If you’re in Kauai, you need to try shave ice or shaved ice (how some people refer to it), one of Hawaii’s famous desserts. Let me share a little history with you about the correct way to say it in Hawaii. It’s called shave ice. Due to all the Japanese descendants in Hawaii, the D is dropped. The Japanese word for shave ice is kakigori. Since they were the first to bring this delectable treat to the islands, they continued with roots by removing the letter D.
You might be thinking, isn’t it just a snow cone? The answer to that is no. A snow cone consists of crushed ice formed into a snowball. Hawaiian shave ice is a solid ice ball that is actually shaved and then topped with a plethora of toppings. Due to the smaller shavings and actual texture of the shave ice, it will absorb the syrups better leaving your taste buds wanting more.
Most of the stops on Kauai have organic, locally-made syrups. Some shave ice stands top it with different toppings and then you have the choice of adding ice cream in the bottom. This a must-have dessert when visiting any of the Hawaiian islands. One of the best toppings for shave ice that I highly recommend is the snow cap or Li Hing Mui powder.
Having visited many of these stands and stores and trying the treat for myself, these are some good places to try the best shave ice on Kauai based on my experience.
1. Uncle’s Shave Ice
You can find Uncles Shave Ice on multiple sides of the island. There is one in Lihue, Poipu, and Princeville. Uncles has been serving the Hawaiian people and their guests since the 1900s. Founded by a Japanese immigrant, Uncles is a stop you don’t want to miss. The great thing about Shave Ice is mixing the flavors and trying it with one, two, or three.
At Uncles Shave Ice, there are so many flavors to choose from. When you walk in first, you first pick your flavor or flavors. I personally like their Banana, Guava, and Lilikoi. Then you choose your overs or unders.
Overs are the toppings, so you can choose from Haupia cap (coconut with sweet condensed milk), Sweet Cap (sweet condensed milk), chocolate, Li, Hung Mui Powder (a traditional plum powder also a Japanese favorite), or a sour spray.
Then you add your unders, and to keep it traditional, go with the Azuki Beans. You can also have vanilla or macadamia nut ice cream, strawberries, or pineapple. No matter how you customize it, you won’t be disappointed with this stop. If you are in the mood for something else, Uncle’s also has a honey toast that is delicious. Honey toast is a toasted sweet bread topped with honey, whipped cream, and ice cream. They also serve snow pops and snow ice.
2. JoJo’s Shave Ice
Serving the islands since 1992, JoJo’s has perfected shave ice. JoJo’s Shave Ice has several locations in Kauai, like Kapa’a, Waimea, and Hanalei. They also work to give back to the community.
Their profits help fund a free camp for the children of Hawaii. You don’t get much more local than JoJo’s. All their syrups are freshly made, so you get the true Aloha in every bite. You can also mix/match up to 4 flavors.
My favorite is the JoJo special which is chocolate butterscotch with vanilla ice cream. They have two sizes, but Da Kine is their version of small and has plenty to share if you don’t think you can eat the whole thing or go for Da Big Kahuna and get the large.
They also serve ice cream sundaes as well. Add this to your list, even just knowing that you’re helping make a difference in our community.
3. Wishing Well Shave Ice
If you’re staying in Hanalei or close to it, you need to visit Wishing Well. You will most likely see the line as you enter into Hanalei town. The Wishing Well offers more than just shave ice since it acts as a coffee shop too. They also offer acai bowls and smoothies.
They started the business in 1983, serving out of a food truck. Wishing Well always has visitors buzzing for days, talking about how good it is. One thing they do differently is that they even infuse coffee into some of their shave ice.
I recommend the Caffeine Monkey, which is coffee with banana syrup over vanilla ice cream with the sweetened condensed milk cap. Get a couple of flavors and add a small bottle of Koloa Rum, and you have the adult version of shave ice. We also included Wishing Well on our guide on the amazing places to eat on the island.
Mango’s is a fun stop when in Koloa. They offer a good selection of shave ice. Try the unicorn since it is one of a kind. You can add any flavor of ice cream, and they offer the infamous Dole whips. They also have extras, including snow caps, sour spray, and Li Hing Mui.
Mango’s is in old Koloa town, so while you’re shopping and working up that appetite, stop in and have a try to satisfy any cravings. They don’t offer anything apart from shave ice, but you certainly want to make sure you add in the ice cream or dole whip for some extra taste. It’s a colorful store that also sells small souvenirs you can bring back home.
5. Wailua Shave Ice
Wailua Shave Ice is not only on Kauai but has branched out to the mainland in Portland, Oregon. You can find the Kauai location in Kapa’a town near Safeway. If you’re by any chance from Oregon, you can have a little taste of Hawaii on the mainland too. Their website allows you to place the order ahead of time, so you don’t need to wait around. The Almond Joy tastes just like the candy bar. For something a little more local, choose the Ube. It’s ube syrup, coconut milk, ube foam, and coconut flakes. It’s like having Hawaii in your mouth. They also sell acai bowls for those that are looking for something apart from shave ice. The store is open every weekday from 12:00 pm to 8:30 pm.
Overall, you won’t be disappointed with any of the choices listed above. Remember you are on vacation, and Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Go with local options and try as much as you can. Take a tour and try all 5 of my recommendations on different days when you’re here. See for yourself which one you think is the best. Leave me a comment down below to let me know what you think or if you have any other recommendations. Hawaii has so many dessert options but shave ice is at the top.
Written by: LeeAnn Read