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Lilikoi Cream at Wailua Shave Ice
Meghan McCarron

The 9 Most Refreshing Shave Ice Spots in Hawai‘i

Where to find Hawai‘i’s cold treat, from nostalgic, highlighter-colored cups to avant garde creations

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Lilikoi Cream at Wailua Shave Ice
| Meghan McCarron

Enjoyed year-round by young and old alike, shave ice is Hawai‘i’s most beloved cold treat and a must for any traveler visiting the islands.

While many cultures have their version of shaved ice covered in sweet syrup, Hawai‘i’s iconic treat can be traced back to the Japanese immigrants brought to work on the sugar and pineapple plantations in the mid-1800s. They introduced kakigori, the Japanese term for shaved ice, repurposing carpenters’ hand planes to create shavings from large blocks of ice. Back then they were topped simply, with sugar or molasses syrup, but modern-day shave ices boast domes of Technicolor, artificial rainbows with add-ons like mochi, ice cream, and snowcaps (sweetened, condensed milk).

With something so simple — ice and syrup — the details matter. For the perfect shave ice, the ice should be powdery, soft, and fine, with a consistency of snow (no crunchy ice flakes). The ice should be softly mounded in a cup — packed, hard ice absorbs flavorings poorly, while loose ice collapses under the weight of syrup. These days, there’s a shift away from the artificially flavored and fluorescent-colored syrups toward those made from real fruit. Either way, the flavors should be bright so they don’t get lost in the ice.

Here are the best places to experience the cool, fleeting joy of shave ice.

Part of the Eater Guide to Hawai‘i

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Wishing Well Shave Ice

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5-5080 Kuhio Hwy
Hanalei, HI 96714
(808) 639-7828
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From this stationary food truck in Hanalei, find organic syrups and artificial ones, along with fresh fruit and honey toppings. Try the recommended combinations, such as Tropical Bliss — a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream buried under ice soaked with liliko‘i and coconut syrups and topped with papaya chunks and coconut flakes.

Shave ice with star fruit
Meghan McCarron

2. Wailua Shave Ice

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4-831 Kuhio Hwy
Kapaʻa, HI 96746
(808) 634-7183
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Is there such thing as a shave ice chef? Before returning home to open this retro-style red trailer with high school friend Joshua Tamaoka, Brandon Baptiste, a local Kaua‘i boy (his father was the late mayor Bryan Baptiste), attended the Culinary Institute of America and worked as a line cook at Per Se. His sophisticated sense of texture and flavor is reflected in combinations like the Lava Flow, topped with a pillowy coconut foam, and the Lilikoi Cream, with fresh liliko‘i and a vanilla bean milk. Some flavors are seasonal, all are natural, and they tend toward the lighter, less sweet side, with the ice often doused with fruit juices instead of syrups.

From above, a cup of shave ice streaked with syrup and dotted with fruit seeds, with a wooden spoon sticking out to one side
Lilikoi Cream
Meghan McCarron

3. The Fresh Shave

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3540 Koloa Rd
Kalaheo, HI 96741
(808) 631-2222
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The Fresh Shave, run out of an adorable 1960s Lil Loafer chrome trailer, is one of the new wave of shave ice spots on Kaua‘i (the other two are listed below) where there are no mixing and matching of flavors. Instead, there are only preset menu combinations, named after mustache styles, ranging from the healthyish to decadent. For something light, try The Chevron, a coconut and lime concoction topped with coconut chia-seed cream. For maximum hedonism, order The Dirt McGirt off the secret menu, made with Kauai coffee cold brew, chocolate, and coconut cream, crowned with chocolate cookie crumbles.

Strawberry, banana, and cream shave ice at The Fresh Shave
Meghan McCarron

4. Matsumoto Shave Ice

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66-111 Kamehameha Hwy #605
Haleiwa, HI 96712
(808) 637-4827
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In 1951, Matsumoto opened as a grocery store, but over the decades, its shave ice became the main draw. Shave ice now dominates the business completely. In 2015, Matsumoto renovated along with chunks of Hale‘iwa’s main drag, transforming a sleepy sugar plantation town and realm of surfers and hippies into a slick tourist destination (though the town still tries desperately to hang on to its roots). The new Matsumoto is bright and shiny and streamlined, but the essentials haven’t changed: more than 1,000 shave ice are churned out every day, each one drenched in vivid colors and (artificial) flavors. If you want to order a rainbow — a classic combo of red, blue, and yellow syrups — this is the place.

Rainbow shave ice with mochi
Meghan McCarron

5. Waiola Shave Ice

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2135 Waiola St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 949-2269

One of Hawai‘i’s oldest shave ice shops still in existence (open since 1940), Waiola offers the quintessential shave ice experience: a highlighter-bright rainbow of colors poured over super soft, fluffy snow, served through the window of a worn neighborhood convenience store. The ice practically evaporates on the tongue, leaving behind just the cool, sweet syrup that may taste artificial in flavor but will conjure the childhood you had, or wished you had, in Hawai‘i.

