GIMME 'DAT SHAVE ICE ICE BABY

All shave ice is not created equal. I’m a firm believer of that.

Though shave ice is one of Hawaii’s signature desserts and go-to snacks, there are so many variations in flavors, creations, combinations, ice consistency and texture, toppings, and even hybrids. Saying all shave ice is the same is like saying all Asian people are the same. Exactly. I decided to give you a list of my top 3 so far, in no particular order. I say so far because I’m always open to new and better, while I know damn well that some of the classics are classics for a reason.

UNCLE CLAY'S HOPA (HOUSE OF PURE ALOHA)

The original location is in Aina Haina shopping center, but the newer one is in town, Ala Moana Shopping Center (2nd floor next to Macy’s).

  • Parking: Easy, since it’s in the mall.
  • Flavors: Super fresh and HOPA specializes in all natural ingredients and all locally sourced when possible. You can actually taste the real fruit in the syrups! Legit! The strawberry syrup actually has strawberry seeds in it! Each signature item contains real, fresh fruit so you can feel less guilty.
  • Variations: Build-your-own, premade specials, and alohasadas (creamy dreamy ice cream sandwiched between mini malasada). TIP - Get a scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream. It’s seriously delicious and pairs well with anything on the menu you decide to order.
  • Ice consistency: Soft but can get icy and slushy if you eat slow like me.
  • Toppings: The mochi balls are my favorite - made in house, not sweet and perfectly chewy - Adds to the texture of the whole experience! Larger than most mochi!
  • Price: The “tiny” creations run about $4.50 and the “regular” $7.25.
Classic Rainbow Shave Ice from HOPA
Classic Rainbow Shave Ice, small size

ISLAND VINTAGE SHAVE ICE

If you’re in Waikiki, make sure you stop by the tiny kiosk stand in front of Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center near the outdoor stage. You’re probably already out enjoying the scenery Waikiki has to offer, so it’s a perfect pitstop to cool off and enjoy some shave ice.

  • Parking: Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. Most shops here will validate.
  • Flavors: Delicious- The one that stands out for me is lychee mint, although a popular one is mango. PRO TIP: during mango season, you can add fresh, local mango for an extra $2 #worthit.
  • Variations: All of their shave ice menu items are already created for you, so you just pick the one you want.
  • Ice Consistency: OMG so pillowy soft! It’s basically like eating heavenly snow drenched in the most delicious syrups and surrounded by yummy, colorful toppings.
  • Toppings: many people enjoy the popping boba, while again, I am drawn to the mochi. Not sure if it’s made in-house but it definitely tastes like it is. They’re sweet but not overly and the texture is chewy perfection.
  • Price: $7.95 for the Pink Island, my personal favorite.
Pink Island Shave Ice at Island Vintage Shave Ice
Pink Island Shave Ice (my fave!)

WAIOLA SHAVE ICE

Childhood nostalgia. There are two locations. Both are a bit tucked away, one in a residential area and the other behind some busy restaurants off Kapahulu Ave. 

  • Parking: The one off Mokihana St. has its own lot but IT IS TINY. Good luck. If the parking gods are on your side, you won’t have a problem, but you may have to wait for a spot to open up or just find street parking.
  • Flavors: A boatload to choose from. A bit overwhelming but also fun for the adventurous. They do have a few premade specials but the way to go here is choose-your-own-adventure. The syrups definitely taste on the sweeter side and artificial, but it reminds me of my childhood and hey, sometimes, that’s just what you need.
  • Variations: Like I said, just choose your own adventure. Don’t be afraid of being judged for some weird flavor combination. Just get what you want. That’s half the fun! You can choose to have it all one flavor (boring), or up to a few! You can even add in ice cream and some other toppings.
  • Ice Consistency: Very soft and will melt fast. It’s okay! It comes with a spoon AND a straw, so you slow pokes like me can slurp up every last drop that melts into a pool in the bottom of your cup.
  • Toppings: Lots of local toppings available. My favorite here is the li hing powder. It adds a nice tangy bitterness to offset the syrupy sweeeeeet
  • Price: $3 for a large cup but you can add ice cream and other toppings for extra. Very reasonably priced.
Strawberry Lychee Shave Ice at Waiola Shave Ice
Strawberry Lychee Shave Ice with Li Hing Powder

VERDICT?

You really can’t go wrong at any one of these. It all just depends on your preference and palate. Some prefer the natural fruits for their shave ice, while others just want a reminder that their childhood is not long lost.

What’s your favorite shave ice spot on the island?


Hanna Na
Hanna Na

Hanna is no stranger to change, having moved over two dozen times over the course of her life. Through those changes, her love of food has been her only constant. Hanna is a lover of fiery flavors, and believes there's no such thing as "too spicy". When she's not eating her face off, she's teaching middle school English. Check out Hanna's Instagram page @hungryhungryhannana to eat with your eyes or discover some picturesque beaches and hikes.

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