“Noisy.” That is the meaning of the word pā’ia in the Hawaiian language. The vibrant – and sometimes still a bit noisy – northshore village of today had its beginning as a tiny Polynesian kahalewai (village by the sea) sitting on Maui’s windward coast along a freshwater stream. The shoreline was protected by an off-shore reef that, when the waves were from the right direction and size, created a nearly deafening roar from the sea and its residents and passing travelers thought that it was “pā’ia”: Literally, noisy.
Today the noise is from the hustle and bustle of a many-faceted town that serves as the business center for a very diverse community. Pā’ia is also the seaside anchor of Maui’s Upcountry region spread across the north face of Haleakala.
Pā’ia today is a town of many faces and holds a rich place in Maui’s history ranging from Hawaiian village to windsurfing.
Pā’ia holds a rich place in Maui’s history. It has been through many different configurations, including a native village, a sugar mill and sugar and pineapple plantations town, hippie haven, surfing Mecca, windsurfing capital of the world, and now, an emerging tourist destination and way-station on the popular Road to Hana. All Temptation Tours’ Hana-bound excursions go through Pā’ia, giving the visitors a taste of the lively village.
Pā’ia, today, is a reflection of its history as a booming sugar cane plantation town with many of its old plantation-era wooden buildings still intact. This quaint little beach town has an array of locally- owned specialty shops, boutiques, surf shops, antique stores, bakeries, art galleries, and even an old-fashioned tattoo parlor or two. Award winning restaurants offer casual and full-service dining with local and international culinary delights.
Pā’ia’s reputation for great winter season waves has drawn a devoted group of surfers, windsurfers, and now, kite surfers to the bustling community.
The birth of the town phase can be traced to the opening of the original Pā’ia Store in 1896. The real roots, however, go further back to the creation of the plantation camps that housed workers of several small sugar cane plantations and the development of the Pā’ia Sugar Mill, which up until 2000, was Maui’s oldest operating plantation and mill. The mill opened in 1880 and the store was eventually built to support the needs of the immigrant sugar workers who labored on several plantations that sprang up in the area. In the last dozen years it has received another energizing infusion with the ever-increasing number of tourists who are discovering the town’s unique brand of modern, eclectic chic. They no longer just drive through the picturesque and historic area on their way to Hana, but are now stopping to taste the many flavors of the diverse island community.
Today Pā’ia is a thriving, busy business center that serves the needs of tourists as well as a large and diverse community, while maintaining, indeed preserving, its sense of place, history, diversity, and unique feel.