The 7 Best Hawaiian Shave Ice Spots
Just finish a surf session? Spent all day at the beach? Feel your underwear sticking to your body? If so, it’s time for shave ice. (Yes, shave not shaved.) Brought to Hawaii by early Japanese immigrants, Hawaiian shave ice is powder fine, and comes in a myriad of flavors. If you’re from the mainland and only familiar with snow cones made with gritty, crushed chunks of ice, we pity you. So hop on the next flight to Hawaii, and check out our 8 Best Hawaiian Shave Ice Spots.
1. Matsumoto’s Shave Ice on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s THE place to go after swimming or surfing. In operation since 1951, the new digs on Kamehameha Hwy still have that small town feel. Lines may be long, but they move pretty fast. There are about 40 different flavors to choose from, but our top picks are White Cake and Coconut Cream.
Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods eating Shimazu shave ice. PC: Travel Channel
2. Shimazu Store on School Street or on Castle St. off of Kapahulu. Get the small. Trust me. Or if you want to eat a shave ice bigger than your head, order the Larry. I once ordered this for my nephews, and three small hungry boys couldn’t finish it. This family run operation is constantly trying out new flavors, some of which sound pretty kooky. For example, at the Caslte St. location they now have Rainbow Drive-In Chili flavored shave ice. I’ll stick with the Crème Brulee and Li Hing Mui.
Rainbow shave ice with snowcap and mochi. PC: Ululani's
3. Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice. If you live on Maui, you have eaten at Ululani's. They make their own syrups and use only 100% cane sugar. No corn syrup fructose fakey flavors here. Shave ice combined with Roselani's ice cream, which is also made on Maui, tastes heavenly. Our pick is the Haleakala. It's Coconut Leche topped with condensed cream snow cap. Throw some toasted coconut on that and winnahs! Update: Ululani's can also now be found at the King Kam Hotel in Kona on the Big Island!!!
Strawberry Shave Ice topped with haupia cream and lilikoi butter. PC: Kula Shave Ice
4. Kula Shave Ice. Located in Hilo near the farmer's market, this is our go to place for all-natural fruit flavored syrups and unusual toppings and fillings. Their Lava Flow pictured above is one of our favorites! The haupia cream and lilikoi butter topping take this simple shave ice from yum to drool-worthy. They also offer Waipio poi (taro) as a filling instead of ice cream. So make sure to support local and look for them on the Big Island and also on the North Shore of Oahu.
#7 with ice cream and homemade custard pudding. PC: Kristel O.
5. Ice Garden in Aiea. Run by two Taiwanese sisters, who speak little to no English, their Taiwanese style shave ice is unlike anything you’ve tried before. The highlights here are the milk flavored ice, the homemade custard pudding, and the mochi balls that have been cooked to pillowy perfection. My favorite is the milk ice with taro and mochi balls. It looks like gravy on mashed potatoes, but tastes like sweetened poi on a bed of flaky milk ice. They also have chocolate, peanuts and oatmeal as toppings. Go nuts! Try everything.
6. Scandinavian Shave Ice in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Located on Ali’i Drive, Scandis is a Kona landmark. Try the Lava Flow with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream in the center and drizzled with Strawberry and Pina Colada syrup. The ice cream is made here on the Big Island and is to die for. Also, no matter what flavors you choose, you MUST get it topped with condensed milk. The workers draw beautiful pieces of art on your shave ice, making it almost too pretty to eat. On the other hand, if you don’t care about pretty and just want more sugar, ask for “white out.” They’ll literally coat your entire shave ice with white condensed milk.
Halohalo with shaved cantaloupe on top. PC: OBISIC
7. Original Big Island Shave Ice in Waikoloa at the Queen's Shops. This is our FAVORITE shave ice spot of all time. Family owned and operated, this mom and pop stand makes the most over the top flavor combinations. They've got Chantilly, Kona Coffe, and Haupia flavored shave ice! Our go-to order is the Halo Halo. There are a lot of versions of this Filipino dessert, but this one is amazing. Starting with an azuki bean base, then layers of ice and sweet potato, and lastly topped with a giant scoop of Ube (sweet potato) ice cream, fruit jellies, cream syrup, shaved cantaloupe, boba, whip cream, and condensed milk. Seriously ridiculous in all the right ways.