The snowy treat known as shave ice (not “shaved”) came to Hawaiʻi with Japanese and Okinawan immigrants who started working on the islands’ sugar plantations in the late 1860s. By the mid-20th century, the modern version with its rainbow of flavors and additions such as ice cream and “snowcaps” of sweetened condensed milk was typically found at humble Japanese-American grocery stores such as M. Matsumoto on Oahu’s North Shore. Today, expect even more flavors, gourmet natural syrups, options such as chewy mochi balls or sweet red adzuki beans and of course lines of visitors and locals at popular purveyors such as Matsumoto’s. Here are our favorite spots for Hawaii’s signature cold treat.
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 possibly most importantly of all, provide the fun facts on the origins of local dishes.
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Oahu Shave Ice Map
Shave Ice on the South Shore
Island Vintage Shave Ice
Centrally located in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center (level two), this is a popular spot for breakfast and lunches – but we love their shave ice too! Everything here comes from local artisans and growers who have a commitment to producing quality products in Hawai‘i. Open daily 7 am to 8pm. islandvintagecoffee.com
Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha
This isn’t just any old shave ice. Uncle Clay’s homemade syrups are made from all-natural ingredients like fresh Hawaiian fruits, fruit purees, and natural cane sugar. No artificial sweeteners or colors are used. Open daily 12pm to 6pm. houseofpurealoha.com
Waiola Shave Ice
Waiola Shave Ice is known for making azuki beans daily and custard pudding and mochi balls twice a week. Their syrups are homemade using sugar cane, some with natural flavors, and Waiola offers more than a thousand flavor combinations. Open every day but Tuesday, 10am to 6pm. Waiola Shave Ice Facebook
Lahaina Shave Ice
With over 25 different flavors to choose from and toppings that range from ice cream to boba balls and fresh fruit, Lahaina Shave ice is worth the stop. It’s hard to miss the low-key location so make sure you search for their rainbow shave ice logo. Open daily from 10am to 8pm. Lahaina Shave Ice Facebook
Shave Ice on the West Side
Pāpālua Shave Ice
OPEN TO DISNEY AULANI GUESTS ONLY
Disney fans swear everything tastes better when it’s Mickey-shaped, and we’re inclined to agree. So of course the add-ons at Pāpālua Shave Ice at Disney’s Aulani don’t stop with sweetened condensed milk (a must!) and ice cream — you can also add ears to your ice. Choose three flavors from a huge range of syrup choices, including guava, coconut, mango and lilikoi, then get that camera out — those ears instantly transform your treat into Instagram gold. Open daily 11am to 5pm. disneyaulani.com
Shave Ice on the North Shore
M. Matsumoto Shave Ice
M. Matsumoto has been serving shave ice on the North Shore since 1951 — this is the shave ice OG! There could be a line but it moves quickly, and on a hot Hawaiian day this shave ice will cool you right off. Located in historic Haleiwa town, M. Matsumoto is surrounded by plenty of shops to check out as you indulge in your shave ice treat! Open daily 10am to 6pm. matsumotoshaveice.com
Kaimana Shave Ice
This family owned small business on the North Shore sells premium shaved ice. Choose from flavors like lychee, pineapple, lilikoi, acai, and more. Top it with chocolate drizzle, sweet cream, honey, and even add ice cream for the ultimate dessert. Open Monday through Saturday 12pm to 4:30pm. Closed Sundays. Kaimana Shave Ice Facebook
Wicked Hi Cafe
These slushies are delicious — local honey is drizzled on top of your choice of flavors, which are fresh, tropical and just the thing to quench your thirst. This is not your traditional shave ice, but these cups of frosty delights will hit the spot, we promise. Open Wednesday through Monday 9am to 6pm. Closed Tuesday. wickedhislushie.com