A century ago, this North Shore town was East Maui’s largest plantation village; you can still see the old sugar mill if you travel up Baldwin Avenue, past Pa‘ia’s only stoplight, and the stupa the Dalai Lama consecrated in 2007. The discovery of Ho‘okipa as a windsurfing mecca launched a town renaissance. Today, an eclectic mix of restaurants, galleries and boutique shops inhabits Pa‘ia’s plantation-era architecture — surrounded, at least for a little while longer, by fields of sugarcane.
Our resident advisors:
- Emma Burns, manager at Mama’s Fish House
- Barry Rivers, founder and director of Maui Film Festival
What do you remember about Pa‘ia from when you were young?
EB: My mom used to take us to a sandwich shop called Picnics [where Mambo Cafe is now located]. We ordered at the counter, and picked our drinks from the pictures on the wall. It was a family-friendly diner, Maui style.
What do you like best about living in Pa‘ia?
BR: It’s in short proximity to six of the best beaches on the planet. I’m in the water twice a day, every day. I’m always so immersed in technology and running my business, when I leave my desk I just want to be in the water.
What makes this town unique?
EB: People from all over the globe come to Pa‘ia, which makes it a quirky, yet worldly surf town. Some of the restaurants have family seating, and you never know who will sit down next to you. It’s still a laid-back town, but it’s becoming more sophisticated all the time.
BR: Pa‘ia is eclectic — a mix of many different types of people. Some are out of their minds, some are steady as a rock, and some are in between. That really works for me. I’m originally from New York, and Pa‘ia is Maui’s “east side,” even though it’s on the north shore.
Favorite place to eat?
EB: Mama’s Fish House, of course! Because the fishermen bring their catch to the restaurant every morning, the seafood is as fresh as it gets. In Pa‘ia proper, Cafe des Amis offers some really tasty selections. I like the breakfast burrito that’s served with habanero chutney they make in house. And they have a new sweet crepe made with toasted pecans, maple syrup, and cream. It’s divine!
BR: I love Thai Spice. Everything on the menu is great, but I especially like the green curry and the stir-fry. The to-go counter at Hana Ranch Provisions has a pineapple/peanut cake that’s out of this world.
Any hidden gems?
EB: Sporting Club of the Pacific is a fun place to hang out. It’s tucked into a corner [behind Puka Puka on Hana Highway], and is fairly new on the Pa‘ia radar. You can order a cold-pressed fresh juice or acai bowl and enjoy it outside on a bench under palm trees.
BR: Pa‘ia Bay Coffee is a fantastic way to start your day. Their breakfasts are especially good. Next door, Ali‘i Kula Lavender has opened up a great new shop.
They also recommended:
Noshing on li hing mui margaritas and black-bean nachos during happy hour at Milagros … cooling off with a frozen treat from Tobi’s Shave Ice . . . munching on organic creations at Flatbread Company… shopping for vintage aloha dresses at Biasa Rose… tapping your feet to live music at Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon. —HP