If you've never experienced the glory of shave ice, you're in for a serious treat. Shave ice is a Hawaii dessert consisting of shaved ice that's been covered in syrup and toppings. Don't confuse it with a snow cone, which is made with crushed ice, and whatever you do: Don't call it shaved ice. It's shave ice. Got it? Good. Because there's nothing like grabbing a bowlful after the beach.
Some people like the ice shaved very fine; others prefer a chunkier consistency. Some prefer the classic flavors; others prefer newer, tropical or even organic syrups. Then there are the toppings, which might include a “snow cap,” or sweetened condensed milk; li hing powder, which is made from salty dried plums; a scoop of ice cream; or simply fresh fruit. Every truck and stand around Kauai has its signature flavors, and though it's worth following their suggestions, it's also important to think outside the box and choose your own adventure. Don't worry: Once you try one flavor, you can experiment with the others.
You could spend a whole week on Kauai trying a different shave ice shop every day. From Hanalei Wishing Well to Wailua Shave Ice in Kapaa, here are six of the best spots to try on your next visit.
As a favorite in Kapaa town and connected to the Ono Family Restaurant, this place is no stranger to crowds. But don't let the line fend you off. It moves fast, and just think of all the extra time you’ll have to debate flavors.Photo: Jojo's Shave Ice via Instagram
JoJo's has two locations on the island—one in Waimea and one in Hanalei—so there's ample opportunity to try this Kauai classic. Flavors are all over the map, ranging from coffee to coconut to green watermelon to mai tai, and you can add a scoop of "mac nut" or vanilla ice cream to any order.
This spot is known for its organic ingredients, fresh produce, home–made syrups and ice machine that’s cranked by hand. And if that already sounds like a Brooklyn barbershop, it’s the mustache–adorned straws and flavors named after popular mustache styles that really drive it home. They don't call it The Fresh Shave for nothing.
Made with fresh local fruit, Wailua's shave ice is not to be missed. Try the Coconut x Coconut x Coconut, a triple threat of coconut milk, haupia (a sweet coconut pudding dessert) foam and roast coconut flakes. The truck has become so popular, it's expanding to Portland and San Diego. Just pray your city's next.
This hot spot offers classic syrups, as well as organic options, and it's hard to go wrong with either. You can get a scoop of ice cream underneath or a snow cap—a layer of sweetened condensed milk—on top. Not a bad a way to end a day at the beach.Photo: Shave Ice Paradise via Facebook
Elsewhere on Kauai's north shore, Shave Ice Paradise is another standout. The pro move order here is a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream underneath the shave ice. If you're really serious, try the Bali Hai Sunset: sweet Asian plum, mango and passion fruit syrups on the ice, with that nutty ice cream on the bottom.