What do rainbows and shave ice have in common? They both are vibrant color and can be enjoyed daily on Kauai. Popular among locals and visitors, there are likely thousands of varieties that can be created by mixing flavors and toppings, creating a one-of-a-kind treat that is specifically tailored to your own taste buds.
Compared often to the widely well-known snow cone of the continental US, the difference is that snow cones are made of crushed ice, while shave ice is created by shaving a large block of ice into powdery fragments.
The History of Shave Ice on Kauai
Shave ice is one of the oldest treats known to Kauai locals, dating back to the sugar and pineapple plantation days of the early 1900’s, when Japanese immigrants introduced the cool treats of their distant homelands. Japanese families opened small mom and pop stores where plantation employees could pick up their groceries after a long, strenuous day at work and indulge in a small, cool cup of shave ice topped with a sweet syrup.
Over the last 100 years, shave ice has evolved from a simple treat into a gourmet indulgence, with shave ice mixologists continuously creating new concepts to keep us on our toes and craving more. While shave ice has evolved over recent years at a paramount pace, the one thing that will always remain constant is cooling off with this flavorful treat on a hot summer day on Kauai is an absolute necessity in any way, shape or form.
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite shave ice haunts that must be tried when visiting Kauai.
WAIKOMO SHAVE ICE
While the words “healthy” and “dessert” are not usually used in the same sentence, Wakomo Shave Ice takes pride in knowing their delicious concoctions are both healthy(er) and delicious. That’s because Waikomo Shave Ice’s natural fruit syrups are made from organic cane sugar and topped with homemade coconut sauce and fresh fruits. Try the signature Waikomo Shave Ice fresh coconut cup, made from a freshly opened coconut and full of the coconut’s juicy meat. But don’t forget to snap a photo of your bowl of shave ice first, it’s too beautiful not to share with all your friends and family back home.
UNCLE’S SHAVE ICE
Voted “Best Shave Ice on Kauai” for the last five years by Kauai locals, Uncle’s Shave Ice offers two locations on the island, Kukuiula Shopping Center in Poipu and Hokulei Village in Lihue. With over 25 shave ice flavors and combinations, Uncle’s boasts one of the largest shave ice menus on Kauai, meaning you can mix and match just about any flavor. In addition to shave ice, they are known for shave snow, a creamy version of shave ice reminiscent of Taiwanese shave ice. A variety of toppings, from Li Hing Mui powder, haupia cream cap and sour lemon spray give your sweet tooth an extra kick!
THE FRESH SHAVE
What do a barbershop and shave ice have in common? All the flavors at The Fresh Shave are playfully named after nostalgic barbershop mustache styles. Our favorite is The Handle Bar, a pineapple and coconut flavored shave ice topped with fresh pineapple and coconut. Another must try is the Professor, an acai berry shave ice topped with Kauai honey, bananas and shredded coconut. The Fresh Shave can be found in two locations, their original location at Warehouse 3540 in Lawai and their new shop in Waimea Town on the west side. No trip to The Fresh Shave is complete without a quick post of yourself enjoying their delicious shave ice while wearing their mustache sticker, which comes on every straw.
BRENNECKE’S BEACH DELI
It’s okay to be barefoot and sandy when stopping in at Brennecke’s Beach Deli for a bowl of their finely shaved ice. That’s because Brennecke’s is the only restaurant and deli located at Poipu Beach, Kauai’s award-winning beach park with great snorkeling, swimming, surfing and park facilities directly across the street. At Brennecke’s Beach Deli, there are three delicious ways to enjoy your shave ice, without ice cream, with vanilla ice cream, and with mac nut ice cream. We recommend the third option with a snow cap for optimum enjoyment. For a fun twist, they also have all natural fruit flavors, such as guava, mango and pineapple.
WAILUA SHAVE ICE
Photo: Wailua Shave Ice
Wailua Shave Ice is one of the first shave ice spots who can make the claim to using fresh local fruit with no artificial flavors, dyes or high fructose corn syrup in their flavors. What sets Wailua Shave Ice apart from the rest is their creamy coconut foam with a whipped cream-like consistency that sits on top of their shave ice like a light cloud on a sunny day. You just have to try it to see. A crowd favorite is the Lava Flow, made with pineapple juice, coconut foam, strawberry puree, and pineapple and strawberry fruit topping. Don’t love coconut? The Wailua Sunrise is flavored with orange juice, pineapple juice and pineapple orange fruit topping. As a testament to their greatness, Wailua Shave Ice has expanded beyond Kauai in recent years, slinging shave ice and shakas not only in Kapaa but also in Portland, Oregon, and San Diego, California.
Whether you take your shave ice in a freshly opened coconut, a scoop of ice cream on bottom or with a snow cap layer, Kauai offers it all and more. The hardest decision you’ll have to make is which flavor to choose.