As you begin your drive to Hana, you’ll discover the historic town of Paʻia on Maui’s north coast. This hospitable village was once a booming plantation town during the heyday of Maui’s sugar cane industry. It has gone through more than one incarnation in its 100-plus year history and over the years, this sleepy plantation town has occasionally even lived up to its name, which translates literally as “noisy.”
Today, Paʻia is a picturesque town of colorful residents thanks to an influx of refugees from the hippie movement in the continental United States in the ’70s. A decade later, the town became the focal point of an ongoing windsurfing boom, drawing board sailors from around the planet to the perfect conditions of Hoʻokipa Beach, located just east of town.
Take a walk down Paʻia town’s two main blocks today and you’ll find a vast array of antique and souvenir shops, fine art galleries, casual clothing stores and low-key eateries (with lots of vegetarian fare), all housed in turn-of-the-century plantation storefronts painted with a color palate that would make the brightest reef fish go green with envy.
One could spend the better part of a day nosing around the town’s various shops, but a couple good places to start are: The Paʻia Trading Company (106 Hana Highway) for all sorts of antiques and memorabilia; and the Hemp House (16 Baldwin Ave.) for its fine selection of natural-fiber clothes.
While you can find an occasional fruit stand farther down Highway 36, Paʻia also remains the gateway to Maui’s Hana Highway and is the last dependable spot to get food and gas before setting out on that famed stretch of road. To fuel up with a hearty breakfast before your drive, try Charlie’s, which offers a variety of breakfast options from an excellent eggs benedict to a breakfast burrito the size of a small baseball bat.
For lighter fare, walk a block west on Hana Highway to Anthony’s Coffee Co. (90 Hana Highway), where you’ll find a vast array of fresh coffee drinks (they roast their beans on-site) and a healthy to-go menu, all running in the $4 to $6 range.
And if you’re not heading for the Hana Highway, you have finished with Paʻia and still have time to spare, head up Baldwin Avenue — 20 minutes up the hill lies the Upcountry artists’ haven of Makawao.
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