Worth the Splurge: Island Vintage’s $19 Honey Cream Pineapple Shave Ice in Waikīkī
You can find the very rare Meli Kalima pineapple gracing these luxe bowls on Kalākaua—but you’ll want to hurry.
Summer is almost over but fall feels like a distant mirage. Lucky for us on O‘ahu, our shave ice game is serious. Personally, I’m never too good for a roadside stand after the beach and love fresh fruit syrups just as much as the saturated bowls that remind me of small-kid time.
So when I saw on Instagram that Island Vintage Shave Ice is putting Meli Kalima or Honey Cream Pineapple on a creation only available at its Waikīkī Beach Marriott location, I was immediately curious. A bit of digging revealed that the tiny fruits may be in their last season at Frankie’s Nursery in Waimānalo. I realized there’s a bigger story behind this $19 shave ice.
To tropical fruit geeks, Meli Kalima is the quintessence of pineapple love. Frankie’s Nursery began developing the crop about 11 years ago in response to a competition for the best Hawai‘i-grown pineapple. The idea was to create a superior fruit that was smaller and sweeter with a different texture. Frankie’s patented the crop and even lops off the crowns before selling the fruit to prevent people from propagating it.
This pineapple is about the size of a softball, with spiny skin slightly thinner than most. It’s incredibly sweet with a juicy flesh and a soft core you can eat. If you show up at the nursery to snag one, there is a limit of two pineapples per person—which means you rarely ever see them on menus around Honolulu. But Meli Kalima takes at least two years to fruit, and the intensive work of cultivating the crop was becoming too much for Frankie’s small team and for owners Frank Sekiya and his wife, Lynn Tsuruda, who want to retire. So they found a buyer for the patent and until further notice, whatever you can get of the little flavor bombs is all there might be for a while.
Now back to the shave ice. Island Vintage Shave Ice is a haven for fresh fruit syrups, handmade mochi and other tasty details, easily making it one of Waikīkī’s most inspired shave ice destinations. In this case, a fluffy mound of snow is lightly draped with fresh lychee syrup, four ounces of cut-to-order Honey Cream pineapple and a dusting of citrus zest. Under the ice, you’ll find a tangy core of frozen yogurt.
The first thing I do is smell my monochromatic bowl. The fruit is ethereally sweet and floral with notes of elderflower mingling with the scent of the lychee, nuanced by the refreshing scent of citrus. I bite into a pineapple chunk and enter a state of fruit-induced sublimity. This is shave ice royalty. Meli Kalima is creamy and lacks the astringency you might expect. Layers of white, raw honey flavor are layered on the perfect level of acidity—truly a supreme fruit. Digging into the tangy yogurt core sets everything off so the floral flavors, brightness and juicy sweetness sing in harmony. There is a softness to the sweetness and a beauty in the nuances throughout.
Would I pay the same for any ole shave ice with fresh fruit sryup? Probably not. But on different levels this shave ice is worth the splurge and feels like a genuine gold medal for enduring the summer heat. The next time you’re around Waikīkī and fancy a luxe treat, pop in for this limited flavor and enjoy it slowly.