Island Flavors: A Guide to the Best Shave Ice Shops in Hawai‘i
Here’s the thing about shave ice spots in Hawai‘i…just because a tourist bus drops a few dozen people off at one spot, doesn’t make it the best. Rather, it takes more than hype and an Instagram-able mural to offer the best shave ice. Especially in Hawai‘i, THE gold standard as far as shave ice joints. It’s in the details like house-made haupia-foam, the consistency of the ice, all-natural syrups, and tried-and-true topping-pairings that keep locals and visitors alike lining up, open to close.
The following is our top-5 shave ice favs across the Islands to frequent. Lucky for you, it’s summertime weather year-round in Hawaii, so there’s really never a wrong time to partake in the delicacy. And as far as footwear goes, we have some suggestions for water-friendly sandals that you can spray off just in case your shave ice drops on your bare toes.
Wailua Shave Ice (Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i)
*also a location in Portland, Oregon!
Potentially THE best shave ice in all of the Hawaiian Islands, Wailua is creative, gourmet, thoughtfully crafted shave ice creations with all-natural vegan options. The shave ice spots that the foodie world’s been talking about for the last 10 years now.
Must Try: The Ube (ube syrup, coconut milk, ube foam, roasted coconut flakes)
Best Enjoyed After: Exploring Kauai’s lush Eastside, beaching it at Kealia, or hiking on the North Shore
Best OluKai's for the Job: Ulele: With as much support as a pair of sneakers, the Ulele are our ultimate go-anywhere sandal, the kind you can take on a Kauai trail, and stay comfy in them all the way to shave ice at Wailua after
Wilson’s By the Bay (Hilo, Hawai‘i Island)
Just a straight up solid, no-frills, but super ono (delicious) shave ice spot in Hilo. With amazing customer service and staff that cares about the quality of your cone — you can’t go wrong here while you’re in Hilo.
Must Try: The Wilson’s Works (shave ice with pineapple, lilikoi, li hing mui syrups, crème on top and ice cream at bottom) and the Hawaiian Rainbow (shave ice with li hing mui, pineapple, and vanilla syrup)
Best Enjoyed After: Strolling through old Hilo Town, or a visit to nearby Akaka Falls State Park
Best OluKai's for the Job: Puawe: Minimalist recovery sandals with squishy foam cushioning that double as adventure-ready, waterproof go-to footwear.
Waiola Shave Ice (Honolulu, O‘ahu)
A secret-ish gem of a rootsy, local shave ice spot in Honolulu, the original location on Waiola St in a residential neighborhood off of McCully has possibly the best shave ice on the island. Consistency-wise, the shave ice is perfection, with a grip of interesting, local toppings to load up your cone. Waiola’s also just a cool general store in the community where you’ll run into just-surfed, sandy locals and determined tourists alike.
Must Try: Their countless, awesome, super local toppings on any shave ice flavor like: mochi balls.
Best Enjoyed After: Shopping for hours around Ala Moana or Ward area
Best OluKai's for the Job: Tuahine: An everyday sandal built with waterproof leather and stitching inspired by the winds of Hawai‘i.
Kula Shave Ice (North Shore, O‘ahu and Hilo, Hawai‘i Island)
An absolutely amazing and delicious shave ice stand located at Kuilima Farms right outside of Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Oahu, Kula Shave Ice is inventive, modern, and made from all natural, organic ingredients. Of course, certainly not too modern for local favorite toppings like mochi and azuki beans.
Must Try: Soursop Shave Ice Topped with Homemade Haupia Cream, Mochi, Azuki Beans and Lilikoi Butter
Best Enjoyed After: Surfing on the North Shore, hiking trails on the Upper Eastside, or a long hot day cruising at the beach near Goat Island.
Best OluKai's for the Job: Hila: Your go-to summer sandal, made with water-repellent materials and a puffy criss-cross strap.
Island Snow (Kailua Beach Location, O‘ahu)
A shave ice staple in Kailua Town for the last 30+ years, Island Snow has grown into a surf brand with several other locations around the island of Oahu — but their shave ice is still killer. Frequented by the likes of former President Barack Obama (who has stayed in Kailua over the years), Island Snow has both all-natural syrups and regular (more) sugary ones — with their signature ice cream at the bottom of the cups.
Must Try: Any of the natural flavors with 2 scoops of ice cream at the bottom
Best Enjoyed After: Kayaking to Flat Island or the Mokulua Islands (Twin Islands) off of Lanikai
Best OluKai's for the Job: ‘Ohana: OluKai’s essential beach sandal (for men and women) for any and every aquatic adventure and/or day just chilling on the beach