Hawaiian shave ice (note: ‘shave’, not ‘shaved’) is a delicacy that is nostalgic to locals for its duo of artificial flavored syrups and brightly colored plastic flower cups. It was brought to the islands by Japanese immigration workers in the 1900s. And was it the perfect match to Hawaiian warm weather! Today you can find anyone from old-timers to children crowding eagerly around store fronts to enjoy this delicacy. Soft and powdery hand shaped domes infused with colorful sections of flavor are a joy to behold.
Although the original shave ice still has devoted regulars lining up, a fresh new style of shave ice has made an appearance in recent years. To support local farmers in the islands, some Hawaiian shave ice businesses have begun crafting all-natural handmade syrups that come directly from the source of fresh fruits, spicy roots, and local delicacies. The resulting shave ice has a natural, beautifully muted color palette with endless varieties of delicious flavors. From more traditional banana, fresh mango and juicy pineapple flavors to very local lilikoi and island grown coffee to more exotic pickled mango and li hing mui – Hawaiian shave ice will make you return for more!
Apart from requesting a condensed milk snow cap or a side scoop of ice cream, the new syrups are not overly sweet. They no longer require a straw since the consistency of the natural syrups tend to absorb into the ice as opposed to pooling on the bottom. Often served in biodegradable or paper cups, this next level shave ice is gaining its own devoted crowd by being better for the environment, better for health, and better for Hawaii’s local economy. Visitors to the island of Oahu can live like the locals and indulge in Hawaiian shave ice at many places across the island. Below are some of the local favorite shave ice places on Oahu.
Where to Enjoy Hawaiian Shave Ice on Oahu
Located across from Whole Foods in Kailua town, the first thing you should know about The Local is the legendary source of their syrups. By pairing up with the creators of Ono Pops, The Local pours island-inspired juicy concoctions onto their hand-shaved and gently packed mounds of ice. Visitors who enjoy sweet and floral notes should opt for the Mountain Apple shave ice sourced from the Haiku Valley tree stand. Those who crave spice will enjoy heat from the Guava with Chili Pepper shave ice featuring Big Island guavas and Oahu chili peppers.
Matsumoto Shave Ice
As one of the originals in the Hawaiian shave ice game, a visit to Matsumoto Shave Ice is never without a long line. Even though it builds up anticipation, the wait can actually help when it comes to deciding what to order as there are 37 different homemade flavors to choose from. With three sizes to choose from, the Ichiban Special is the recommended treat that comes paired with a scoop of ice cream and adzuki bean, topped off with a cap of condensed milk, joined by pieces of mochi, and nestled in a waffle bowl.
Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha
Coined as a taste of pure aloha in a bowl, it really is the aloha that makes a difference at Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha. Starting out as the owner of a crack seed and candy shop, Uncle Clay joined together with his nephew and created HOPA shave ice featuring nothing artificial, local-grown produce, Hawaii-made ingredients, and 100% pure aloha. With the option to build your own or select from their special creations, HOPA shave ice is fashioned with a mound of ice flakes sourced from pure Hawaiian waters and drizzled with cane sugar sweetened syrups that are blended in-house. They have various toppings to choose from with the locally adored ones including azuki beans, li hing mui powder, and haupia sauce. Be sure to add on some cute, daily-made pieces of heart shaped mochi for the ultimate shave ice experience.