from the crater of Haleakala, windsurf at nearby Ho’okipa, then surf the very same wave, and finally lounge on the white sand at Baldwin Beach Park, all in a day’s time. Everything considered, this place is a virtual blueprint for sustainable living, and it happens to double as one of those rare destinations that might just make you “lose” your plane ticket home.
The heart of Paia is the intersection of the Hana Highway (HWY 36) and Baldwin Avenue. From there, the Hana Hwy runs north 4 miles to Kahului and the airport, and south all the way to Hana and beyond, while Baldwin Ave runs up the slopes of Haleakala a few miles to the town of Makawao. If you’re heading south to Hana, be sure and fill up on gas here — there are no more stations until you actually reach Hana. There’s a Bank of Hawaii with a 24 hr ATM on Baldwin, and the Paia Post Office sits at the top end of Baldwin (toward Makawao). Brighten someone’s day, send a postcard! If you would rather shoot off a few emails 21st century style, you’ll find cheap rates at Livewire Cafe on Hana Hwy.
Mana Foods (8:30 AM-8:30 PM/ 7 days a week)
The shelves are well stocked at this healthy minded market with all the essentials and then some. Excellent produce selection. There is also a deli in the back with tasty sandwiches, finger foods, and a good salad bar. Super friendly staff and an extensive info board help Mana double as the vortex for all green living on Maui. Good place to network and get ideas. The store recently made the switch to corn based packaging. Oh, and we have to mention the vegan ice cream machine! Located on Baldwin.
Flatbread (Daily 11AM-11PM)
This upbeat and very hip restaurant bar calls itself the “all natural pizza company” for a reason. Ninety percent of what they use is organic, and the large majority of that is locally sourced on Maui. A wood fired oven in the heart of the restaurant adds authenticity while putting out a superb pizza. Great atmosphere at the bar with locally famous drink specials like the Grapefruit Honey Bourbon and Pomegranate Mojito. Hana Hwy at the base of Baldwin.
Fresh Mint (M-Su 5pm-9pm)
Don’t judge this place by its looks — the flavors will more than make up for any lack of ambiance. With more than forty vegan options of homestyle vietnamese cuisine, the Mint is hard to beat come dinner time. The only real question is which dish to order. The sweet and sour tofu ($9) is as good as it gets, and the pad thai ($7) isn’t far behind. Innovative “mock-meat” dishes make this a great choice for those transitioning to the veg lifestyle or just looking to try something new. All things considered, this might be one of the best oriental meals you ever enjoy. Family owned and operated. Does not serve alcohol. At the top end of Baldwin across from the Post Office.
Cafe Mambo (Daily 8AM-9PM) (808) 579-8021
Halfway up Baldwin, across from the Bank of Hawaii, you’ll find this upbeat, stylish restaurant serving up some tasty international cuisine. The Fajitas ($12) are delicious and can be made with organic Maui tofu. Menu also includes various tapas style plates, sandwiches, burgers, and salads, which are made with “some” local, organic produce. Excellent deals at happy hour (4-6pm weekdays) when the organic beers and wines are served up alongside fajitas and burgers, all for a good penny. Did I mention the tofu fajitas? Breakfast menu offers good veg options, including the Fresh Fruit Cup w/ lilikoi sauce ($4). Picnics available as well.
Milagros (M-Su 8AM-10PM)
With more than two dozen of the worlds finest tequilas, this Margarita bar and Mexican restaurant will have you feeling rosy in no time. The DaKine House Special, made to order with your choice of tequila, triple sec, and fresh squeezed lime juice(!!!) is truly among the best margaritas we have ever enjoyed. Come for happy hour when the price is right, and enjoy the outdoor patio that overlooks the heart of town.
Livewire Cafe (M-Su 6AM-10PM)
Enjoy a hot cup of organic joe and a vegan oatmeal cookie while you get connected in this breezy, yet modern internet cafe. With good tunes and choice views of Haleakala, the prices are reasonable and it’s the only option in town. Also offers wireless for those with laptops. On ocean side of Hana Hwy a few paces south from the intersection with Baldwin.
Moana Bakery & Cafe (Breakfast 8-11 AM, Lunch 11-3 PM, Dinner 3-9 PM)
With nightly live music, vegan soups, and local produce and goods, Moana doesn’t disappoint anyone looking for a sit-down meal. Best vibes are at dinner — check the door to see who’s playing this week. On Baldwin near Mana Foods.
Devocean Juice Bar (M-F 10-6, Sat 10-4)
Groove to the reggae beats as you wait for your 100% organic juice, smoothie or acai bowl. Located on Hana Hwy, next to Livewire Cafe. Check out the stylish goods as you wait to be served.
Hana Bay Juice Co. (M- Su 7:30am- 3:30pm) R
Good breakfast joint for those on the move. All smoothies made with non-fat, non-dairy frozen yogurt. Vegan bagel sandwich ($4) is well worth the good price. Located on Hana Hwy across from intersection with Baldwin.
The Wine Corner (M-W noon-10PM, Th-Su noon-10:30PM)
Excellent selection of organic and vegan beers, wines and spirits. Across from Charley’s on right side of Hana Hwy as you enter town from the south.
Maui Crafts Guild (M-Su 9AM- 6PM) (808) 579-9697, Gallery 43 Hana Hwy.
At the north end of Paia, you’ll find this very impressive artist owned and operated cooperative gallery. The 21 members of the co-op run every aspect of the Guild all by themselves, and best of all, everything is 100% hand made on Maui.
www.bio-beetle.com (808) 873-6121
Need some wheels? Now you can scoot around town and feel good about it! These 100% Biodiesel car rentals run on used vegetable oil sourced from local restaurants! It’s hard not to be excited – there’s a lot of driving to be done on Maui.
Purses, backpacks, flowy clothes and shirts stamped with Bushisms make for a refreshing boutique. Whatever your choice, when you buy hemp products you’re contributing to a growing, sustainable business. On Baldwin.
Next to The Wine Corner, across from Charley’s you’ll find this eclectic gallery of original Maui art — they only hang local names on the wall!
***There is a recycling center about 2 miles south of Paia on Hana Hwy across from the Haiku Community Center.
Spencer Klein’s ideal place to watch the sunset: “Seen September Sessions? From one of those hollow ones during F Stop Blues in the last section.”