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Baldwin Avenue, Pā‘ia

Explore this Upcountry hide-away. What you find may surprise and delight you.

July 13, 2009
Starr Tendo

One thing’s for sure, whether you’re looking for exotic food or a plain ol’ hamburger, a pair of surf shorts or a teeny-weenie yellow polka-dot bikini, a Bob Marley poster or a fine piece of art, Pä‘ia’s got it.

History
Pā‘ia’s history is rich. The little town was formed by numerous events that give it the character and complexity for which it is now famous.

In the 1880s, Alexander and Baldwin built Maui’s first sugar mill on Baldwin Avenue. Naturally, this created jobs and brought many Japanese, Portuguese, Filipino and Chinese workers to the area.

Article Photos

Although fire and flood threatened Pā‘ia’s economy, flower power and the surf craze created
decades of sustainable living. Today, boutiques and cafés line Baldwin Avenue.

Pā‘ia Town grew along with the sugar industry. By the 1930s and ’40s, Pā‘ia had grown to a bustling “Noisy Town” with a population of around 10,000. It was quite the up-and-coming community, with a movie theater, hospital, restaurants, hotels and a train depot.

In 1930, a fire destroyed many structures in Pā‘ia and left about 150 people homeless. Just 16 years later, in 1946, the town was hit by a major tsunami.

One person died, and there was a lot of damage to homes and buildings. In the ’50s, the cane industry started to lose some of its steam and after the fire and tsunami, many local families relocated to Kahului, or “Dream City,” to start over.

A little over a decade after the tsunami, a new wave washed onto Pā‘ia—the Hippie Generation. Mainlanders seeking a beautiful haven where they could “love and be loved” flocked to the area, and played a major part in Pā‘ia’s transformation. They set up arts-and-crafts stores and opened vegetarian restaurants, painting them in a multitude of colors, and bringing a new set of ideals over to a formerly very “local” town. A stroll down Baldwin Avenue proves their long-lasting influence.

In the early 1980s, the town was a lot different than it is now. For example, our church met where Mana Foods is today, and the best choice for an after school snack was Horiuchi’s Market, where a surf shop now exists. It was in the late ’80s and early ’90s that the Ho‘okipa surf craze began, and surf shops started popping up all over town. Ocean lovers from all over the world have been making Pā‘ia their home ever since. In Pā‘ia, there were always neat things for sale in the shops, and that tradition carries on ….

Pā‘ia today
Driving down Baldwin Avenue in the middle of the day reminds me a lot of maneuvering through Tijuana. Street parking is limited—it’s like winning the lottery if you can score a great parking place. But it’s well worth the effort in order to shop at some of Maui’s most unique boutiques and funky shops. And don’t forget, there is public parking between Mana Foods and Moana Bakery and Café.

After you’ve dined at one of Pā‘ia’s many excellent eateries and perused the many great boutiques and shops.

 
 
 

 

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