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Maui’s coolest small town has a distinct international flair. This north shore town melds elements of its 100-plus year history as a booming sugar plantation camp with over 30 years of recognition as the “Windsurf Capital of the World.” Paia’s thriving multi-ethnic culture began in the 1890s when laborers were imported to work in the Paia Sugar Mill or nearby cane fields. The townspeople were a mix of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Puerto Rican and Portuguese, who lived and worked together in harmony. A century later, the town continued to attract people from around the world once a group of young surfers discovered the perfect wind conditions at nearby Ho’okipa Beach and developed a new sport of surfing with a sail.

The result is a picturesque beach town with brightly colored plantation-era wooden buildings. Inside the vibrant storefronts you’ll find at least 40 boutiques, offering a wide selection of men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, designer swimwear, surfing, windsurfing and beach gear, jewelry and art studios along with home furnishings. Restaurants and eateries are in no short supply either. Whether you’re looking for a light snack or full meal, you can choose from bakeries, a coffee shop, fresh fish and seafood, Mexican, Brazilian, Mediterranean, Pacific Rim, Indian or Vegan. Several restaurants feature live music nights and weekends. Laid-back during the day, Paia jams after the sun goes down.

The north shore is also known for its beautiful, white sand beaches. Baldwin Beach Park is the first beach you encounter, driving from Kahului to Paia. It offers restrooms and picnic facilities. Paia Bay (referred to as Baby Beach by many of the locals) is located at the edge of town and perfect for swimming. Once you leave Paia heading east, you’ll see a sign for Kuau, home to the renowned Mama’s Fish House. The sandy cove in front of the restaurant and luxury homes is a quiet place to relax.

Be sure to visit nearby Ho’okipa Beach Park where you can watch surfers year-round. During winter, the winds and big waves arrive on the north shore and the windsurfers, kite surfers and big wave riders come out to play. The shoreline is rocky, so unless you’re at an advanced level in watersports, it’s better to be a spectator. No matter what you like best about Maui, you can discover the extreme side while experiencing Paia.