This 'relaxed' part of the island also has fair share of thrills
By SARAH RUPPENTHAL
Known as the “wet” side of the island, it is not unusual to spot a rainbow cresting the rolling hillsides or to be caught in a sudden shower of cooling raindrops. With its cool, refreshing climate, lush foliage and quiet residential neighborhoods, North Maui tends to inspire a relaxed, introspective state of mind — but don’t let the first impression fool you. This part of the Valley Isle also has a wild side, with its own fair share of thrilling excursions and daring adventures.
Entering North Maui, it would be impossible to miss the rollicking turquoise surf of Baldwin Beach Park, an expanse of some of the most beautiful white sand beaches on Maui and a range of facilities ideal for a family-style gathering or a quiet day alone at the beach.
Just a short distance away, you will discover the hidden treasure of Maui’s North Shore, the charming historic town of Paia. Once a thriving sugarcane plantation town, Paia is a snapshot taken from Maui’s past, with rows of wooden, plantation-style buildings, boutiques, surf shops, art galleries and restaurants. In the mid-1800s, Paia was the site of several thriving plantation camps housing those who worked in the sugarcane fields or at the local Sugar Mill. Plantation workers from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Germany and Scandinavia arrived to seek their fortune in Paia throughout the 19th century, bringing with them many traditional customs and cuisine. Today, Paia is still heralded as a “melting pot” of diverse cultures, races and backgrounds, and its streets are lined with a colorful mosaic of shops, art galleries and restaurants which continue to attract some of the world’s most talented artists and free spirits. On the outskirts of Paia, there are several bed and breakfasts just a stone’s throw away from the beach. The newly remodeled Paia Inn allows guests to stay in the heart of the town, within walking distance of shopping and dining. With an abundance of restaurants and cafes, the town offers its own unique taste of paradise, with fresh, local fish and ingredients prepared by chefs in several of Maui’s finest seafood establishments.
Paia is also celebrated as one of the world’s premiere ocean sport destinations. In 1978, a group of young men stumbled across Ho‘okipa Beach Park, discovering the ideal windsurfing conditions just a stone’s throw from Paia Town. Decades later, Paia continues to live up to its reputation as the “Windsurfing Capital of the World.” Each year, Paia welcomes hundreds of windsurfing enthusiasts from around the globe eager to experience the “windsurfing mecca” of North Maui. The unique wind and surf conditions of Maui’s North Shore are triggered by northeastern tradewinds combined with powerful sideshore winds, which creates tremendous ocean currents. Men and women from around the globe travel to the small town for annual windsurfing, surfing, and kitesurfing competitions, events that are equally as exciting for spectators watching the action from the shoreline.
A trip to Ho‘okipa Beach Park would be incomplete without a camera in hand. The park offers postcard views of the Pacific Ocean, the thrilling sights of surfers navigating the colossal waves, in addition to a front-row seat to the daily debut of the sun as it rises and sets over the horizon. Around the corner from Ho‘okipa Beach Park is “Jaws,” the legendary big wave surf spot that put North Maui on the proverbial surfing map. Since the 1970s, surfers have tested their fates by attempting to maneuver Jaws’ colossal waves that pummel the rocky coastline. Today, this awesome force of nature attracts some of the most accomplished surfers to Maui’s North Shore.
Paia’s next-door neighbor, the town of Haiku, is home to pockets of charming residential homes, fertile agricultural lands and pastures of grazing farm animals. In Hawaiian, the word “Haiku” is translated as “narrow,” which is certainly appropriate, as a series of windy, narrow roadways weave throughout the town, punctuated by roadside fruit stands offering local refreshments, produce and crafts. As one of Maui’s prime agricultural areas, Haiku is commonly perceived as a rural, “country town” that is a few paces slower than the rest. It is rumored that the first pineapple on Maui was planted in Haiku, which may come as no surprise given its cool, rainy climate and pristine and biologically-rich landscape.
A short distance away is the peaceful “rooster town” of Huelo, a place that truly embodies the sentiment of, “getting away from it all.” Set atop jagged volcanic cliffs, and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Huelo reveals a quiet coexistence between human beings and the natural environment, providing an ideal setting for anyone who seeks a moment of absolute tranquility. In addition to its distinctive natural beauty, Huelo is home to the beautiful Huelo Point Flower Farm and the historic Kaulanapueo Church, which was built by missionaries in 1853. Residents of Huelo have truly embraced nature, working on organic farms, supplying water from drilled wells and using alternative electricity measures, such as solar, hydroelectric and photovoltaic. Like Haiku, there are few overnight accommodations, but a trip to this charming North Maui town should not be missed.
While North Maui is best known for its legendary surfing and idyllic rainforest hikes, there is much more to discover along its sun-bleached coastline. Far from the crowded beaches of Maui’s resort towns, the area offers its own, unique energy that caters to nature-lovers and beach-goers alike. Standing on the warm sand watching the ocean curl into the shoreline, it is possible to imagine that you are one with the spirit of nature, the spirit of North Maui.
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