Hawai‘i Island’s Kula Shave Ice Brings Its Natural and Organic Bowls to O‘ahu’s North Shore
The shave ice shop from Hilo recently opened its second location in Hale‘iwa.
Liliko‘i Dreamsicle shave ice with mochi ($11)
Photos: Thomas Obungen
I’ve planned entire vacations around visiting shave ice shops. In 2018, I devoured 68 bowls of shave ice from shops in Japan and Hawai‘i, so it’s safe to say I’m a little obsessed with the icy treat.
Kula Shave Ice in downtown Hilo has been on my must-try list for a while. The pastel-hued domes of ice with fluffy haupia cream hats are irresistible on Instagram. I plan to try them on my next visit to the Big Island, but for me air travel is out of the question right now despite attractive flight deals. So you can imagine my delight when Kula Shave Ice set up a second location right here on O‘ahu. I booked it out to the North Shore as soon as I could.
Finding the place is easy enough: Drive through Hale‘iwa town and you’ll seethe Farm to Barn café in an open field off Kamehameha Highway. Kula Shave Ice’s colorful trailer is parked nearby, close to the road. If you’re lost, follow the signs pointing you to shave ice. Kula’s trailer is just past Kaimana Shave Ice, which is known for homemade fresh fruit syrups and ice creams.
Kula’s fresh syrups are also made in-house using organic sugar and fruits such as Tahitian lime, guava, mango and pineapple. The shop makes matcha and golden milk shave ice as well. Toppings include cubes of mochi, creamy snow caps, liliko‘i butter, azuki beans, haupia cream and chocolate shell—all homemade and $1 each. Fillings ($2 each) include organic vanilla, chocolate or macadamia nut ice cream, or fresh O‘ahu poi, the first time I’ve seen it paired with shave ice.
You have the choice to build your own bowl, regular ($7) or keiki ($5) size, and choose up to two flavors, or go with one of the suggested shave ice combinations. I pick the creation that speaks to me, the Liliko‘i Dreamsicle ($10). It comes with vanilla ice cream and a condensed milk snow cap; I add mochi ($1) for some texture. Tax is included in the prices, and the transaction is contactless and quick.
Minutes later, my shave ice pops out of the pickup window. For the price, it’s smaller than I expect, but not underwhelming—at Kula it’s about quality, not quantity. The first bite is bright, tart and tastes of summer. It’s why I love liliko‘i so much. I discover a small scoop of melting ice cream after digging deep and it transforms the bowl into a creamy tropical milkshake.
Good thing Kula provides a straw because I slurp that sucker right up.
The mochi cubes are chewy like chi chi dango but with a bit too much potato starch. I love the texture of mochi with cold shave ice so I always add it if available. I probably would have opted for the haupia cream hat too, if it weren’t already sweet enough.
Before I know it, my Liliko‘i Dreamsicle is gone and I’m left thoroughly impressed. Next time I’ll have to get the mango or pineapple with the haupia cream.
If you want to tackle a bunch of flavors in one visit, I suggest ordering a keiki-size shave ice; you can still choose up to two flavors for each cup. They’re also just so adorable.
Keiki mango and soursop shave ice with mochi ($6)
If you’re curious as to why Kula Shave Ice is from the Big Island and not Maui, kula refers to a plain, field or open pasture, much like the lands of Kula and the very essence Kula Shave Ice aims to capture with its organic and natural flavors. Kula also translates to golden, as in the family name of owners Tiffany and Luke Golden.
66-320 Kamehameha Highway, Hale‘iwa, Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m.– 5 p.m., kulashaveicenorthshore.com