Shave ice has been around a long time—longer than you think. When Duke Kahanamoku took the gift of aloha and the sport of surfing around the world in 1912, shave ice was already being enjoyed by Japanese plantation workers, who brought the tradition of shaving ice to Hawai‘i’s plantations in the late nineteenth century. They enjoyed the cool, delectable treat on Sundays, the only day of the week they didn’t have to work in the fields. By the 1920s, shave ice gained popularity beyond the plantations and shave ice shops began popping up across the state. Today, it’s safe to say that while shave ice may only last five minutes in your bowl—eat it quick before it melts—enjoying shave ice is a timeless, 100 percent-Hawai‘i experience.
Waiola Shave Ice on O‘ahu, Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice on Maui, Wilson’s By The Bay on the Big Island, and Wishing Well Shave Ice on Kaua‘i have found the secret ingredients that tap into the history, cultural diversity, and local flavors of the islands, while simultaneously serving up the best shave ice, aloha, and smiles.
Wishing Well Shave Ice has deep roots in the quaint seaside hamlet of Hanalei. Seemingly protected from the ills of the world beyond Mount Wai‘ale‘ale, this iconic shave ice shop was founded by Auntie Diana in 1983. In 2015, two local professional surfers—Jesse Merle Jones and Aamion Goodwin—partnered up and bought the shave ice shop, vowing to honor Auntie Diana’s commitment to quality and her local legacy, “I have memories as a little kid getting shave ice from Auntie Diana,” Jones says. “She used to give us kids a gummy worm on top of our shave ice, something I’ll never forget.”
Jones and Goodwin have built on Auntie Diana’s favorite recipes and created a new, fruit-forward menu. They serve organic flavors from seasonal local fruit, in addition to the standard list of flavors. They’ve also added some texture to shave ice via fresh fruit. Wishing Well has become a shave ice trendsetter, offering fresh fruit toppings on top of syrup-soaked pillows of shaved ice.Next time you’re in Hanalei, check out Wishing Well Shave Ice. Order up a shave ice with syrups made from fresh, ripe, in-season fruits and you’ll be able to taste why shave ice and Hawai‘i are a perfect match. “Shave ice is more than a treat; it’s an activity that’s filled with fun and delight for people all ages,” Jones says. “We have people that have been stopping here for 30 years. They have great memories eating shave ice and watching the waterfalls in Hanalei. Wishing Well brings people together by spreading aloha, and we are very grateful to be part of it.”
Waiola Shave Ice can trace its heritage back to 1940 as a mom-and-pop market in the Mo‘ili‘ili neighborhood of Honolulu and was originally known simply as the Koide Store. At the time, numerous shave ice haunts could be found in this blue-collar Honolulu neighborhood. However, when the road was widened in the 1970s, many of the shops were forced to relocate or close. However, the owners of Koide Store, just a block away on Waiola Street, decided to try their hand at shave ice and began selling their now ultra-famous sweet dessert from an exterior window. Today, Waiola Shave Ice is one of the most famous shave ice shops on O‘ahu and has expanded to three locations across the island. It’s consistently ranked in local polls as one of the city’s favorites and has been featured in the Hawai‘i cop-show Hawai‘i 5-O, on the Travel Channel, and gets rave reviews from social media influencers from the most popular food blogs such as Eater, Serious Eats, BuzzFeed, and Bon Appétit. Even President Barak Obama visits Waiola Shave Ice when he’s on island.
At Waiola, it’s all about flavor and all of their syrups are homemade and sweetened with sugar cane. Even the ice block is homemade. When you order your frosty treat at Waiola, you’ll find that they mold their shave ice into fluffy layers to create a smooth, creamy texture. You can always go with the classic flavors, like strawberry, vanilla, or banana, or expand your palette with local-style flavors, such as lychee, lilikoi, and mango. Don’t forget to top off your Waiola shave ice with decadent lilikoi cream. You can even pair your shave ice with li hing mui products, snacks, even a souvenir T-shirt.
“Shave ice and Hawai‘i have been synonymous for as long as I can remember,” says David Yamashiro, co-owner of Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice on the Valley Isle. O‘ahu born Yamashiro and his wife Ululani—yes, the Ululani of Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice—moved to the Pacific Northwest after getting married and opened a shave ice business. The duo introduced Hawaiian-style shave ice and aloha to the region with great success. But a longing for family and the islands brought them home five years later, this time to Maui. The couple partnered with a long-time friend and opened Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice in a 65-square-foot shop on Front Street.
Fast-forward 10 years and the Yamashiro’s now have six shave ice shops across Maui. What’s the secret to their success? “Our shave ice is a true gourmet product,” David explains. “We make our own ice and 100 percent of our syrups right here. We use ultra-purified water for our ice and syrups, pure cane sugar, and real fruits. Every flavor is bold and tastes exactly as it should.”
David’s favorite flavors are lilikoi, calamansi, and coconut. He says that in addition to enjoying a smooth and delicious cold treat on a hot day, his local customers love their crack seed store, stocked full of li hing mui, wet lemon peel, li hing mango, and pickled mango. Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice has become an iconic Maui brand for good reason—extremely fine ice, bold syrups made with real fruit, and a heaping dose of “Alohatude.”
“That’s aloha with gratitude,” David says. And when you serve that up with shave ice, nothing could be better.
Wilson’s By The Bay has everything a legitimate shave ice shop in Hawai‘i should have. They carry an array of homemade syrups—18 to be exact—and local add-ons like ice cream, li hing mui seeds, azuki beans, and sweet cream are routinely added to their delectable treats. They also carry snacks, candy, ice cream, frozen yogurt, and souvenirs as well. And they also hold the ultimate barometer for the best shave ice: a near constant line of customers snake out the door.
Wilson’s By The Bay, a family owned and operated business, is located in historic downtown Hilo, just around the corner from Hilo’s famous bayside farmers’ market on the Big Island. Owner Leyson Sakai became the proprietor of Wilson’s By The Bay just two years after graduating from Hilo High. Since then, Wilson’s (as it’s known locally) has become a landmark for sweet treats and aloha vibes. “I enjoy doing it. It’s a lot of fun,” Sakai says. “When you get shave ice, the little kid in you just comes out.”
Sakai has mastered the secrets of making the homemade syrups with fresh, local fruit and keeps the crack seed store filled with treats. She also has something that keeps locals and visitors coming back year after year, affordable prices and plenty of aloha.
We hope you enjoy the tastes of our Shave Ice Collection!