dessert Hawaii Hawaiian Kauai Oahu reviews shave ice

Shave Ice Showdown!

It’s hot in Hawaii year round, and shave ice is a great way to cool off. Most people know the Big 3 in Oahu, but there’s one in Kauai that’s giving them a run for their money. Here my list in order of preference.

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice

Waiola is the king of shave ice on Oahu with its finely shaved, snow-like ice and the killer selection of toppings. Plus it’s near Waikiki, especially Waiola II on Kapahulu Avenue (below), so you don’t have to drive an hour and half outside of town to get some. It’s really no contest.

Waiola Shave Ice

On our last trip back, I discovered the power of Calpico at the Kapahulu store. Calpico is a Japanese drink with a tart yogurt flavor that is popular in Asia and other fine Asian delicacies, such as Yakult, yogurt soju, and Pinkberry.

Melona and Calpico Shave Ice
Waiola’s Melona and Calpico shave ice

When you combine Calpico with Melona on shave ice, it’s the best of both worlds. The sweetness of the Melona works perfectly with the sour Calpico, and with vanilla ice cream on the bottom, you create a wonderful sweet-and-tart-and-creamy shave ice.

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
2135 Waiola Street
Honolulu, HI 96805 map

525 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 map

Hawaiian Blizzard

If shave ice was judged on purely on the ice, Kauai’s Hawaiian Blizzard might be the best in Hawaii. Yes…better than my Oahu favorites, Waiola and Aoki’s, and it makes Matsumoto look like a regular snow cone. It’s the lightest, fluffiest and most divine ice I’ve ever had.

shave ice

Hawaiian Blizzard is a shave ice stand that sets up shop Mon-Fri from 1:30–5pm in front of the Big Save market in Kapaa. On our trip to Kauai in January, we landed in Lihue at around 3pm on a Friday and went straight to Kapaa to get some shave ice before driving down to our homebase of Poipu. The detour was definitely worth the trip.

Flavor selection is pretty standard, but I was excited that they had Melona, which in my mind is the perfect shave ice flavor. They might not have the flavors and varieties that the other guys offer, especially pretty standard add-ons like red beans or vanilla ice cream, but you can also opt for a “Snow Cap,” a drizzling of evaporated milk on top of the shave ice that’s a delicious alternative.

Hawaiian Blizzard
(in front of Big Save Market)
4-1105 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746 map
Hours: Mon-Fri 1:30pm-5pm

Aoki’s Shave Ice

Aoki’s a couple hundred feet from their more famous competitor Matsumoto Shave Ice. The lines are much shorter, which means you generally don’t have to wait 20 minutes to get your shave ice, which is a big deal when it’s hot.

I like Aoki’s more than Matsumoto for one simple reason…the ice is shaved a lot finer, so it’s smooth and melts instantly once it hits your tongue. It’s actually very similar to Waiola, and my wife and I favor Waiola to Matsumoto anyway. Aoki’s is also where I discovered that Melona is my favorite shave ice flavor.

Aoki's Lychee and Melona Shave IceAoki’s Lychee and Melona Shave Ice.

If it’s your first time to visit Haleiwa, then go to Matsumoto’s just because it’s the “famous” one. But if you’re in Haleiwa for a repeat visit to Matsumoto’s, stop by Aoki’s and do a taste test and see which one you really like.

Aoki’s Shave Ice
66-117 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96715 map

Matsumoto Shave Ice

Matsumoto was my first shave ice experience and it set an excellent baseline for every other shave ice I’ve ever had. But with Aoki’s just a few hundred feet away, and the fact that my wife’s family is walking distance from Waiola, there’s really no need for us to go to Matsumoto anymore.

Nowadays, I only go into Matsumoto if we’re with a shave ice newbie or to buy souvenirs because they’ve got some of the best T-shirts on the island. The selection is great and they have sizes for everyone from newborns to adults.

Melona and Ling Hing Mui Shave Ice
Picture by Soozums at flickr.

There will likely be a line when you get to Matsumoto’s because it’s so popular, but you’re on vacation…relax and check out the souvenirs and study the menu while you’re in line. But Matsumoto’s fame is probably best reserved for the souvenirs.

Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Highway
Haleiwa, HI 96712 map
Web site

A shout out to House of Annie for inspiring this post.