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Home to big wave, surfers, hippy towns, and so many sea turtles, Maui’s north shore is a region that you definitely don’t want to miss. Even if you’re staying in the resort areas in south and west Maui, it’s worth at least a day trip to see the sites.
There are three main towns/areas that make up the north shore: 1) Paia: right on the beach, this surf town is packed with shops and restaurants 2) Haiku: located further up in the jungle, Haiku is more off the beaten path for tourists, but there’s still quite a bit to see and do 3) Haliimaile: not really a town, but an old pineapple plantation, if you blink you’ll miss it!
So here’s a rundown on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay (if you decide you’re interested in more than a quick day visit):
Things to Do
Hang out in Paia town: This “hippy” town on the North Shore has some of the best shopping and dining on Maui. It’s laid back vibe makes it feel more local than other parts of Maui but it has all of the amenities that make it a fun place to spend the day. Great local boutiques and plenty of diverse restaurants all a stone’s through from beautiful Baldwin beach are a great reason to make the trip up to Paia from your resort. Make sure to stroll up Baldwin Avenue to see the colorful surfboard wall in from on the Maui Aloha Hostel.
Maui Pineapple Tour: Book a tour of the small plantation that produces the Maui Gold pineapples. It’s WAY more authentic than the Dole Plantation on Oahu and you can also combine it with lunch at the Haliimaile General Store across the street and a tour of the Haliimaile Distillery. I recommend booking the morning tour for the coolest weather.
RELATED: Not very familiar with Maui? Read up on the lay of the is(land) and where to stay plus my favorite beach resorts, budget hotels, condos, honeymoon resorts, family friendly resorts, luxury resorts, and boutique hotels plus my area specific guides (including where to stay, eat, and things to do) for Wailea, Ka’anapali, the north shore, and upcountry plus my review of staying at the Four Seasons Maui.
Bike the Volcano: One of the most popular tourist attractions on Maui is Haleakala, a large dormant volcano, and while tons of people ascend to the summit each morning to watch the sunrise, the lucky ones get to follow it up with a downhill bike ride from summit to sea. It’s a bucket list adventure and most companies (my favorite is Maui Sunriders) have their headquarters (where you’ll end your tour) in Paia or Haiku. Read all about biking the volcano here.
Baldwin/Baby Beach: Right in Paia town, this gorgeous white sand beach is usually too rough for swimming, but it’s fun to watch the wind and kite surfers. But the far west end of Baldwin beach has a protective shelf that makes for good swimming conditions plus a strong current if you get further out that makes for a good resistance pool. It’s called “Baby Beach” and on a good day (sunny, no wind) it’s packed with local families.
Ho’okipa Beach: Ho’okipa beach is a resting area for the Hawaiian green sea turtles. Every afternoon they will swim up onto the beach (the far East end) to sun themselves while they nap. A volunteer group has taken it upon itself to protect the turtles by enforcing a perimeter around them, but this is the perfect spot to see a whole herd of turtles (usually around 20) both in and out of the water. Ho’okipa is also a popular surfing beach and on good days you’re guaranteed a show from the outlook where there are usually at least a couple of food trucks parked.
Tavares Bay: Ho’okipa is the most famous place for spotting turtles, but there’s an even better spot close by. Tavares (Kuau) Bay is just east of Paia town. There’s a small parking lot and you’ll know you’re in the right spot when you see the big blue tile house. You’re almost always guaranteed to see turtles here and they view isn’t obstructed like it is at Ho’okipa. But keep your distance! Don’t get closer than 10 feet from these turtles as they’re protected by law. If you’re lucky, you might even get a rainbow in the background of your picture.
Twin Falls: Many people do Twin Falls as their first stop on the road to Hana, but it’s so close to Paia and Kahului that it makes more sense to do it on another day. The short hike is one of the best places to swim under a waterfall if that’s on your bucket list. There’s also a farm stand at the entrance that has great tropical fruit and smoothies.
Pauwela Cannery: Several shopping and dining options are available in this old converted pineapple cannery (Baked on Maui is my favorite). There’s also a shopping center in Haiku town made of another cannery (where you’ll find Colleen’s at the Cannery).
Take a Yoga Class: This part of the island is practically crawling with yoga studios, but my favorite is actually a barre studio (they do yoga as well) in Paia: Infusion Barre Maui.
Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center: See exhibitions, attend classes and events, and tour the historic estate.
