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Best Surf Towns: No. 4 Paia, HI

Best Places in the U.S. to Eat, Sleep, Work, and Shred

| posted on April 05, 2009

Kalei Kuahane. Photo: Antico

Filled with small shops and restaurants, healthy food and yoga studios, and a population of hippies, pseudo-hippies, windsurfers, surfers, and artists, Paia stands out as one of Hawaii’s most unique surf towns. And while the waves on Maui’s North Shore may not carry the clout of Oahu’s north-facing equivalent, Paia serves as an essential blend of consistent surf, a laid-back vibe, and all the ingredients for a healthy surf lifestyle.

Waves
World-renowned for wind- and kitesurfing, the North Shore of Maui definitely has its share of wind. But if you can handle the daily sideshores that pick up mid-morning, surf options abound. Paia Bay offers fun beachbreak waves right in town, plus several miles of reef provide multiple right and left peaks along the coast as you head further east. Ho’okipa, located just three miles from Paia, serves as the major proving ground for North Shore Maui surfers—where the surf world has recently seen an emergence of a slew of upcoming pros. Add to the equation close access world-class Honoloa Bay and even closer proximity to Jaws, and Paia becomes a place where one can satisfy all of their wave-riding pursuits.

Culture
Maui is a blend of the laidback vibe of the outer islands and the tourist-laden bustle of Oahu. And Paia, in particular, is a town that breeds not only thriving local and surf communities, but that also attracts a certain kind of liberal/spiritual/(dreadlock-loving) type and, as such, a unique culture has spawned that rivals that of Australia’s Byron Bay. But, as is the case with any small town—and especially island towns bound by oceans—diversity is limited. Maui’s major city, Kahului, is just 5 miles away though, meaning that the rest of the world is simply a long and expensive plane ride away.

Quality of Life
Paia has all the pleasures of island living, where a life centered on surfing can surely flourish—it’s a place where you can pick fruit from your backyard, see people you know at every turn, ride your bike to mom-and-pop shops, and surf multiple sessions a day. But while the ultimate surf-lifestyle is possible there, it can be hard to achieve, given the cost of living and scarcity of jobs. But if you can find a way to manage those possible stumbling blocks, a very high quality of life is certainly possible in Paia.

Average Water Temp:
76
Average Air Temp: 76
Median Income: $66,384
Median Home Price: $556,859
Most Common Industry: Accommodation and food services
Population: 2,752
Nearest city with pop. 200,000+: Honolulu, HI (103.4 miles , pop. 371,657)
Premier Surf Spots: Ho’okipa
Local Talent: Ian Walsh, Tom Dosland, Kai Barger, Tanner Henderson, Matt Meola, Albee Layer

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