Paia is a small town on the northern shore of the island of Maui where motorists stop by for gas, groceries or food on their way to the remote town of Hana 45 miles southeast. Once home to a vast sugar plantation, Paia today is a mishmash of 1960's and '70's hippie locals who descended from the continental mainland to start a back-to-nature life; professional surfers attracted to consistent and challenging windsurfing conditions of the North Shore; and the occasional Hollywood actor or A-list musician showing up unannounced for a local gig.
More importantly, Paia is right on the road to Hana, a road equally famous for the challenges it presents drivers and the stunning sights it offers motorists. If you’d like to take the driving challenge and reap the scenic rewards, book an RV in Paia and look out for the mile markers.
On the Road to Hana
Get a truer sense of Hawaii on a winding journey to Maui's eastern shore. A drive on the Hana Highway in your Paia camper rental is a case of the journey being equally important as the destination. From Kahului, the (in)famous narrow and sinuous Hana Highway stretches for a total of 65 miles, with only the mile markers standing between you and the hidden gems ahead (or below).
Twenty minutes out of Paia, the Twin Falls Farm Stand around mile marker 2 comes into view. Leave your RV rental in Paia at the parking lot, then access the falls via the Wailele Farm entrance. Up next is the Kaumahina State Wayside Park between mile marker 12 and 13. This is a nice place to stop for a picnic and stretch your legs on a walking path for a view of the Maui coastline. At mile marker #19, the Upper Waikani Falls can easily be viewed from the comfort of your Paia motorhome rental or the lip of the bridge above it. To get to the bottom of the falls, a tricky hike down requires caution and a certain level of fitness. Hanawai Falls lies beyond, at mile marker 24.
For a change of scenery, stop for a few hours at mile marker 31 to explore the Hana Lava Tube. It's an easy, self-guided descent (small children allowed) into a subterranean tunnel that was formed almost a thousand years ago. A mile farther up the road marks the start of the Wai'anapanapa State Park. Hike the Caves Loop Trail, walk on a black sand beach, and marvel at red-tinted tide pools, courtesy of tiny shrimps. At certain times of the year, watch blowholes erupt, explore lava tubes, and view colonies of seabirds.
At the end of the road to Hana, the Haleakala National Park welcomes visitors eager to witness the sunrise over the crater. There are four overlooks, all accessible by vehicle: the Red Hill Summit (at more than 10,000 feet), Visitor Center (9,740 feet), Kalahaku Overlook (9,324 feet) and Leleiwi Overlook (8,840 feet). Some campervans may not be suited to the driving task ahead, so make sure your travel trailer rental in Paia is.
Of course, your journey to Hana won't be complete without stopping at this gem of a town that represents the unspoiled Hawaiian frontier. With its rugged shoreline, historic buildings, and remote location, Hana looks what Maui looked before development came to the island.
You won’t find an RV campground in the immediate vicinity of Paia, but if you’re willing to look within a 20-mile radius – and south – the Papalaua State Wayside Park in Wailuku is the nearest. It is beach-side camping at its best, if you’re willing to put up with roadside noise during your stay. There are restrooms but very limited parking so it might be good to have a backup plan.
Another place to consider staying overnight when you rent a motorhome in Paia is the YMCA Camp Ke’anae at mile marker 16.5. This site would only be suitable for smaller RVs. Enjoy the scenic views from your campsite and use the hot showers and convenient ice machine.
The Kipahulu Campground is an option for your Paia, HI RV rental in Hana. It’s a large open space and it’s a good idea to get there early to get the best possible spot. Again, smaller RVs are recommended here and there are no hookups. What this site lacks in amenities it more than makes up for in breathtaking scenery lush greenery.
Exploring The City
As you pull into Paia, you will be forgiven for thinking if you’ve wandered into a 1960’s California beach town. Building facades painted in pastels, a T-shaped stretch of eclectic shops and restaurants, few traffic lights, and colorful local characters lend Paia an un-touristy Maui experience that gets bypassed by motorists zipping past on the road to Hana. It’s a blessing in disguise, as Paia gets to keep its quiet bohemian and hippie vibe.
You don’t have to walk far to get a sense of this once booming sugar plantation town. The “main drag” is less than half a mile long, but in it you’ll find everything from fine art galleries to coffee houses to swimwear and surf shops to new-age boutiques.
For professional windsurfers, however, Paia’s Ho’okipa Beach Park is mecca. Consistent challenging breezes create monstrous surf that only the most experienced should attempt to tackle. If you don’t have the necessary skills, wait when the sun goes down and spy green sea turtles clambering ashore to beach themselves. For romantic walks on the beach, the Baldwin Beach Park is renowned for its long sandy shores while the Baldwin Cove is infamous for vanishing and reappearing. For clothing-optional sunbathers and swimmers, the Secret Beach is the place to go.
The east coast of Maui offers a rare glimpse into what the island was like before tourists descended to Hawaii in droves. If you prefer this kind of experience instead of the usual trappings in a resort, look for the best RV rentals in Paia, HI and prepare for a life-changing journey on the road to Hana.