Are you looking for the best Honolulu and Waikiki shave ice spots? This guide from a Hawaii local showcases all of the most authentic eateries!
Shave ice is arguably the most well-known dessert from Hawaii. This fruity, icy sweet treat is a must-have during your island vacation. So the only real question is where can you find the best shave ice in Waikiki and Honolulu?
What Is Shave Ice?
Shave ice is a popular Hawaii dessert. The base of it is very small pieces of ice, topped with delicious fruity syrups. And if you want to take things up a notch, you can add all sorts of fillings and toppings, like vanilla ice cream, condensed milk, and mochi balls.
As for how shave ice came to be, it’s one of those Hawaii dishes that’s a mash-up of cuisines. The Japanese have kakigori, the Chinese have bao bing, and the Koreans have patbingsu – all of which are sweet, ice-based desserts. When immigrants from these countries brought their flavors to the islands, they kind of created a mash-up of all of the above and put a new spin on things, creating the delicious treat that we know and love today.
Shave Ice or Shaved Ice?
This is my personal ridiculous little hill to die on. It’s shave ice, not shaved ice. And it’s DEFINITELY not a snow cone. Sometimes on the Big Island, they’ll say “ice shave,” which is also acceptable. And if we’re going with grammar argument, be prepared to start calling it “iced cream” instead.
All joking aside, if a place has “shaved ice” in the name, that’s pretty much a guarantee that it won’t be good or authentic. So always look for spots that say “shave ice” – or just pick one from the list below!
Shave Ice-Related Words to Know
Most shave ice lingo is pretty straight forward, which is nice. But there are a few flavors and toppings that you might not be familiar with if you’re not from the islands:
Azuki Beans: Also known as mung beans, azuki beans are a type of sweet bean often added to Hawaii desserts, including shave ice.
Calamansi: A type of lime
Durian: A tropical fruit known for its horrible smell but fantastic taste
Haupia: A Hawaiian coconut cream
Kinako Powder: Roasted soybean powder. It’s typically used in traditional Japanese and Korean versions of shave ice.
Kuromitsu Syrup: A type of black sugar syrup, often dubbed “black honey.” This is occasionally used as a shave ice topping, in a similar way that condensed milk is used.
Li Hing or Li Hing Mui: A bright red sweet, sour, spicy powder. It’s often used as a fruit topping, but it’s sometimes used on desserts, like shave ice, as well. Occasionally, shave ice places offer the full li hing mui seeds as a topping – and if you decide to opt for that, make sure you don’t eat the seed itself! (Think of it like a cherry pit.)
Lilikoi: Passion fruit
Lychee: A subtle, creamy fruit. I’d say it tastes sort of like pear and lime together.
Mochi Balls: A chewy Japanese dessert made of pounded rice and formed into little rounds
POG: passion (fruit), orange, and guava
Snow Cap: a sweetened condensed milk mixture drizzled on top of shave ice
Soursop: Also known as graviola, this fruit kind of tastes like a mixture of all of your favorite tropical fruits. I think it has banana and pineapple vibes, and maybe a bit of strawberry.
Tamarind: A tangy fruit that’s brown and fuzzy on the outside, but orange on the inside
Ube: Filipino purple yam
Yuzu: A citrus from Asia that’s similar to lime
Want to learn even more local lingo? Here are a few more words you’ll want to know for your trip to Hawaii.
Where Can I Find the Honolulu and Waikiki Shave Ice Spots?
Like is the case with many Hawaii foods, it can be tough to find the tastiest shave ice in Waikiki. Instead, consider journeying a little further into Honolulu, where you’ll find the best of the best.
All of that said, there are still a couple of Waikiki shave ice spots on this list, so if getting into Honolulu isn’t an option, you still can have some delicious shave ice.
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice
In my opinion, what makes Ululani’s stand out from the crowd is the ice texture. It’s hard to get the perfect balance between a-smidge-too-large-and-sharp and melts-immediately-in-the-Hawaii-sun, but Ululani’s has managed to do that. The result is a smooth, chilled treat that’s absolutely perfect.
On top of that, Ululani’s has a great array of flavors. Guava, tamarind, mango, and calamansi are just the start!
Address: 909 Kapahulu Ave unit 4, Honolulu, HI 96816
Shimazu Shave Ice
Shimazu Shave Ice is one of those local hidden gems that no tourist would even glance at twice. That’s just how unassuming it is. But it’s a real treat!
