Three Shave Ice Spots You Must Visit to Cool Off When You’re in Kailua
Old-school liliko‘i to oh-so-local guava-chili peppa flavors feed your appetite for frozen treats.
Right about the same time the summer heat goes into serious overdrive, so does our obsession with shave ice. If we could, we’d survive solely on the stuff during daylight hours when the heat is high and the humidity is even worse. That’s why there was no conceivable way that we’d make it through this month without doing a check-in with a few shave ice purveyors (obligatory, of course; editors can be so demanding), and what better place to do it than in this island’s beach town-iest beach town: Kailua.
Note: We will continue to refer to it as “shave ice” not “shaved ice” throughout this entire write-up because that’s what it’s called.
PHOTO: KAWEHI HAUG
We started at our favorite standby. The place where most born-and-bred Kailuans get their first drippy cone of ice and sweet syrup: Island Snow. Having just recently expanded to include a second location in the Times Supermarket shopping center, we picked the new location as the starting point for our tour de shave ice.
Island Snow’s new spot is a sleek, modern, industrial take on its flagship location, with the shave ice counter occupying a corner of the surf gear shop. The flavors haven’t changed much over the years, which is one of the things we like most about Island Snow. We know what we like and we get it every time: the keiki cup with strawberry and vanilla and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. While we acknowledge that the syrups here are about as natural as a houseplant that never dies, we must also note that they are awesome.
We love the bright red of the strawberry syrup and the electric blue of the vanilla. It’s the same way we prefer the green gummy bears to actual green apples. We also prefer to get our Island Snow shave ice at the original location in Lanikai. There’s just a certain nostalgia about standing in line for shave ice behind bikinied kayakers and sandy keiki and then eating it huddled around the two benches, all sticky with countless drips of pineapple-, li hing-, guava-, liliko‘i- and bubblegum-flavor syrups. Also: the president likes the OG location too. Just saying.
Island Snow, two locations: 130 Kailua Road in the Kailua Beach Center and 600 Kailua Road in the Kailua Shopping Center, islandsnow.com
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The Local Hawai‘i
Photo: Odeelo Dayondon
While we’re on the topic of world leaders and shave ice, an open letter to the president:
Dear Mr. President,
We’ll keep this short. You may want to consider changing your preference for shave ice. Because if you only go to one place for shave ice while on the island, you should go to The Local Hawai‘i. That is all.
We’ll elaborate. The Local Hawai‘i, like Island Snow, is a shave ice counter inserted into a boutique, and it makes really, really good shave ice. We feel good about saying that this is the best shave ice we’ve ever had.
The syrups are all made with locally sourced fruit and are made for The Local by popsicle pros ‘Ono Pops. But it’s not the local fruit thing that we’re stoked about, though that is a nice bonus. These syrups are exactly what they claim to be. The mango pours over perfect ice—the fluffy but substantial kind—with bits of mango. The Crack Seed Lemon Peel syrup tastes like you’re licking the inside of a lemon peel jar (and that’s a very good thing). The vanilla syrup is flecked with Tahitian vanilla bean that we’re told is grown by “the sweetest Tahitian woman in Lāi‘e,” and we believe it. The flavors are what they say they are, and that’s big points in our book.
But there’s one super-inspired flavor combo that we can’t get enough of: Guava Hawaiian Chili Peppa paired with Mountain Apple. If you think mountain apple isn’t a strong enough flavor to hold its own as a shave ice syrup, then you’ve never stood under tutu’s tree sneaking mountain apples until you were sure you’d spoiled your dinner appetite. This mountain-apple syrup takes you right back there, and paired with the pulpy guava chili-pepper syrup, with its concentrated guava flavor and the warm finishing kick of the chili pepper? It’s truly as perfect a match as Spam, nori and rice.
The Local’s list of syrup flavors, from liliko‘i to ginger to tamarind to our other favorite, Kona coffee, can also be made into sodas mixed to order. The Kona coffee soda with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is almost as good as the shave ice.
131 Hekili St., $5.50 for shave ice, $4.50 for a 16-ounce soda, thelocalhawaii.com
Kailua General Store
Kailua’s other go-to spot for shave ice (besides Island Snow) is the Kailua General Store, a little curio shop in the tiny warehouse district of Kailua, across from Midas. It is also just a counter with an ice-shaving machine and a stash of syrup bottles.
SEE ALSO: 11 Hawai‘i General Stores You Must Visit
It’s pretty much a sure bet that the little parking lot will be full at any given time with people jonesing for shave ice, and for good reason. All of the syrups are made in-house, and they are all good and—unusual for syrups—not actually very syrupy. That is, they manage to keep the sugar content in check while still delivering on taste. Kailua General Store is owner-operated, which means that getting shave ice depends on the availability of the owner to actually shave the ice. The last time we went, the shave ice machine was being serviced and so we’re forced to wait until it’s back up and running, which we’re told will be in about a week or so. We’re going to save our liliko‘i shave ice quota for next week.
171d Hāmākua Drive, 261-5681, kailuageneralstore.com
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