Located on the Road to Hana on Maui’s North Shore, the historic town of Paia grew from humble beginnings as a small Hawaiian plantation village during the peak of Maui’s sugar cane industry. The first sugar mill was constructed in the 1870’s, and 1896 a company store was established for plantation workers. Plantation camps housed workers of the Paia Sugar Mill, which was Maui’s oldest operating plantation until its closure in 2000. The growing sugar mill industry attracted workers from diverse cultures and races. Paia’s early residents were immigrants from many different cultures, including Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Puerto Rican, Portuguese, and Native Hawaiians. At one point, the population of Paia grew to more than 10,000 people, with Paia residents composing over one-fifth of Maui’s population.
Paia has been rebuilt twice. A catastrophic fire broke out in July of 1930, which destroyed the majority of the structures in Paia and left more than 150 residents homeless. In April of 1946, Paia was devastated by the largest tsunami in Hawaii’s history, the result of an earthquake originating in the Aleutian Islands. 159 people lost their lives throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Paia only had one death.
After Paia was rebuilt, workers in the Paia Sugar Mill began to abandon the areas. Many moved to Kahului and Wailuku where they could buy new homes. Paia is growing rapidly again, with diverse residents drawn from around the world. Paia is now renowned diverse local art galleries, one-of-a-kind shopping boutiques, antique shops and restaurants along with some of Maui’s best beaches.