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 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 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 Kapahulu location they now have Rainbow Drive-In Chili flavored shave ice. I’ll stick with the Crème Brulee and Li Hing Mui.
3. Your Kitchen on 10th Avenue in Kaimuki. This tiny hole in the wall makes Japanese style shave ice or Kakigori. They also make a pork bowl with a tempura soft boiled egg that tastes like magic. All of their syrups are homemade and delicious, but our top picks are the Fujiyama and the Tropical bowls. The Fujiyama is Green Tea flavored shave ice with a scoop of Azuki beans and Vanilla ice cream on the side. The Tropical bowl (See above photo) comes with Haupia and Mango syrup, with actual bits of mango, and a scoop of homemade Haupia ice cream. It’s soooooo good.
Yuzu shave ice with Azuki and a bit of mango on top.
4. Monsarrat Ave. Shave Ice. Located in a tiny alley next to Pioneer Restaurant across from Waikiki Elementary. If you blink, you’ll miss it. Parking is almost impossible to find, so be prepared to walk. Their fruit flavored syrups have actual bits of fruit, and aren’t overly sweet. In fact, they’re more like a fruit puree. The owner layers the syrup and ice, so every bite is delicious. Because their syrups are all-natural, you feel like you’ve eaten something lighter and healthier. I’m definitely getting the Kuromitsu (Okinawan black sugar) with Kinako soy bean powder on top the next time I go.
#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.
Patbingsu comes with an espresso that you can pour on top to melt your ice quickly or drink afterwards to warm you. PC: Romin V.
6. En Hakkore Café, located in Keeaumoku Supermarket, serves up Korean style Patbingsu shave ice. Korean shave ice is flakier and more about the fruit and toppings than the syrup. This humongous treat is big enough for three people to share, so be prepared. A mountain of ice is covered with strawberries, kiwi, blueberries, grapes, azuki beans, mochi, walnuts and almonds. So pretty much, everything but the kitchen sink. In Korea, the fruit topping changes by season, so here’s hoping they have mango next summer.
7. 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.