Fabulous Paia Maui, plus Mama's Fish House and a bit of the Hana Highway
MAUI - There's nothing like waking up early on Maui and heading to Anthony's Coffee House in Paia for a bite of breakfast.
The last two times I've stayed on Maui I've opted to overnight in the Paia/Wailuku/Kahului area just to change things up from the usual tourist spots in Wailea and Lahaina/Ka'anapali. It's delightful over on that side of the island, where it's a little more rainy but more genuine in its feel.
The visit I had prior to this one, back in 2010, I stayed the night at the Paia Inn and quickly found Anthony's Coffee on the main drag (see photo at left). It's bright and cheery and they make strong, local coffee and sell all sorts of fun coffee mugs and drinking glasses and all sorts of Hawaiiana mementoes with hula girls and palm trees on them. Those sort of things just call to me. Honestly, I can walk into any store in Toronto and not give a rat's butt if I buy a thing. But get me into one of those ABC stores in Hawaii (think Mac's Milk combined with Shoppers but also selling booze and tacky souvenirs) and I start gazing longingly at pineapple-shaped wooden plates and drinking glasses with surfboards and Hawaiian shirts on them. I can't stop myself.
Anyway, Anthony's opens at 5:30 a.m. and there are always folks inside chatting about their yoga or farming work or the surf or scarfing down pineapple-coconut or raspberry-bran muffins. It's nearby Maui's cowboy country, so you get a wide variety of people inside, and I just love it.
Often I'll sip my coffee and listen to folks chat, but it's also great to get your java to go and walk or drive down the street a couple blocks to the municipal park, which fronts a lovely stretch of beach. The surf can be a tad rough but I like it that way, and there's good body-surfing and people-watching for sure. Nice views up the coast and good sunsets, too, although you're not facing right into the setting sun.
It's a fun town, with plenty of small shops to keep folks entertained and several good restaurants. I had dinner on my way to the airport at a corner Mexican joint called Milagros. They make a good ahi tuna taquito but DO NOT try the margaritas. They come from a pre-made mix, I suspect, and taste like cough syrup with tequila. Ugh. Folks - you're in a tropical climate. Buy some friggin' fresh limes and make your own, would ya?
Just outside Paia is the renowned Mama's Fish House, which has a reputation for the freshest, best seafdood on the island. You'll pay upwards of $35 for most fish plates, but it's well prepared and they'll even tell you on the menu where the fish was caught and by whom; i.e., fresh ono from the depths of the Molokai cliffs by Captain Jack Smith, or something like that. Pretty cool.
It's only a few feet off the main road from Paia to Hana, but Mama's has one of the most beautiful settings on the island. The restaurant backs onto a large lawn that's sprinkled with dozens of palm trees, and also features a giant outrigger canoe. Just steps from the tables is a small but lovely beach, meaning you can often see the water - and certainly hear it - while you dine.
The lineups are crazy to get into the place, and there are photos of all kinds of celebrities on the wall; everyone from Jimmy Buffett to Frank Sinatra and more.
I also got to stay in one of the dozen or so rooms they have on site, and it was great; a big porch/lanai on the second floor and a hammock on the grass down below with a perfect view out to the water and up into the palm trees. There are stunning flowers all around and it's a quiet spot that's nice for families, too.
You can walk from Mama's to the crazy/wonderful Ho'okipa Beach if you like, where you'll find dozens and dozens of surfers, bodysurfers, kitesurfers and windsurfers out on Maui's most famous (and most windy) beach. The action is just incredible and you'll find dozens of folks sitting on the shore or on nearby bluffs, soaking up the action. While I was there a helicopter was filming the action, darting over the top of the surfers as they raced up and some what looked to be about five or eight-foot waves rolling in from the east. Great stuff.
Many folks race through Paia and Ho'okipa on their way to Hana, which is understandable given the lure of Hana. But it's a shame, as they have a lot to offer.
I didn't make it all the way to Hana this time as I instead opted to drive up to the summit of Mt. Haleakala on my final day on island. More on that tomorrow... But I did do about an hour's worth of the drive just to soak in the beauty of the hairpin curves and the tiny, old-time bridges and the towering African tulip trees with their flaming orange blossoms overhead and the rolling, blue Pacific that thunders onto the Hana coast below.
I also stopped for the first time at the Huelo Lookout, where they'll make smoothies or crepes or sell you a tropical fruit drink or two or sell some local crafts. It's a beautiful spot overlooking the small village of Huelo and it's got a lovely, overgrown jungle feel.
I usually like to at least make it to the stunning Keanae peninsula, a stark, black slab of lava rock topped with impossibly green taro fields and studded with a few homes. The white surf and the blue water and the black rock make for an incredibly intoxicating mix, and you can always stop for fresh banana bread or pineapple so juicy it'll drip down your chest as you eat. Truly one of the most magical parts of the island.
More Maui to come tomorrow and Friday....