Travel Tips

Culinary Travel: Best Places for Shave Ice in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Locations in this article:  Chicago, IL Honolulu, HI

Matsumoto’s Shave Ice foundersIf you want a snow cone while vacationing in Hawaii, consider yourself out of luck.  

In Hawaii, locals eschew mainland-style crunchy ice saturated with artificial fruit-flavored syrup in favor of something far more authentic and exotic: the shave ice.

Ashley Honma tracked down five of the best places to experience traditional Hawaiian shave ice on the island of Oahu.

Only in the Aloha state will you find this refreshing treat perfected with the finest ground ice, true-to-life flavored syrups, and an exotic variety of toppings.

Shave Ice MachineAnd on the island of Oahu, this local favorite is so popular that the selection may actually seem daunting. How do you distinguish truly good shave ice from imposters?

Matsumoto’s Shave Ice is a name that has become synonymous with high-quality shave ice. Located on Oahu’s North Shore, this famous, family-owned store is known as the go-to spot for shave ice by both locals and tourists alike.

Is the drive really worth it? If you’ve already got the North Shore on your itinerary, it’s a great choice, but there are plenty of equally good places right in

Don’t miss the Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Honolulu, Hawaii.

Wailoa Shave IceFor the softest shave ice on the island, check out Waiola Shave Ice. Since 1986, the fine, melt-in-your-mouth texture has kept the family-run store a favorite among many generations of locals.

Choose from a variety of syrup flavors, including homemade lilikoi (passion fruit), “pog” (passion orange guava), and green tea, or try a specialty shave ice such as the popular azuki bowl, topped with condensed milk, mochi balls, and red azuki beans. Open year-round, the store has two locations on Wailoa Street and Kapahulu Street, with a third location coming soon. 808-949-2269 or 808-735-8886

More local recommendations: Ask the Locals Island Guide: Oahu, Hawaii.

Known for the sheer size of its shave ice, Shimazu Store boasts incomparable servings of its powdery creations. Want proof?

Shimazu’s “The Larry”Called “The Larry,” the store’s extra-large sized shave ice is made with the same amount of ice it takes to make more than five of its small sized shave ice! Also impressive is the store’s unique selection of syrup flavors, which include homemade signatures such as root beer float, red velvet, and crème brulee. They taste so good, they make finishing one of the giant cones easy. Located on North School Street in Liliha.

Wonder where the Obamas go for shave ice? Head over to Kokonuts Shave Ice & Snacks, located in Koko Marina Center on the east side of Honolulu. Although the drive may be farther out of town, the generous portions of soft shave ice topped with homemade syrups from pure sugar make the store worth paying a visit. Other noteworthy menu options include its snack specials, featuring bubble (boba) drinks in more than 30 flavors, acai bowls and smoothies, and dessert crepes. Oh, and if you are wondering what the President prefers, he ordered the small-sized lemon-lime and cherry shave ice. 808-396-8809

Want more presidential picks? Visit Barack Obama’s Chicago and Beyond.

Your Kitchen Shave Ice - Fujiyama BowlTucked away within the residential area of Palolo, Your Kitchen is a small contemporary Japanese restaurant quickly gaining recognition for its fluffy shave ice. Using real fruit puree syrup, it boasts an assortment of homemade syrup and ice cream flavors, including mango, haupia (coconut milk), and papaya.

And if you love green tea, the fujiyama bowl is sure to not disappoint—created to resemble Mount Fuji, the sundae made with homemade green tea and azuki ice cream, shave ice drizzled in homemade green tea syrup and condensed milk, with a scoop of azuki beans. 808-203-7685

By Ashley Honma for

For more hometown recommendations, don’t miss our Ask the Locals Island Guide: Oahu, Hawaii.

For more lesser-known spots in Hawaii’s capital, there’s also our Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Honolulu, Hawaii.

Get the latest travel news: Hawaii Celebrates Its Big 5-0 Dealing With Downturn, Offering Travel Deals.

And don’t miss our complete Hawaii Travel section.