Paia and Dinner on the North Shore: Maui Upcountry Road Trip

Paia and Dinner on the North Shore: Maui Upcountry Road Trip
I left the dairy and continued heading toward the coast. While this technically ended my Upcountry tour, Maui's North Shore has its fair share of local flavor, albeit of the surfing variety. As you might expect from those who live wave to wave, the North Shore's main town, Paia, is geared toward those on a budget-well, as budget as Maui gets. Its few blocks of storefronts are full of bikini boutiques, crowded indie cafes and more than one head shop. To be honest, it seemed a little grungy to me, particularly when compared with the upscale galleries and shops in Makawao.

Luckily, my hotel, the Paia Inn, proved to be a suitable refuge. From the street, you can't tell that the cheerful yellow building housing the lobby is just one part of a sprawling complex of beachy-boutique cabins that wind down to the water. My apartment-sized room came with a living room, full kitchen and outdoor patio (and shower!). I had time for a quick dip before dinner so I grabbed a complimentary body board and headed out to the ocean, where I floated for an hour or two.

Road Trip Starting Point:
Exploring Maui's Upcountry

My job requires me to eat by myself quite a bit, and while I'm used to it, I always appreciate it when servers go out of their way to make sure that things go smoothly. That means they are solicitous without being overbearing, chatty without being familiar -- and they don't assume that you'll tip less. When I saw the crowds at Mama's Fish House, an iconic restaurant outside Paia that finds itself on many of Hawaii's top foodie lists, I worried that I'd feel out of place among the noisy vacationers and family groups. I didn't need to worry, as my server proved appropriately casual.

The entree prices, however, were anything but. While I'm used to splurging on occasional meals, entrees in the $40-$50 price range are still a shock. Sure, the menu points out exactly who caught the fish (I was told that my Ono, for example, had been caught "along the north shore of Maui by Jeff Holland"). And I did love my sashimi appetizer, served with delicious Hawaiian salt varieties that I vowed to buy later. Yet it seemed an indulgence, particularly on a weeknight; I felt a little guilty splurging on such a rich meal without my husband along to share. I can see why many people save this spot for their big night out on Maui.

Afterward, I took a walk along the sand out front (along with several couples, strolling hand in hand). As I looked out onto the water, the moon peeking through the palm trees, I realized how relaxed I was. My day in Upcountry had worked its aloha magic.

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