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There’s the mainland-style snow cone and then there’s Hawaii shave ice, a treasured 50th state confection that’s perfect for a hot tropical afternoon.
So what’s the difference? It begins with the ice itself. In Hawaii, it’s finely shaved (not crushed or ground) to the texture of soft snow, then packed into a paper or plastic cup.
Gourmet syrups add to the allure of shave ice. Tastebuds tingle to the likes of pineapple, passion fruit, lychee, kiwi, mango and coconut. Clients who can’t make up their minds can order several flavors to create a rainbow effect.
Some folks like to sweeten the shave ice experience with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. Locals prefer to add a scoop of azuki beans, Asian red beans that have been boiled, mashed and sweetened.
After polling a few insiders on their favorite haunts, I came up with the following suggestions for stellar shave ice stands. However, I’m quick to admit that with so many options around the islands, this list is just the tip of the iceberg.
When ordering your own be sure to call it shave, not shaved. And whatever you do, don’t ask for a snow cone. One taste and you’ll know the difference.
Anuenue Shave Ice Don’t let its hole-in-the-wall ambience fool you; this longtime hub sells some of the best shave ice on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kawaihae Shopping Ctr., 61-3665 Hwy. 270, Kawaihae.
Scandinavian Shave Ice Across from the sea wall, this town landmark has been around for more than 18 years. Ask them to put mac nut ice cream in the bottom of your cup.75-5699 Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona.
Jo-Jo’s Anuenue Shave Ice Worth the drive to the west side, Jo-Jo’s makes nearly every local list. Look for it in a shopping complex just off Hwy. 50.5 Pokole Rd., Waimea.
Ono Family Restaurant and Shave Ice This local favorite on Kauai’s east coast sells scores of flavors, from standards such as guava to oddities including pickle and peanut butter.4-1292 Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa.
Wishing Well In the heart of Hanalei town on the north shore, this roadside van serves specialties such as the Haena Sunset, a passion fruit/pineapple/guava/strawberry combo. 5-5066 Kuhio Hwy., Hanalei.
Tom’s Mini MartOrder a shave ice with mango syrup and sit on the rock wall outside. You’ll fit right in with the locals.372 Waiehu Beach Rd., Wailuku.
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice Try any of its four locations and get ready for an icy tropical treat, enhanced by homemade syrups and Maui’s own Roselani’s ice cream.790 Front St., Lahaina.819 Front St., Lahaina.61 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei.333 Dairy Rd., Kahului.
Matsumoto Shave Ice A north shore mainstay for 60 years, this gem often has long lines, but the wait is worth the mouthwatering results.66-087 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa.
Shimazu Store A neighborhood mom-and-pop store, Shimazu is prized for its ultra-generous portions and unusual flavors including buttered popcorn.330 N School St., Honolulu.
Waiola Shave Ice Since 1940, this unassuming shop has satisfied customers with more than 30 flavors of Hawaii shave ice and fun toppings such as mochi balls. 2135 Waiola St., Honolulu.