I don’t know why it took Nick and I so long to visit Hawaii for the first time, since it’s a perfect compromise for adventure vs. relaxation-seekers! It seemed like the area was popular as ever for visitors (Maui was the land of baby bumps), probably thanks to Zika tainting so many other destinations. We split our stay across a variety of lodging – started at a cute apartment rental in Paia, moved on to the Travaasa Hana (a more remote, retreat-style resort), and spent the remainder of our trip at the Four Seasons on Wailea beach. These places definitely cater to different traveler styles and budgets, so I wanted to share some reviews and pictures in case it helps anyone planning a trip!
For this post I’m focusing on what we did/ate around Kahului and Paia, along with our apartment rental there. Paia is a small, laid-back surf town … it’s a short drive from the airport, and is also the starting point of the Road to Hana.
Maui From Above
One of the first things we did was book a helicopter tour over West Maui and Molokai. I wanted to fly in one without doors, which is a new option offered by Air Maui (everyone who worked there was so helpful and nice). In addition to showing us the waterfalls and cliffs, our pilot kept an eye out for bonuses like whales and a herd of mountain goats, then hovered closer so we could all see. I sat in the outer seat and had heart palpitations most of the ride (but loved it)! As someone sitting on the interior, Nick said the doors-on option might be a similar experience for a lower price. And if you’re a single traveler, they usually have last-minute single seats on the interior at a pretty discounted price of $100 per person.
For the doors-off flight, you are allowed to bring only a cell phone (secured inside their lanyard phone cases), and you are required to wear closed-toe shoes, flight jackets they provide, plus some other super stylish safety gear, as modeled above.
Where to Get the Best Shrimp
From there we went straight to Geste shrimp truck, which was probably our favorite, simple meal on the island. The Hawaiian Scampi shrimp (shell-on) were so flavorful, and the crab macaroni salad and rice were perfect for soaking up that garlicky sauce.
TIP: There’s no seating outside Geste but it’s right on this strip of water, so bring a towel or beach chair and enjoy your food with a view.
Overarching comments on the food trucks we ate at in Maui:
– Don’t rely on the operating days and hours posted online, since some places seemed to open when they please and close early when they sell out. Call first if there’s a phone # listed.
– Service was usually very slow (even if we were the only customers), probably due to the leisurely pace of life. We didn’t mind this; just don’t expect to “grab and go” a quick meal.
– Oftentimes cash only
dinner at Paia Fish Market
Exploring Paia (And the Surrounding Area)
Paia Fish Market was probably the most buzzing place in the town center, and under a 10-minute walk from our apartment rental. I’m a sucker for seafood pasta – I can never resist if I see it on a menu. The seafood in this dish was fresh and plentiful, however it was drowned in cream (no bueno for swimsuit bods). Nick loved his fish sandwich, though, and there were a number of healthier options like broiled fish.
I can’t stand snow cones back home because they’re usually chunky balls of crushed ice drenched in artificial syrup. The shave (funny they leave off the “d”) ice in Hawaii, though, is wonderfully fluffy, and usually topped with natural syrups where you can really taste the fruit. Nick literally had his head in his hands agonizing over which flavors to choose. The employees here were super friendly, and Ululani herself was there and chatted us up.
Ho’okipa beach is one of the three beachy areas within a short distance from Paia. It’s a hotspot for windsurfers, which I was in awe at, because the crashing waves were downright intense at this location (not really a leisurely swimming beach)! Check out but don’t disturb the dozens of Hawaiian sea turtles napping on the beach, nearly camouflaged by the rocks (look closely at the pic above : ).
sprightly living room with pull-out sofa bed
Our Italian/Hawaiian Apartment Rental
On to our little Paia apartment…we were actually very pleased with this rental find. It’s run by a helpful and responsive host, Manolo (I could tell we’d get along just based on his name, ha!), who designed and built the property just last year. It’s a little slice of local living just a short walk from the center of Paia, and I liked the Hawaiian-meets-Italian vibe. There are four apartment units in the “villa” with different max occupancies – the owner lives in one of them and rents out the other three. Here are links to the different units (we booked #3):
upstairs bedroom loft (more spacious than pictured, with 3 walls of windows + skylight)
What we liked:
– Recently-built and very clean; shoes-off outside your front door policy
– Under 10-minute walk from Paia center, with a grocery mart and liquor store along the way
– Has a kitchenette with basics (burner stove, microwave, mini fridge, coffee maker)
– Felt reasonably safe due to security monitoring system and locked gates.
– Host was helpful and also provided beach towels, swimsuit drying rack, cooler, snorkels (you do need to bring or buy your own shampoo)
bathroom with spacious walk-in shower
We didn’t find these to be cons per se, but just wanted to point them out:
– No AC. There was plenty of breeze from multiple windows and ceiling fans, but it might get hot during summer. Unit #2 in this complex does have an AC unit.
– Bugs and noises of nature. The gardens on this property are very lush and tropical. I was bit a few times upon arrival, but promptly put on my repellent bracelets (wore these 24/7) plus bug spray and was fine for the rest of the stay. There are also roosters crowing at dawn which reminded me of Asia (and which Nick slept right on through), along with some neighboring dogs on the other side of the fence, just FYI.
– We saw the owner daily either outside his unit or maintaining the gardens, so this isn’t for someone who prefers to stay at rentals where you never see the host.
Left: our unit’s private patio // Right: common area with grill (never saw anyone there)
Side-note, this ASOS swimsuit is unfortunately sold out, but hopefully some of you were able to pick it up from my older post! Here are two other swimsuits from there that I tried on:
– Diamond mesh one-piece w/ removable straps – this one is so cute and flattering due to the strategically-placed mesh, but was long on me. Would recommended for someone taller or with a longer torso.
– Weekday high-waisted textured bikini – I only got the bottoms for mixing and matching. They are very stretchy and comfy, and don’t come up too high on a petite frame or feel restricting like some other high-waisted bottoms. If you want the full set, note the top is not padded. I wore my Bristols 6 “nippies” under some iffy swimsuits, and they stayed on fine for me in the water. Those covers are the best for wearing under tricky tops/dresses, and can be reused dozens of times which helps make up for the cost.