Cap your ice with the deceptively named liliko‘i (passionfruit) cream, which is more like a thick syrup the consistency of honey, studded with liliko‘i seeds.

Two locations:
2135 Waiola St., (808) 949-2269
3113 Mokihana St., (808) 735-8886

A pair of rainbow shave ices
Meghan McCarron

6. Island Vintage Shave Ice

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2201 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 922-5662
Visit Website

This is luxe shave ice, available in two of the island’s poshest open-air shopping centers. Come here for intensely flavored syrups, a touch sweeter than at other all-natural shave ice spots. Order their concoction called Heavenly Lilikoi, and dig through ice saturated in passionfruit and strawberry syrup to the layer of frozen yogurt, creating spoonfuls of creamy and icy, tart and sweet in every bite. Fresh, chewy mochi and popping boba add even more delightful textures.

An especially all mound of two-flavor shave ice topped with chopped strawberry and mochi, held in front of a park setting
Shave ice from Island Vintage
Island Vintage [Facebook]

7. Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha

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820 W Hind Dr #116
Honolulu, HI 96821
(808) 373-5111
Visit Website

For decades, Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha was known as Doe Fang, the neighborhood’s candy store. Jars of crack seed (salty and sweet preserved fruit) lined its shelves, and an Icee machine churned blue and red slush. It struggled along until owner Clayton Chang and his nephew Bronson had the then-novel idea to reopen as an all-natural shave ice shop in 2011. The new model still attracts the old crowd — afternoons are packed with construction workers, Korean War veterans, and young chatting families. They gather over real-fruit syrups in tropical flavors like guava, pineapple, and liliko‘i that imbue the fine ice with soft pastels.

Shave ice with ice cream
Meghan McCarron

8. Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice

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790 Front St
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 877-3700
Visit Website

When on Maui, a stop at Ululani’s is a must. There are five locations, all of them extremely popular. The ice is shaved so fine it’s practically velvety, and with almost 50 flavors, Ululani’s satisfies those who want all-natural fruit syrups as well as those for whom shave ice isn’t shave ice unless there’s blue raspberry and pink bubblegum.

Shave ice with mochi, snow cap, ice cream, and li hing mui powder
Ululani’s/Facebook

9. Kula Shave Ice

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57 Mamo St
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 987-0245
Visit Website

Tiffany and Luke Golden opened Kula Shave Ice in Hilo, where they only use house-made syrups sans artificial flavors. Find tropical flavors including guava and soursop, as well as combinations such as Lilikoi Dreamsicle — ice saturated with the eponymous tart fruit, mounded over vanilla ice cream, and topped with condensed milk. Add-ons to your bowl include mochi and even poi. You can also find Kula Shave Ice in Haleiwa, on the north shore of Oahu.

A mound of shave ice in vibrant ombre hue topped with small chunks of mochi on a background of tropica leaves
Hilo Sunrise (strawberry, guava, pineapple, mochi)
Kula Shave Ice [official]

1. Wishing Well Shave Ice

5-5080 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714
Shave ice with star fruit
Meghan McCarron

From this stationary food truck in Hanalei, find organic syrups and artificial ones, along with fresh fruit and honey toppings. Try the recommended combinations, such as Tropical Bliss — a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream buried under ice soaked with liliko‘i and coconut syrups and topped with papaya chunks and coconut flakes.

5-5080 Kuhio Hwy
Hanalei, HI 96714

2. Wailua Shave Ice

4-831 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa, HI 96746
From above, a cup of shave ice streaked with syrup and dotted with fruit seeds, with a wooden spoon sticking out to one side
Lilikoi Cream
Meghan McCarron

Is there such thing as a shave ice chef? Before returning home to open this retro-style red trailer with high school friend Joshua Tamaoka, Brandon Baptiste, a local Kaua‘i boy (his father was the late mayor Bryan Baptiste), attended the Culinary Institute of America and worked as a line cook at Per Se. His sophisticated sense of texture and flavor is reflected in combinations like the Lava Flow, topped with a pillowy coconut foam, and the Lilikoi Cream, with fresh liliko‘i and a vanilla bean milk. Some flavors are seasonal, all are natural, and they tend toward the lighter, less sweet side, with the ice often doused with fruit juices instead of syrups.

