Positively Paia: A Maui Jewel

It’s rather a great challenge to find places in Maui that measure-up to the island’s splendid natural beauty in terms of man-made enticements, and the smoothly unpretentious and energetic town of Paia accomplishes this impressive feat. With only two main streets, Paia is filled with individual shops and restaurants that thankfully belie all too common trends for chains that dissolve geographical and personality distinctions.

Without having the opportunity to visit all Paia’s myriad establishments, here are several that have proven memorable during several initial visits to this colorful Maui town.

Cafe Des Amis

Café des Amis invariably charms and satisfies, with an ambience somewhere in-between a bohemian outpost and a family friendly cowboy salon, while maintaining a beneath-the-surface sophistication worthy of Paris. Theirs is a simple menu executed with flair and consistency. My personal favorites are the vegetable curry, with a recipe from India, and a Mediterranean platter, filled with absolutely fresh and enticing items. The specialty of the house are crepes, both savory and sweet, and they are truly memorable. Service is excellent, deliberately not too rushed, and one may dine inside or out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in total enjoyment, while a soft parade of denizens and visitors pass by, and into the café.

Paia Fish Market is a refreshingly simple and straightforward proposition, including seating at friendly picnic benches inside. Forgoing most extraneous inducements, customers place orders at the counter, and then wait for numbers to be called. Every day has a newly composed list of the fresh fish available in a variety of delicious presentations. Freshness and quality of the various fishes is superb, and one may enjoy first-rate seafood at a fraction of the cost found in upscale establishments. Additionally, there are Mexican delicacies available, not to mention hamburgers, salads, and terrific coleslaw. The ambience here is perfect for the menu, and one feels the ocean’s presence, with open windows and doors, even though you’re in the middle of town.

Mana Foods brims with the excitement of life, and recognition that this is the place to go for the finest fuel to keep us going. Every section of this joyfully complex epicurean marketplace brims with alluring temptations, and the people who work there are cheerfully helpful. Every imaginable product is available, from organic produce, freshly prepared foods, seafood, seeds and nuts, spices, breads, vitamins, bath products, etc. The selection at Mana Foods is staggering, and one may easily spend hours roaming the colorful aisles.

Mamas Fish House was initially entered with some skepticism due to their hefty prices and large lines. I was fearful this might turn out to be an underwhelming tourist trap. Nothing could be further from the truth, fortunately. A true aloha spirit among the hosts and servers prevails, moving things at a luxurious pace that vanquishes time and worries. Tables are well spaced, enhancing the royal ambience. The cuisine is exquisite, and carefully prepared, with a wide selection of seafood and other choices. Mama’s Fish House is located several miles past Paia, and its well worth the extra drive for an authentically Hawaiian culinary experience.

Biasa Rose is a lovely, charming shop with carefully selected clothing for women, men, and children. I especially enjoy their fine eye for captivating colors and designs.

Indigo has an astoundingly fine and varied collection of authentic rugs from the mountains of Afghanistan. Their jewelry selection is also extraordinary, including exquisite pieces from India, Ethiopia, Thailand, and Hawaii too. This is definitely a place to visit, almost like journeying to a foreign land beyond Maui.

Aloha Bead Company dazzles with its comprehensive inventory of semi-precious, stone, and glass beads for those who wish to create their own jewelry. Additionally, one may bring in jewelry for repair.

Again, I am certain there are myriad other restaurants and shops in Paia that are equally satisfying, so enjoy yourself while exploring more fully one of the jewels of Maui. Even if you don’t plan on entering any restaurants or shops, it’s a fine diversion walking on the storied sidewalks kissed by sunlight or moonlight, caressed by gentle breezes, while you drink in the pastel and prismatic painted town that time has given a pass.

  • Shopping Paia Maui
    North Shore shopping: Biasa Rose

– Eric Robinson, November 2013

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Photography:  © Gabrielle Longhi