Paia a la Mode
Story by Julia Steele
photo by Dana Edmunds
93 Hana Highway sits right in the heart of Paia, a simple, two-story building with a long history of hosting visitors. It was built in 1927 as a Japanese guest house; in those days its five rooms catered to the immigrants who came to work in the sugar cane fields that surrounded the thriving Maui town. The building narrowly survived a tidal wave that crashed ashore in the 1940s, but didn’t weather the seismic shifts in Paia society so well: By the 1960s—mirroring out-migration from the plantations and the arrival of the flower children—the place had become a hippie enclave.
Now, once again tracking the fortunes of the town, 93 Hana Highway has been transformed into the Paia Inn Hotel, a chic boutique hotel that feels European in its intimacy, Asian in its aesthetic and Hawaiian in its geniality. The inn retains the original five-room configuration of the guest house, but don’t imagine anything out of a Kurosawa film; the aesthetic might still be Asian, but it’s now Southeast Asian, with lots of dark wood, colorful silks and luminous shell inlay and chandeliers. The place, like Paia itself these days, is cosmopolitan but laid back: The next room could be occupied by a couple of windsurfers from Brazil on a pilgrimage to nearby Hookipa Beach, or by adventurers from Austria who’ve just descended from a hike through Haleakala.
The whole point of the inn, says its manager, Nina Hupp, is to celebrate Maui: There’s Maui-brewed beer in the minibar; Maui-made shampoo and conditioner in the shower; coffee and muffins from famed Maui hot spot Anthony’s (which is just across the street). The walls are covered with the artwork of one of Maui’s best-known artists, Ari Kiriaty; a portion of each guest’s room rate goes to one of three Maui charities—and just down a little path from reception sits the beauty that ultimately draws so many to the island in the first place: a grand sweep of sand and sea.
Paia Inn Hotel