A halo of positive energy surrounds this sugar town turned surf mecca on Maui’s wind-swept North Shore. Less than an hour from the popular beaches of Wailea and Ka‘anapali, tiny Pa’ia never shrugged off its counterculture leanings—Willie Nelson remains its most famous denizen. But these days, there’s plenty of undercover glam to balance the blissed-out tranquility. Cottages that once housed plantation workers have morphed into boutiques stocking party-ready frocks and modern Hawaiiana. Even the restaurant scene is catching a wave. One Buddhist temple, zero sprawling resorts: This is island life at its most alluring.
7:30 A.M. Bring a towel, not a mat, to sunrise beach yoga with Maui Yoga Shala ($20; maui-yoga.com) on Pa’ia Bay. It’s a mellow, all-levels class; check in with the studio at least 12 hours in advance for the exact location.
9 A.M. Join the wetsuit-clad queue at Paia Bay Coffee (paiabaycoffee.com) for a macchiato amid shade umbrellas, string lights, and potted palms. Then amble down Baldwin Avenue to family-run grocery Mana Foods, whose in-house vegan cafe, Maka by Mana (makabymana.com), serves gloriously supersized acai bowls.
10:30 A.M. Head 2.5 miles up the coast to spot kite surfers and sea turtles at Ho‘okipa Beach Park (mauicounty.gov). Then turn right on Haiku Road, and drive inland for 15 minutes to reach The Sacred Garden (sacredgardenmaui.com). Part nursery, part peace garden, it features two walking labyrinths surrounded by tropical greenery; complimentary tea and hot chocolate are provided to further soothe the nerves.
1 P.M. There’s nothing subtle about the food at Paia Fish Market Restaurant (paiafishmarket.com)—and that’s precisely its appeal. Order a charbroiled ono burger and a Pau Hana Pilsner. Then stroll across the street for a cone at Paia Gelato (paiagelato.com)—their lilikoi quark flavor blends passion fruit with goat cheese from the island’s Surfing Goat Dairy.
3 P.M. For such a sleepy outpost, Pa’ia supports some surprisingly sophisticated boutiques. Hit Nuage Bleu (nuagebleu.com) for slinky Misa cocktail dresses, newcomer Sea La Vie (808/359-1513) for hand-printed stationery by Honolulu designer Andrew Mau, and Wings Hawaii (wingshawaiishop.com) for flowy beach garb and vintage china embellished with original mermaid-themed designs.
6 P.M. Follow the food insiders to Nylos (nylosmaui.com), where chef-owner Jeremy Solyn serves a fine-tuned nightly tasting menu in his 14-seat dining room. This place won’t stay Pa’ia’s best-kept secret for long.
Perfect Night: Right on the main drag, Paia Inn (from $259; paiainn.com) manages to be both low-key and chic. Escape through the back garden down to three miles of white-sand beach.
Getting Here: Pa‘ia is 5 miles east of Kahului Airport on State 36.