You can always rent a generic beachfront condo or stay in a cookie-cutter chain hotel. But on the Hawaiian island of Maui, if you’re looking for more distinctive style, consider the hip little Paia Inn, a boutique property on Maui’s North Shore.
Appearances are deceptive at the Paia Inn. From the street, the yellow clapboard building that houses the inn’s lobby, cafe, and several guest rooms looks rather modest. It sits right on the Hana Highway, the main east-west road through the funky town of Paia, and the building abuts a gas station.
When you walk into the courtyard, though, you enter a complete different space — as if you’ve strolled out of Paia Town and into a chic beach escape.
The original inn building, which dates to the 1920s but was completely revamped in 2008, has five guest rooms on the second floor. My husband and I stayed in the inn’s tiniest unit, the accurately-labeled “Petite Room” (shown in the top photo), which measures just 120 square feet.
With a double bed, an armoire, and a diminutive sink, there was little room to walk, and the travertine-tiled bathroom (with a toilet and shower), while sleek and functional, was miniscule. But with a wall-mounted flat-screen TV, iPod dock, minibar, and complimentary Wi-Fi, as well as a comfy bed topped with crisp white linens, we had everything we needed. The colorful original artwork and fluffy turquoise throw pillow both injected a dash of style into the compact space.
Our room was surprisingly quiet, too. At least with the air conditioning running and the windows closed, we heard no noise from the street.
Unless you’re petite people with very little luggage, or on a very tight budget, I’d choose one of the inn’s larger rooms if you’re staying more than a couple of days. The similarly appointed “Standard Rooms,” at 143 square feet, are still small, but the Junior Suites measure 285 square feet, room enough for a king bed and a kitchenette.
Behind the main building are several other cottage-style structures, hidden from the road, that house 10 additional rooms, ranging from garden-view units or studios with private patios to spacious one- or two-bedroom suites, several of which have ocean views.
The largest unit is the striking three-bedroom 1350-square-foot beach house, which has a gourmet kitchen and an ocean-facing open-air living room that’s as big as many New York City apartments. Bring your friends!
Facilities and Amenities
Upstairs in the main inn building is a lounge with comfortable chairs, computers, and a printer. I especially loved the colorful paintings by Hawaiian artist, Avi Kiriaty, displayed throughout the property.
The courtyard cafe is open for breakfast, with a chef on hand to cook up pancakes, Belgian waffles, or eggs to order. Breakfasts are $8-14. Coffee, tea, and fresh fruit are complimentary. There’s also a coffee shop directly across the street from the inn and numerous restaurants nearby.
While the inn seems like a in-town property, it’s actually beachfront, too. Follow a narrow path, behind the inn’s buildings, and you come out first onto a small lawn, with an open-air bar and lounge chairs. Then, surprise! You step through a gate onto an absolutely gorgeous beach.
The beach is public, but access to the section of the beach in front of the inn is limited, making it feel like a private stretch of sand.
You can borrow boogie boards and other beach toys to play in the sand and surf. A three-mile walking path leads from the inn all the way around Paia Bay.
The staff can arrange all sorts of other activities, from stand-up paddle board lessons to horseback riding to guided hiking (for additional fees).
Location and Rates
Located about a 15-minute drive east of Maui’s Kahului airport, Paia is a funky, laid-back town, filled with cafes, restaurants, and cool little boutiques. If you like fish, head across the street from the inn to the casual, always-crowded Paia Fish Market Restaurant; the seafood salad, with grilled fish atop a bed of fresh local greens, is excellent. For a more upscale seafood experience, drive five minutes east to Mama’s Fish House.
Room rates at the Paia Inn start at $189-$259 for units in the main building. Larger suites range from $289-599, and the three-bedroom oceanfront beach house starts at $999 per night. There’s a small additional charge for onsite parking (which is very limited), or you can park in the free public lot about a block away. Overnight street parking is also free. You can also check rates at Expedia or other online blooking sites.
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the new travel guide, Moon Handbooks: Ontario. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. We paid a discounted media rate to stay at the Paia Inn, arranged in conjunction with the Maui Visitor’s Bureau.