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One Katonk's comparison of great Shave Ice on Oahu

Over the past two years, I have noticed Oahu’s Shave Ice offerings have greatly improved. Funny thing to say, since Oahu’s shave ice is the best in the world. This is the first year ever that I did not visit Waiola. I believe I have found three places that put that old standard to shame.

Ailana. Across Kona Street from Ala Moana Shopping Center with lots of parking and places to sit. I discovered this gem a year ago March. The ice is very fine, but not quite as fine as Waiola’s, but what puts this place over the top is their delicious and healthy fruit toppings. My favorite is the Haupia. They also serve Dave’s Ice Cream, traditional syrups and make their own mochi and azuki.

Shimazu Store. On School near Liliha. Not much of a store anymore, but apparently the owner has perfected his shave ice art over the years and moved into this store recently. The portions are huge. A small is sufficient, as the ice is about 8 inches high. But the ice is shaved very fine and as good at Waiola’s. On top of that, the syrups, not as healthy as Ailana’s, are flavorful and interesting. Flavors include Creme Brulee, Haupia Cream and Key Lime, as well as the traditional flavors. Their ice cream is Gold Meadow. Street parking is limited and there is no place to sit.

Mountain Magic. Waikele in front of the Sports Authority store. A booth with three large freezer units in back. Very similar to Shimazu Store down to the plastic cup holders. No exotic flavors but the ice is also very fine and also stacked very high. Limited seating and lots of parking. Also use Meadow Gold ice cream.

I would be very happy going to these three places. All give you more ice than Waiola, more syrup, and much, much friendlier service. Ailana has healthy choices, Dave’s Ice Cream, places to sit and lots of parking. Shimazu gives you lots of ice and great flavors. Mountain Magic is a similarly great option on the Ewa side of Oahu.

No need to go to Waiola. Ever.

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  1. Thanks for the report...
    Grew up going to Shimazu way back in the 60's as it was only a bike ride away from Lanakila and Kuakini. Back then it was a store versus just shave ice. Flavors were also good back then, especially with the ice cream and the red beans inside.

    Accross the street from Liliha Bakery used to be a japanese lunch place before Masa's which is no longer.

    1. Addendum

      I forgot to mention that Shimazu and Mountain both have great mochi balls and azuki, although Ailana's azuki is best. Mountain gives you a lot of mochi.

      Also if anyone on Chowhounds finds other places with great shave ice, please post here and I will check them out on my next trip.

      Also, though I find Matsumoto's and Aoki's a bit infererior to the ones in Town, I would certainly stop by there whenever I hit the North Shore. It's a tradition.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Ogawak

        have you tried Jung's Shave Ice, or Your Kitchen in Kaimuki? A bit limited in flavors, but the flavors are homemade and shave is fine.

        1. re: killersmile

          Thanks for the heads up. They're both actually on my list for the next trip back. How would you compare them to your other favorites? One problem this past trip, was that my wife loved Shimazu so much we went back three times. Because I love Ailana, we were there 4 times. And they both certainly passed the consistency test as a result.

          1. re: Ogawak

            well, my favorite is Shimazu, just because of the variety of flavors/combinations and because it's the easiest to get to, being the closest to where I live. whenever my friend is craving his maui tasaka guri guri, he heads over to shimazu and gets a shave ice that he says tastes just like it. also, they have THE LARRY! i have been meaning to try ailana because I keep hearing good things about it, but haven't made it there yet. Jung's is good, with nice finely shaved ice, but i'm not in that area that often. I really like Your Kitchen. I only tried 2 flavors there, the mango and the green tea, but the mango flavor tasted like I was eating a ripe mango and even had pureed mango pieces in the syrup, and the green tea had that slight bitterness of green tea. The ice is shaved super fine though, so after awhile it was almost like a slushee on a hot day. They all are good and I wouldn't hesitate to go to any of them, but they all have the same problem with very limited street parking, making it more difficult to get to. Worth a try at least once anyways and then you can just pick your favorite. Just as a note, I usually don't add anything to my shave ice, just ice and syrup so I don't know how the azuki and mochi balls are.

