The snowy treat known as shave ice (not “shaved”) came to Hawaiʻi with the Japanese and Okinawan immigrants who worked on the sugar plantations in the 1860s. By the mid-20th century, the modern version of shave ice, with its rainbow of flavors and additions such as ice cream and “snowcaps” of sweetened condensed milk, was often found at Japanese-American grocery stores such as M. Matsumoto on Oahu’s North Shore.
Today, you can enjoy even more flavors, gourmet natural syrups, and options such as chewy mochi balls or sweet red adzuki beans. Here are our favorite spots for shave ice on the Big Island.
But wait, there’s more. We’re here to help demystify some of the unusual words you might see on menus like furikake, laulau and lilikoi — and explain which meat is being served and why. And possibly most importantly of all, provide the fun facts on the origins of local dishes.
If you’re happy with your meal, tag us @HawaiiIslander on Instagram to share the love.
Anuenue Ice Cream & Shave Ice
Anuenue offers tons of flavors of shave ice, and yummy ice cream too. The prices are reasonable, the service is friendly, and the portions are generous. This place tends to be busy, so don’t be discouraged if there’s a line. Cash only. Open daily 11am to 6pm.
Fresh Off the Grid
The Fresh Off the Grid food truck serves smoothies, juices, shave ice, homemade food and ice cream. If you’re headed to Pololu Valley on the northern tip of the Big Island, this is a great place to stop for a snack. Located right off the highway outside of Hawi, there’s shaded seating and a wonderful view to complement the shave ice. Open daily 11am to 5pm.
Kula Shave Ice
This family business is serving organic cold brew, acai bowls, and hand-crafted shave ice with organic fruit. Go for the rainbow shave ice topped with housemade mochi or the ”lilikoi dreamsicle” for a tart and refreshing taste. Kula Shave Ice also has a location in Haleiwa on Oahu. Open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Scandinavian Shave Ice
Called “Scandi’s” by the locals, these guys have been scooping shave ice in Kailua-Kona since 1990. Order the traditional style of an ice cream center topped with shaved ice—just select your flavor and snow cap (condensed milk or coconut cream). Scandi’s offers more than 65 syrup flavors. Open Monday through Saturday 11am to 9pm and Sunday 11am to 8pm.
Wilson’s By The Bay
Wilson’s offers shave ice, coffee and ice cream. They’ve got all the basics plus a few specials like the “Loconut”—shave ice with coconut syrup and a lime core cream. Sounds like a dream on a hot Hawaiian day! Open Tuesday through Sunday 12pm to 5pm. Closed Monday.