4-831 Kuhio Hwy
Kapaʻa, HI 96746

3. The Fresh Shave

3540 Koloa Rd, Kalaheo, HI 96741
Strawberry, banana, and cream shave ice at The Fresh Shave
Meghan McCarron

The Fresh Shave, run out of an adorable 1960s Lil Loafer chrome trailer, is one of the new wave of shave ice spots on Kaua‘i (the other two are listed below) where there are no mixing and matching of flavors. Instead, there are only preset menu combinations, named after mustache styles, ranging from the healthyish to decadent. For something light, try The Chevron, a coconut and lime concoction topped with coconut chia-seed cream. For maximum hedonism, order The Dirt McGirt off the secret menu, made with Kauai coffee cold brew, chocolate, and coconut cream, crowned with chocolate cookie crumbles.

3540 Koloa Rd
Kalaheo, HI 96741

4. Matsumoto Shave Ice

66-111 Kamehameha Hwy #605, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Rainbow shave ice with mochi
Meghan McCarron

In 1951, Matsumoto opened as a grocery store, but over the decades, its shave ice became the main draw. Shave ice now dominates the business completely. In 2015, Matsumoto renovated along with chunks of Hale‘iwa’s main drag, transforming a sleepy sugar plantation town and realm of surfers and hippies into a slick tourist destination (though the town still tries desperately to hang on to its roots). The new Matsumoto is bright and shiny and streamlined, but the essentials haven’t changed: more than 1,000 shave ice are churned out every day, each one drenched in vivid colors and (artificial) flavors. If you want to order a rainbow — a classic combo of red, blue, and yellow syrups — this is the place.

66-111 Kamehameha Hwy #605
Haleiwa, HI 96712

5. Waiola Shave Ice

2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826
A pair of rainbow shave ices
Meghan McCarron

One of Hawai‘i’s oldest shave ice shops still in existence (open since 1940), Waiola offers the quintessential shave ice experience: a highlighter-bright rainbow of colors poured over super soft, fluffy snow, served through the window of a worn neighborhood convenience store. The ice practically evaporates on the tongue, leaving behind just the cool, sweet syrup that may taste artificial in flavor but will conjure the childhood you had, or wished you had, in Hawai‘i.

Cap your ice with the deceptively named liliko‘i (passionfruit) cream, which is more like a thick syrup the consistency of honey, studded with liliko‘i seeds.

Two locations:
2135 Waiola St., (808) 949-2269
3113 Mokihana St., (808) 735-8886

2135 Waiola St
Honolulu, HI 96826

6. Island Vintage Shave Ice

2201 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
An especially all mound of two-flavor shave ice topped with chopped strawberry and mochi, held in front of a park setting
Shave ice from Island Vintage
Island Vintage [Facebook]

This is luxe shave ice, available in two of the island’s poshest open-air shopping centers. Come here for intensely flavored syrups, a touch sweeter than at other all-natural shave ice spots. Order their concoction called Heavenly Lilikoi, and dig through ice saturated in passionfruit and strawberry syrup to the layer of frozen yogurt, creating spoonfuls of creamy and icy, tart and sweet in every bite. Fresh, chewy mochi and popping boba add even more delightful textures.

2201 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

7. Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha

820 W Hind Dr #116, Honolulu, HI 96821
Shave ice with ice cream
Meghan McCarron

For decades, Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha was known as Doe Fang, the neighborhood’s candy store. Jars of crack seed (salty and sweet preserved fruit) lined its shelves, and an Icee machine churned blue and red slush. It struggled along until owner Clayton Chang and his nephew Bronson had the then-novel idea to reopen as an all-natural shave ice shop in 2011. The new model still attracts the old crowd — afternoons are packed with construction workers, Korean War veterans, and young chatting families. They gather over real-fruit syrups in tropical flavors like guava, pineapple, and liliko‘i that imbue the fine ice with soft pastels.

820 W Hind Dr #116
Honolulu, HI 96821

8. Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice

790 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761
Shave ice with mochi, snow cap, ice cream, and li hing mui powder
Ululani’s/Facebook

When on Maui, a stop at Ululani’s is a must. There are five locations, all of them extremely popular. The ice is shaved so fine it’s practically velvety, and with almost 50 flavors, Ululani’s satisfies those who want all-natural fruit syrups as well as those for whom shave ice isn’t shave ice unless there’s blue raspberry and pink bubblegum.

790 Front St
Lahaina, HI 96761

9. Kula Shave Ice

57 Mamo St, Hilo, HI 96720
A mound of shave ice in vibrant ombre hue topped with small chunks of mochi on a background of tropica leaves
Hilo Sunrise (strawberry, guava, pineapple, mochi)
Kula Shave Ice [official]

Tiffany and Luke Golden opened Kula Shave Ice in Hilo, where they only use house-made syrups sans artificial flavors. Find tropical flavors including guava and soursop, as well as combinations such as Lilikoi Dreamsicle — ice saturated with the eponymous tart fruit, mounded over vanilla ice cream, and topped with condensed milk. Add-ons to your bowl include mochi and even poi. You can also find Kula Shave Ice in Haleiwa, on the north shore of Oahu.

57 Mamo St
Hilo, HI 96720

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