            1. re: killersmile

              Thanks, KS. I hope you make it to Ailana; They have plenty of parking, not to mention being across Kona from Ala Moana Shopping Ctr.

              Sorry I didn't make it to Your Kitchen this trip; It really sounds like my kind of shave ice with that mango you described. And Jung's is also on my list. I mentioned the mochi balls for Mountain Magic because they put so much on and it's nice and soft.

                1. re: indelibledotink

                  Yeah well, I haven't been in a while so I don't know if it's still on the menu or not, but they had the Larry. Basically the bambucha sized shave ice as big as your face.

        2. I need to venture outside of Matsumoto's...hard to break old school tradition.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Beach Chick

            Actually Matsumoto's is a must because you're on the North Shore. But if you don't want to fight the crowds, I find Aoki's just as good.

          2. Aiea - Ice Palace
            Ala Moana - City Cafe on Makaloa

            both worth a visit

            1 Reply
            1. re: country bumpkin

              Check. Both on my list for next time.

            2. seconding My Kitchen! Flavors are wonderful

              1. Just got back from Oahu, and sad to report, I only tried one new place out of my list.

                Jung's was a real quirky trip. Inside an eclectic Chinese knick knack store you might normally find in Chinatown, across from the Zippy's corporate building, with a Chinese radio station blaring, a man sits in the back of the store patiently whipping out shave ice served in a styrofoam cup. The ice is very fine and the syrups are typical, but at $2.00, very reasonable.

                Still on the list: Ice Palace, Your Kitchen, City Cafe

                Places I did go this time: Shimazu, my new number one, Ailana, Aoki (North Shore), Ailana disappointed me a bit this time, enough that it slipped to number two.

                Shimazu's flavors continue to amaze me. I love that Melon Bar Melon and Georgia Peach. I love the fact they use cane sugar instead of HFCS in their home made syrups.

                We also had shave show at Boba Berry in Kaneohe. The ice is soy-based rather than water, and the people there are incredibly nice and accomodating. Most shave snow is non-dairy based. I like this soy base much better.

                1. On a recent trip (early Jan 2013) both Waiola and Ailana disappointed. We did not make it to anywhere else but my impression was that Ululani's on Maui was much, much better.

                  They also poke holes in the ice with a straw it to better distribute the syrup before serving. Is this unusual? I didn't see anyone doing this in at Waiola or Ailana.

                  Waiola Shave Ice -- Good shave ice, BUT much too melty for my taste. Grumpy service at the location just off Kapahulu. Had mango/passionfruit with vanilla ice cream and a snow cap. Thought Ululani's on Maui was much better in terms of consistency. And it didn't melt so quickly. Became soup after a few minutes! Perhaps shaved TOO finely, so that it was water + syrup before we could finish.

                  Ailana Shave Ice -- Was only OK. The texture of the ice was a bit coarse. We had the mango, papaya, coconut, with condensed milk and ice cream combo. Ice cream was great. Syrups were STINGY. The bottom half of the bowl was ALL unflavored ice. Meh. Threw it away after eating 1/2.

                  1. Ice Palace is great but has offerings that are very different from your typical local style shave ice. My favorites are taro milk with mochi balls, pudding milk with mochi balls, and combo shave ice.

                    1. here's a link to the other shave ice on oahu thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/730671

                      just got back from hiking manoa falls trail. rainbow's end store under treetops restaurant has shave ice. (it's where you pay to park in the lot.) i didn't order one, but watched the snow artist make it for the guy in front of me. it looked decent sized and was not hard packed (i'm not a shave ice connoisseur, so i am not sure what level of density is best). unlimited flavors, but they recommend up to 4 per small cone. long list of flavors including green tea, haupia, lime/coconut, other fancy ones. $3 for small. $1 for ice cream, $0.50 for li hing powder. i didn't ask about azuki beans or other toppings. good stuff, but i was in a rush and will try it when we return to hike again.

                      1. just came home from a benefit dinner where dessert was shave ice topped with a little toasted coconut. i hated toasted coconut when i was a kid, but kind of like it now. on the shave ice it was pretty tasty and totally surprised me. maybe bring a little with you to shimazu or wherever.