Maui has plenty of luxury beach hotels where you can lounge poolside in a plush bathrobe, surrounded by hovering attendants, and never leave. The Paia Inn Hotel is not one of them. Opened last June, the five-room boutique hotel is designed for fashionable, if not flush, travelers seeking a cool and unfussy spot on the beach. Situated in the hippie town of Paia (pronounced pie-EE-ah), far from the high-end resorts in Wailea and Lahaina, the inn has hotel-style amenities, but keeps things simple for those who just want to enjoy a little sun during the day and a few beers at night.
Paia, a New Agey town on Maui’s North Shore, has remained surprisingly groovy despite the arrival of fancy shops and a few celebrities. Tibetan peace flags fly from ramshackle homes; cafe bulletin boards advertise reiki healings; and the next Sunset Drum Circle is only a day away. Kahilui Airport is a five-mile drive.
The Four Seasons this isn’t. Our “deluxe” room had a soft queen-size bed, a humming air-conditioner and a single window, which looked out over the town’s intersection. The calm and unimposing décor suggested a modern yoga studio with homey touches. A sturdy armoire held extra blankets and beach towels, and a small fridge was stocked for late-night cravings, including beers by the Maui Brewing Company ($5) and Maui Style onion potato chips ($2). Boxes of fake wheatgrass were placed here and there, slightly wilted flower petals adorn the window sills, and nostalgic Polynesian paintings hung on the walls.
The bathroom, through a sliding door, was small but efficient, with a hot shower that had enough pressure to wash out the sand and salt after a long day of doing nothing. It was supplied with small bottles of Love Inside Out toiletries, another local brand, with a nice citrus and coconut scent.
Free coffee, oatmeal, muffins and hot water are available on the patio and in the lobby, courtesy of Anthony’s Coffee, across the street. Anthony’s also handles room service (eggs Benedict $11.95, sandwiches from $6.95), though only from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Several decent restaurants are just a few lazy steps away, including Flatbread, a pizza bar popular with surfers and the tourists who love them. There is also Mana Foods, a large health food store that’s a prime spot for eavesdropping on hilarious conversations about chakras and organic spelt.
The hotel has private beach access, but getting there takes a little guidance. A caretaker wearing a kilt led us along a narrow, 150-yard path between private homes to a gate. It opens (with a secret code, provided to guests) out to a beautiful cove with easy waves. Beach chairs and umbrellas are provided. A short walk away is the larger and more populous Baldwin Beach, which draws tourists and rowdy locals listening to music in the parking lot.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s not quite a four-star hotel, but at $169 for a room with a double bed and $199 for one with a queen bed, the Paia Inn Hotel has enough to keep you from feeling shortchanged. The town is fun and active, the beaches are lovely, and after your first day, you will flop on the bed, finding yourself just as happy as you would be in a swanky suite — or maybe just too sun-soaked and sleepy to care.
Paia Inn Hotel; 93 Hana Highway, Paia, Maui, Hawaii; (808) 579-6000; www.paiainn.com