A rainbow of refreshment from the Aloha State


AN ICE TIME FOR ALL ­— (From left to right): Ume, yuzu and papaya with mochi flavored shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice. photo by Angela Kimi Hickman

AN ICE TIME FOR ALL ­— (From left to right): Ume, yuzu and papaya with mochi flavored shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice.
photo by Angela Kimi Hickman

Generations after Japanese immigrants introduced kakigori (shave ice) to Hawai‘i’s plantations, shave ice remains a favorite way to keep cool. Whether you are planning for an upcoming vacation or simply dreaming of escaping to the islands, here are a few of the top shave ice spots on O‘ahu, loved by locals and visitors alike.

Matsumoto Shave Ice
The tourists have returned to the North Shore, as evident by the enormous line leading up to Matsumoto’s. The humble general store started by Mamoru and Helen Momoyo Matsumoto in 1951 has evolved into likely the most beloved shave ice shop in the world. Despite its lengths, lines here move quickly, as the Matsumoto team works together like a syrup-fueled machine. Guests can watch their shave ice come to life, from the first scoop of azuki beans or ice cream to the crowning creaminess of the snow cap (condensed milk drizzle). Flavors now include more Japanese-inspired choices like ume (Japanese plum), yuzu (citrus fruit) and Ramune (a Japanese carbonated soft drink). Make sure to find your way back in through the Kamehameha entrance to check out their ever-growing line of colorful T-Shirts and tank tops.
66-111 Kamehameha Highway, Suite 605, Haleiwa, HI 96712 in the Haleiwa Store Lots.

Aoki’s Shave Ice
Longtime visitors to the North Shore remember Aoki’s as the iconic red wooden storefront located just up the street from Matsumoto’s, which was started by mother Sumie and son Michael Aoki in 1981. Four years after this location closed in 2013, Aoki’s brought its sweet treats back to loyal fans through an appropriately red wooden stand next to the Aoki’s North Shore Trading Company. Enjoy your favorite flavor combo in a classic paper cone (a rarity these days), with clear plastic holders available to keep things neat. Innovative offerings like their shave ice shakes (azuki optional) and Ice Cakes, which colorfully merge ice cream and favorite Aoki flavors are available for those who prefer things creamy. Check out their new all-natural flavors with a tropical vibe like dragon fruit, açai and ginger.
66-082 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI 96712

Old Sugar Mill Shave Ice
If bustling Haleiwa leaves you longing for some personal space, neighboring Waialua is a calming escape. Pull into the unpaved lot of the Old Waialua Sugar Mill to discover industrial buildings that have been transformed into a village of shops and small businesses, including Island X Hawaii. This haven for omiyage (gifts you give people after returning from a trip) from island small businesses also grows Waialua coffee and chocolate literally outside its back door. Their humble shave ice counter features snowy delights in classic local flavors, but the real standouts are their all-natural syrups made with “real North Shore grown goodies” like Waialua papaya, mango and pineapple. For a creamy break from the fruity, try the Waialua chocolate and coconut.
67-106 Kealohanui St., Waialua, HI 96791 in Island X Hawaii

Mountain Magic Shave Ice
Across the street from the popular Waikele Premium Outlets is a locals’ favorite for shave ice in Central O‘ahu. Long lines often move quickly but provide enough time to plan out flavor combinations and extras. Their extensive syrup menu features tropical favorites plus unique house flavors, including a tempting list of cream-based syrups. These treats live up to their “mountain” name, size-wise, so order accordingly. The homemade mochi (rice cakes) and snow caps are a must. And if obachan (grandmother) would rather have something warm, Leonard’s Bakery, with its must-have malasadas (Portuguese donuts), is conveniently next door. Have her pick up a few for you, too.
94-817 Lumiaina St., Waipahu, HI 96797 in the Waikele Center

Island Snow
Kailua lures in both locals and visitors with its onolicious (delicious) brunch spots (Cinnamon’s Restaurant and Boots and Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen spring to mind) and family-friendly beaches. James Kodama made Island Snow a post-sun destination in 1979, as a shop that featured both shave ice and a locally-made clothing line. Both keiki (child) size and large come with a scoop of vanilla ice cream included. Locally-focused upgrades include macadamia nut ice cream from island favorite Dave’s Ice Cream, mochi from the century-old Nisshodo Candy Store and a menu of all-natural syrups, including mango, mountain apple and guava.
130 Kailua Road, Kailua, HI 96734 in the Kailua Beach Center; 600 Kailua Road, Kailua, HI 96734 in the Kailua Shopping Center

Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha
Our last stop on this colorfully-snowy tour brings us to a humble strip mall on the island’s east side, perfect for a post-Hanauma Bay treat. Uncle Clay’s is said to have started the trend toward homemade, all-natural syrups on O‘ahu a decade ago. Their five specials each feature a lusciously-flavored shave ice mound with a ball of ice cream perched on top and adorned with fruit, condensed milk, mochi and other goodies, depending on your choice. Just find a conveniently-located table in the shopping center and savor every perfectly-sweet spoonful.
820 W. Hind Drive, Suite 116, Honolulu, HI 96821 in the Aina Haina Shopping Center

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