For Maui's North Shore, the considerable contrast between its laid back towns and adventure packed shorelines offers a unique glimpse into this once sugarcane-mill town turned windsurfer's paradise.
The cultural and racial melting pot of Paia town is a snapshot of Maui's past. In the mid-1800s this area was a camp for the many workers who came from all over the globe seeking fortune in the sugarcane industry. Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, Portuguese, Russians, Germans and Scandinavians all relocated to these plantations, bringing with them many traditions, customs and cuisines.
In 1978 Paia was discovered as one of the world's best windsurfing regions, transforming the small town into a tourist destination, and bringing a mix of individuals as colorful as the town's numerous rainbows.
Paia's streets are now lined with an eclectic array of small boutique shops and restaurants. Stop in for a traditional Hawaiian tattoo at Island Ink, sift through a wall of surfboards at Hi-Tech Surf Sports, browse the model ship gallery or allow your taste buds to explore an exotic passion fruit gelato from Ono Gelato.
Located at the edge of town is Baldwin Beach, a local favorite and the center stage for a relaxing afternoon. With white sand to sink your feet into and ironwood trees offering shade for that after-lunch nap, this beach is a great escape from Maui's more populated areas. On the far side is Baby Beach, protected by a reef wall, for those who prefer calmer water or simply a relaxing float.
Out of town towards Hana lies Ho'okipa, windsurfer's delight and spectator's grandstands. Often slowing traffic to a near halt, this narrow beach meets the road at an abrupt, rock cliff offering dramatic views from above. Dozens of wind surfers and surfers can be seen daring the wild breaks that pound the shoreline.
The next town is Haiku, meaning narrow, which appropriately describes the windy roads that traverse this lush countryside. Time has very little place on these streets as most locals will stop to chat with a neighbor or wave to a friend despite a line of cars behind them. Hitchhikers are often seen with their thumbs pointed down the road, with no rush to reach their destination.
Twin Falls, an assortment of rustic fruit stands, entices visitors to pull off the Hana Highway and sample the tropical produce. From there visitors can follow a short trail into the rainforest, revealing numerous waterfalls and natural pools.
Away from the glamour and hurried style of the west coast, a visit to the Maui's North Shore is a chance to breathe in the true essence of Hawaii.