Right off the busy streets of Pa‘ia, down a side lane and tucked inconspicuously between buildings, an adorable oasis of a coffee shop has been quietly transforming into a community hot spot. Tucked away off Hana Highway, Paia Bay Coffee & Bar has been bringing a piece of the jungle to the middle of Maui’s favorite beach town. Its beautiful setting features an array of tropical plants and custom woodworked furniture around a multi-level deck garden. Already well-known for its breakfast and coffee, the restaurant has recently expanded its offerings.
“People are finding us off the beaten path,” said owner Liam Grist when I stopped by the cafe to chat. This year, the new owners have been reimagining their space and adding a variety of events like the traditional happy hour and live music, along with some more off-beat and hard to find (on Maui) activities like game nights, movie nights, and art exhibits. Since taking over the business last year along with co-owner Danny Keevil, Grist has been quietly expanding hours to include a dinner menu and cultivating a space that’s both beautiful and welcoming.
“I’d really like to see this space become something where a lot of the locals come and not just have meet-ups and play board games, but really dive into some good conversation and have fun together. I really want to see it become the community hub of Pa‘ia, for people to have birthdays, post-events, and provide musicians and artists a place where they can perform and showcase. I think that’s been needed in Pa‘ia for so long,” Grist told me.
Over some specialty drinks served in vintage copper cups and the freshest imaginable sashimi, we sat down to talk story about making his vision a reality and the restaurant’s commitment to fresh food, community and good vibes.
“With the night time, we have so many more locals here, supporting their friends playing music, supporting the art shows, and coming for movie nights. A lot of regulars,” Grist enthused. “Plenty of people have been coming for pau hana; we’ve been trying to keep our prices as affordable as possible and I think people have appreciated that.”
The shop now offers dinner, cocktails, pupus, and live music during their “Magic Hour” from 4-8pm. Alongside an eclectic and delicious dinner menu, the cafe offers craft cocktails, beer, and wine with entertainment five nights a week. The cafe also recently started offering a movie night. As I sat down with Grist, regulars started trickling in to watch Big Wednesday. “Next week will be be Bridesmaids,” he said. During a recent screening of Avatar, “all the kids were super stoked on the free hot popcorn.”
Almost every day of the week, there’s something fun going down at Paia Bay Coffee & Bar. Entertainment ranges from Monday’s movie night to Bossanova music on Taco and Tequila Tuesdays. “Wednesdays are Wahine Wednesdays, which are frickin awesome,” explained Grist. “It’s been nuts the past couple of times. It’s something that keeps growing. It’s a women’s empowerment event, so there’s a host of the evening, and there’s a musician, then a female behind the bar, female in the kitchen, all female staff, and it’s just trying to keep the vibes for women.” Past Wahine Wednesdays have featured lady singers like Grace Welton, DJs, and Jimbolaya & Ashley Toth.
The cafe offers Maui Brewing Company favorites Bikini Blonde and Big Swell IPA and awesomely-named craft cocktails, including the delicious, lighthearted Moana Trails made with PAU Vodka, and the more serious and sassy Salty Kook Margarita with guava, jalapeno, cilantro, and Hawaiian sea salt. “There’s a story behind each cocktail,” said Grist.
To go with the yummy drinks, the dinner menu has a variety of flavors, including a Mediterranean platter, street tacos with a vegan option, watermelon salad, macadamia nut pesto crostini, and poke with ahi, local avocado, brown rice, furikake, and microgreens so fresh it seems like they were picked that day.
The shop has not abandoned its coffee-shop mission, and still offers a variety of caffeinated options and breakfast and lunch from 7am-4pm each day. There are plenty of coffee-shop standbys in the form of coffee, tea, and espresso, with specialty drinks like the Kickin’ Coconut Coffee and matcha lattes. The shop also offers non-coffee drinks like a fresh-squeezed ginger lemon turmeric juice shot, unique sodas, homemade lemonade, and hot chocolate for those who need a little less amping up. The coffee is fresh and bold, and they also offer cold brew.
The food is super fresh and simple but tasty, with good variety. For breakfast, the cafe offers acai bowls, an organic greek yogurt parfait, a variety of organic scrambled eggs options, and bagel sandwiches that range from smoked salmon to bacon to vegan. Their croissants are baked fresh each morning. For lunchier options, there are a variety sandwiches, with standard tuna and turkey along with more unique flavors like the goat cheese, brie, and apple sandwich with tomato and herb mayo.
Among other cool things about the restaurant, they use all compostable products, earning them recognition from the Surfrider Foundation for their efforts. “That was important to all of us,” said Grist. “We’re stoked to be one of the few restaurants on Maui to be Platinum Certified,” meaning their environmentally conscious efforts have given them a Platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurant status.
The charming little spot works for a morning or evening fix, so check it out for your next coffee date, remote work session, or night out. An up-to-date music calendar can be found on their website, and the restaurant’s carefully curated Instagram is another good way to figure out the night’s happenings.
Paia Bay Coffee & Bar
115 Hana Hwy., Pa‘ia
Open daily, 7am-8pm
Photos by Sean M. Hower