On the mainland they are called “snow cones,” in Puerto Rico “piragua” but here in Hawaii we know it as “shave ice.” This is one fun treat that is worth trying.

The tasty shave ice was brought to Hawaii in the 1880s by the Japanese immigrants who came to work on the sugar plantations. At that time, the treat was sold on Sundays, the only day off for plantation workers. They would take a block of ice and shave it and then drench it in sweet syrup. When the Japanese immigrants moved off the plantations and opened their own stores, shave ice went retail and became hugely popular.

Shave ice is still a local favorite. Similar to a snow cone, but instead of the ice being crushed, it is shaved making it finer almost the consistency of snow. The fun begins when you select one of over 40 exotic flavors of syrup like lychee, lilikoi and li hing mui. According to a source at Matsumoto Shave Ice, strawberry and the pretty tri-colored rainbow are their most popular flavors.

In addition to the numerous flavors you can also select toppings with your shave ice. Commonly, a scoop of vanilla ice cream is first added to the bottom of the cup. If you really want to get wild you can add the mochi balls (a Japanese rice cake) and azuki beans (a Japanese sweet bean).

For fewer than three dollars you can try a shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice and Aoki’s Shave Ice, both in Haleiwa, on the North Shore or Waiola Shave Ice in Honolulu also on Oahu or Jo Jo’s in Waimea on Kauai.


  1. Bruce here on the mainland yes they have “snow cones” that they are passing off as Hawaiian Shave Ice. Its gritty like a “snow cone” unlike real Hawaiian Shave Ice but yet disguised in the nice flowery cups in 4 oz and 8 oz sizes.

    There should be a fraud law against this.

    Here where we live in Kalispell, MT we have both, one called Tropical Snow that was so much like the real Hawaiian Shave Ice.. they actually used the same ice shaving machine as found there in Hawai’i.

    The other was found in the town of Bigfork, and they called themselves Hawaiian Shave Ice. We of course missing our Hawaiian Shave Ice purchased some for ourselves. I could not believe this snow cone maker committing such a fraud. I turned to my wife and told her, this is a snow cone, it is not Hawaiian Shave Ice.

    Our Tropical Snow vendor here in Kalispell, has closed up for the season as our temps are now dipping lower. 33* when I got up this morning, but the weather person has promised warmer temps today.

    I just wanted to let you know, that we have found as close to the original Hawaiian Shave Ice that we had in Kapa’a, Kaua’i.

    You have a wonderful weekend, and this is Jon Erdmann signing off from cold Kalispell, MT.

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