3 Best Places For Shave Ice On Oahu

So if there’s one thing that Hawaii is known for, it’s shave ice. No, not shaved. SHAVE. And truth be told, Hawaii is known lots of different amazing food, but shave ice is an absolute must if you’re visiting. For more foodie finds, check out 10 Things You Must Eat When You Visit Hawaii.

But for today – let’s focus on the ice.

You mean a snow cone? No, no I do not. Shave ice, made by literally shaving a huge block of ice and topping with syrup comprises this frozen treat, while snow cones (or sno-cones or however you want to spell it!) are made from crushed ice. Though the shape is usually pretty similar for both 🙂

Fun fact: Shave ice originated in Japan and was brought to Hawaii by Japanese migrant workers who yearned for the traditional dessert of their homeland. On hot days they would take a block of ice and shave it down using a Japanese sword, which was often a family heirloom.

So let’s get down to the best spots to pick some up while you’re visiting, shall we?

Best Shave Ice On Oahu

We will start with President Obama’s favorite spot – Island Snow in Kailua. When Barack & Co. visit the island, they typically stay on the windward side, so Island Snow is a convenient spot he, Michelle and the girls can pop in and out of with relative ease. That said, it’s also freaking delicious. So good choice, Barry! First of all, it comes in a tall cup or cone, not a bowl, and the syrup they use is extra sugary, which gives your sweet tooth that extra zing against the cold ice!

President Obama Shave Ice Hawaii

Pro tip: Go to the original location in Lanikai!

Next up? Famed Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in Haleiwa. Think of this as the mac daddy of all shave ice shops. Why? Because the story of how it came to be in 1951 is just too good…

Matsumoto Shave Ice Hawaii

“Born in Hawaii, Mamoru Matsumoto’s family returned to Hiroshima when he was a toddler. The family struggled to make ends meet. Mamoru worked as an apprentice at a sake factory and other odd jobs, but the income was insufficient.

Mamoru and his older brother boarded a ship to Hawaii to find jobs to supplement the family’s income, but his brother later became ill and returned to Japan, while Mamoru continued to labor on the sugar plantation, the railroad, and eventually became a salesman. In order to expand his knowledge, he attended night school to learn English and Math.

Through friends and relatives he met his wife, Helen Momoyo Ogi. Mamoru worked long hours while Helen became a seamstress. They dreamed of opening their own business and purchasing a home for his family in Japan and for themselves. At last, they were given the opportunity to open their own grocery store, M. Matsumoto Store Inc. At first, Mamoru peddled his wares on a bicycle, until he was able to afford a panel truck. He went from camp to camp, taking orders and delivering goods, while Helen manned the store and did some sewing.

With the birth of their three children, Glenn, Janice and Stanley, they needed to expand their business. With the perfect location along Oahu’s beautiful North Shore, a decision was made to start selling shave ice.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Matsumoto’s has been serving the North Shore and visitors from around the globe for more than half a century. A recent renovation put this local favorite in a new shopping center that will often have a line winding halfway around the block just to get in. Don’t worry, the line moves quickly.
Pro Tip: The Rainbow is the most popular and my personal favorite!
Uncle Clay's Shave Ice Oahu Hawaii
And last but certainly not least – Uncle Clay’s House Of Pure Aloha. Uncle Clay’s is unlike the other two shave ice joints, because the same man who owns the place is actually there working day in and day out. As Uncle Clay says – he likes to spread the true meaning of aloha to each and every single person who walks through his door. If you have the time to stop and chat, he will tell you the story of how his store came to be, how hard he worked to keep his family together when they fell on hard times and how much joy it brings him to support his local community. The guy is just as friendly as they come! My favorite is the Strawberry Dream – strawberry ice with creamy vanilla ice cream in the center and topped with real strawberries. All of Uncle Clay’s syrups are homemade and you really taste the difference. As a local might say – SO ONO!
Pro Tip: Go after visiting Hanuama Bay – it’s a great way to cool down!
Have you ever visited Oahu? Did you get shave ice?

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