The Scene on Maui's North Shore
By day, Paia bristles with people. Tourists scatter about shopping at trendy boutiques, snapping pictures of quaint plantation storefronts and getting their last bit of civilization before forging on to Hana. Locals head for the surf, or mingle about in front of Mana Foods. There they can check the large community bulletin board for everything from a job or apartment to public lectures and free yoga classes.
At night, Paia glows. Nowhere on Maui is there such a concentration of great restaurants and nightlife than at the crossroads of Hana Highway and Baldwin Avenue in Paia. Here you will find pro surfers and new-age hippies alike hanging around with the wealthy and fabulous from North Shore and beyond.
The first place you’ll notice on your way into town from Kahului is Flatbread Company. A lofty open space, the restaurant’s energy focuses around the large earthen wood-fire oven. With cozy lighting, colorful prayer flags and paintings adorning the walls, Flatbread quickly became a local hot spot when it arrived in Paia three years ago.
Restaurant owner Jay Gould is pleased with the restaurant’s success, but more pleased with the way the island has welcomed it with open arms. “It’s a good fit because of what we do,” Gould said. “We have a great community connection here.” Flatbread prides itself on supporting local farms by using locally grown produce and meats. Tuesday nights are benefit nights where a portion of all proceeds go to a selected local charity or community organization. It’s that combination of conscientious consumption and community spirit that make Paia and Flatbread a perfect match.
On the corner of Baldwin Ave. and Hana Highway sits Paia Fish Market, a small casual nook with self-seating at large community picnic tables. There are no frills here. The focus is firmly on the fish. Silverware and napkins are found in a basket on your table and food comes on plastic trays with paper plates. That said, the Paia Fish Market undoubtedly boasts the best fish sandwich on the island.
On the adjacent corner is Milagros Food Company offering cuisine that can only be described as Mexican-fusion, where fajitas share the menu with seared ahi taquitos. The open-air dining makes for great people watching and the full-service bar inside is a popular place to grab a drink. Mojitos and margaritas are the obvious beverage of choice.
Next-door is a Paia mainstay, Charley’s (perhaps best known as the favorite hangout of Willie Nelson). His gold records adorn the walls and he even does a local television commercial where he serves food to some surprised customers. But don’t count on him delivering your burger and fries; he usually just likes to hang out and is always jovial and accommodating whenever a fan approaches him. The sports bar out back often plays hosts to some great bands. Attracting local and national acts, Charley’s is perhaps Paia’s best live music venue.
Further up Baldwin Ave. you’ll find Café Mambo and Café des Amis. Mediterranean flair in an earthy laidback atmosphere, Mambo hosts a movie night on Thursdays. Sit back and enjoy a Hollywood blockbuster while noshing on Moroccan tagines and authentic Spanish paella. Des Amis, another little place with big character and great ambiance, serves crepes and curries.
Dining out in Paia is an excellent way to experience the North Shore’s kick back vibe. It’s also a good way to experience some of Maui’s best restaurants. Dressed to the nines or wearing slippers and board shorts, you’re good to go. Rub elbows with surfers, locals and travelers from all over the world. Catch a movie in a cozy café or socialize over drinks and pizza made from locally grown ingredients. Whatever you choose, the night is sure to be an adventure.