Reached early on by eastbound travelers along the Hana Highway, Lower Paia Park offers pleasant and well-developed beach access along the Maui North Shore. Fronted by Paia Bay, this nice stretch of sand draws many locals as well as tourists, not least for its boogie-boarding and body-surfing.
A stone’s throw from Paia Town, Lower Paia Park has free parking (which may fill up on afternoons and weekends). You’ll find restrooms and showers here, but no lifeguard. Besides the Paia Bay Beach, the park offers a lawn space, a basketball park, a skate park, and a youth center. No surprise it’s so popular among young folks.
Consistent nearshore and offshore breaks draw surfers, body surfers, and body-boarders to Paia Bay. The healthy size of the waves and the regular potential for strong surf make these breaks more the domain of experienced wave-riders. If you’re more of a casual boogie-boarder type, these may not be the waters for you to play in. That’s especially true when the big swells of winter hit, which churn up heavy surf and hazardous rip currents.
But even if you’re not enjoying the breaks yourself, it’s fun to watch the surfers and boogie-boarders at work. There’s ample shade along the beachfront for kicking back.
It can get windy at Paia Bay Beach, by the way. (That shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise: After all, you’re only a stone’s throw from the global windsurfing hotspot of Hookipa!)
Another reason to visit Lower Paia Park? The decent odds of seeing basking green sea turtles on the beach! Green turtles (or honu, as they’re called in the Hawaiian language) are the only sea turtles known to come ashore to bask. (Females of other sea turtle species haul out on beaches to lay eggs, but that’s basically it.) And they seem to do it much more regularly and consistently in the Hawaiian Islands than anywhere else.
Scientists believe these basking green turtles are thermo-regulating, warming up in the sun-warmed sand. Indeed, basking tends to be more common in the winter months when ocean waters are cooler. But just why Hawaii seems to be the locus for the behavior isn’t really clear. (It may at least partly reflect the longtime protection sea turtles have enjoyed here: The marine reptiles may feel secure enough to scramble onto beaches for some sun-worshipping.)
It’s not uncommon to see green turtles lounging on Paia Bay Beach. If you do, give them plenty of room: 10 feet at a minimum. Seeing this globally rare phenomenon is a real treat, but you should do so at a distance and otherwise avoid disturbing these magnificent critters.
Hanging out at Lower Paia Park, you’re just a hop, skip, and jump from Paia Town, known for its colorful hippie-ish vibe and plentiful shops, cafes, and eateries. So you’ve got refreshments, shopping, and people-watching near to hand.
You can head westward along the shoreline from Lower Paia Park to access other North Shore beaches, including Baldwin and Baby beaches. Paia’s “Secret Beach,” not far west of this park and only accessible to tourists by foot, is a clothing-optional beachfront.