Watch the Surf at Jaws: One of the largest surf breaks in the world, Jaws (called Pe’ahi in Hawaiian) is an impressive site to see when it’s breaking. Which unfortunately isn’t very often. The lookout is beautifully situated on top of a cliff on the north shore, but it’s not easy to get to. Between mile marker 13 and 14, turn towards the ocean on Hahana Road. It’s about 1.5 miles down the road. The road has pretty deep ruts in it and it’s advisable to drive it only if you have 4WD or at least a vehicle with high clearance. Here’s the thing: if Jaws isn’t breaking, it’s probably not worth going out there just to look at the ocean. If it is breaking, it’s usually pretty crowded so you either need to get there super early to be able to drive in and park, or you’ll end up hiking three miles round trip. If it’s been raining, it will be MUDDY. And obviously, as it’s in the middle of a pineapple field, there are no facilities. If you decide to head out to Jaws, be respectful of the land and people’s property.
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Where to Eat
Mama’s Fish House: Mama’s is hands down the best restaurant on Maui. Here fine dining meets a laid back tropical atmosphere and for many, dining here is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s on the pricey side, but if money is tight, forego the restaurants on Front Street in Lahaina and skip the luau and come here instead. Located on the north shore, just past Paia town, it’s set on its own secluded beach that’s perfect for sunset gazing. Read my full review of Mama’s here.
Haliimaile General Store: One of Maui’s great culinary experiences is located in an old general store in the middle of a pineapple plantation. This place has a great menu, all the way from appetizers to desserts, and you’ll see a side of Maui that you might miss otherwise.
Paia Bowls: You haven’t been to Hawaii until you’ve tried an acai bowl, and Paia Bowls has some of the best on the island. This outdoor superfood café serves amazing smoothies, bowls, and bulletproof coffee as well as avocado (or peanut butter toast).
Paia Bay Coffee: This is one of my favorite places to hang out in Paia (preferably after a barre class at Infusion Yoga). They make a great acai bowls and of course have great coffee. They also serve a full breakfast menu so make this your first morning stop on this part of the island. The little patio area is completely charming.
Café des Amis: For a truly local experience, head to the hippie town of Paia on the north shore for “crepes and curry.” Their outdoor patio is the place to be for breakfast and early/late evenings. This place wins for best “hippy vibe” on Maui.
Baked on Maui: Hidden away in an old cannery in the jungles of Haiku is one of my favorite little places for breakfast. Baked on Maui serves up eggs any style along with waffles and French toast. They always have a great selection of desserts (the carrot cake is my fave!)
Colleen’s at the Cannery: This little café is located in a shopping center in Haiku and it doesn’t look like much but everything I’ve had here is always excellent. They also have a bakery so it’s a good place to grab a snack if you’re in the area. If you’re hiking Twin Falls in Haiku, Colleen’s would be a good spot for lunch. I love their chicken salad sandwich!
Mana Foods: You haven’t experienced Paia until you’ve been in Mana. It’s kind of a local “Whole Foods” and they have a prepared food section that’s perfect for grabbing a picnic lunch. This place wins for best local experience on Maui.
Kuau Store: This little deli/general store is THE best place to stop and grab lunch to go before hitting the Road to Hana! Everything is super yummy and fresh and you can either get a custom made sandwich or Panini or grab something ready made. Also stock up on snacks and fresh fruit.
RELATED: 15 Things to Do on Maui
Paia Flatbread: Probably the most popular restaurant in Paia, this spot is always hopping. Of course the flatbread is amazing (gluten free and vegan options too!), but their salads are surprisingly good. Go early or be prepared to wait for a table.
Nuka: In Haiku, this Japanese restaurant is a favorite local spot for sushi and hidden away in the jungle, you won’t find a lot of tourists here.
Vana Paia: One of Paia’s newest restaurants, this upscale Japanese inspired restaurant blends Hawaiian flavors in a laid back atmosphere. Sushi is the most popular item to order here.
Where to Stay
Paia Inn: There’s not many places to stay on the north shore, but the Paia Inn is so good that it’s really all you need. Located facing Hana Highway right in the middle of Paia town, the back of the inn opens up onto the ocean. Sit out on the lawn in lounge chairs and you’ll feel like you’ve found a hidden pocket of Maui. But walk out the front door and you’re an easy stroll from endless shops and restaurants. This is an excellent place to stay if you’re looking to split your trip on Maui. Stay a few nights at the Paia Inn while you explore the north shore, upcountry, Hana, and Haleakala before moving over to one of the resort areas of west or south Maui to relax. Read more reviews and check rates here.
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