Located inside of Hawaii’s Favorite Kitchens, Shimazu Shave Ice serves up some of the coolest flavors – and the largest quantities – around. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen durian, soursop, lemon drop, or choco p-nut butter cup as flavors at any other Honolulu shave ice shop. And somehow, they’re all incredible!
*Note: Shimazu is a cash-only business.
Address: 3111 Castle St, Honolulu, HI 96815
Lahaina Shave Ice
If you’re looking for a Waikiki shave ice spot in particular, you’d be hard pressed to find one better than Lahaina Shave Ice. Named after the coastal Maui town, Lahaina Shave Ice offers loads of fun flavors and toppings. Try their Thai tea syrup with a drizzle of condensed milk on top, and you’ve got an absolutely incredible bite of shave ice.
On top of all that, Lahaina Shave Ice is within walking distance of many of the best Waikiki hotels, including the Halekulani, the Ritz-Carlton Waikiki, and the Hilton Hawaiian Village, so it’s easy enough to visit for a refreshing midday sweet.
Address: 247 Beach Walk Ste 100, Honolulu, HI 96815
Island Vintage Shave Ice
The Island Vintage brand is primarily known for their coffee – they’re actually on my list of the best coffee and breakfast spots in Waikiki and Honolulu – but their shave ice isn’t too shabby either.
While most Honolulu shave ice shops have their own signature creations, Island Vintage Shave Ice really thought theirs through. Each signature creation boasts multiple cohesive flavors, a filling, and a topping. Opt for the tropical Hawaiian Rainbow with ice cream in the center or go a little more out of the box with the green tea-focused, azuki bean-topped Green Island.
Kiosk at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center: 2201 Kalākaua Ave Kiosk B-1, Honolulu, HI 96815
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa Location: 2552 Kalākaua Avenue Unit K100D & K100E, Honolulu, HI 96815
Waiola Shave Ice
Waiola Shave Ice is consistently voted the best shave ice spot, not just in Honolulu, but in Hawaii in general. After all, it’s frequent appearances on Hawaii Five-0 and its lengthy list of flavors certainly help its reputation.
All of that said, Waiola Shave Ice is where you want to go if you’re all about the toppings and fillings. They make their azuki beans daily and their mochi balls twice a week – neither of which is an easy feat. Add some condensed milk and mochi balls into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a feast!
While their newer location on Mokihana St. has become more popular with visitors, consider heading to their original Waiola St. location to really experience that old-school atmosphere.
*Note: Waiola Shave Ice does implement surcharges for debit and credit card payments, as well as for orders of four or more shave ices. Consider paying in cash and splitting up your shave ice orders between multiple members of your party.
2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826
3113 Mokihana St, Honolulu, HI 96816
Monsarrat Shave Ice
Quite literally a hole-in-the-wall, it’s easy enough to pass Monsarrat Shave Ice and never even realize that you’ve missed a gem of a shave ice spot.
What makes Monsarrat Shave Ice stand out from the crowd is its syrups. While most (if not all) of the shave ice places on this list use natural syrups, Monsarrat takes it to the next level with its thicker, organic syrups. It’s almost like a runny jam, rather than a syrup – and I mean that in the best way possible.
While the flavors are limited in comparison to its competitors (there are only eight), they’re all absolute gold. Yuzu and mango are my two personal favorites, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them.
Plus, this Honolulu shave ice spot is also the only one that offers some of the more unique shave ice toppings, like kuromitsu syrup and kinako powder. It’s really a one-of-a-kind experience.
*Note: Monsarrat Shave Ice is a cash-only business.
Address: 3046 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
And there you have it! All of the best Waikiki and Honolulu shave ice spots! Are there any others you think should’ve made it onto this list? Let me know in the comments!
Read More About the Best Hawaii Food
• A Hawaii Food Bucket List
• A Hawaii Food Bucket List: Part 2
• 18 Best Desserts That You Need to Try in Hawaii
• 9 Best Hawaiian Restaurants in Hawaii
• The Best Poke in Honolulu & Waikiki: 5 Authentic Eateries
• Where to Get the Best Malasadas in Honolulu
• The Best Breakfast in Waikiki and Honolulu
• The Best Burgers in Honolulu & Waikiki: 10 Unparalleled Burger Joints
• The Best Oahu Restaurants for You to Try
• 11 Best Restaurants on Oahu’s North Shore
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