Wednesday, August 4, 2010

#1 Waiola Shave Ice (Honolulu, Hawaii)


During our short stay in Honolulu, we tried to sample everything: fresh poki, laulau, Zippy's loco moco, the aforementioned Local Deluxe Breakfast, Liliha's creme puffs, every ounce of spam musubi that we could find, kalua pork pulled straight from the pig (at least that's what the luau operators led us to believe), another phenomenal breakfast at the Halekulani, sample upon sample of Honolulu Cookie Company's dipped shortbread cookies, and even a few fingertips of poi. We tried almost all of Anthony Bourdain's choice stops (more on this in another post) and most of the local favorites. Though we were devastated to run out of time before testing out the shrimp trucks and shaved ice of the North Shore, we left content knowing that we had sampled heaven in a Styrofoam cup.

Perhaps part of the perfection of Waiola had to do with our surroundings. In the sweltering tropical heat of Oahu, a situation exacerbated by our unwillingness to put the top up on our Mustang convertible, few things could possibly have tasted as good as a perfect cup (and I do mean perfect) of Hawaiian shaved ice.

The first element of the charm of Waiola Shave Ice has to do with the location. Waiola is situated in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, surrounded by houses and apartment complexes just a few minutes drive away from Kalakaua Ave via King St. We knew that we had arrived as soon as we saw the long line snaking around the corner. This line consisted of a motley crew of locals and camera-wielding tourists, and ended at a window that formed the side of a small mini-mart.

And the "shave ice" itself? Read the first word of this post and let it sink in. The secret is the consistency of the ice. Biting into Waiola's version is like placing your mouth onto freshly fallen snow, like God's amazing, previously unreproducible work of artistry on your lips. Mixed with condensed milk, the texture takes on an added dimension, like the most perfect, light as air ice cream.

There were plenty of flavor options, of dizzying arrays of tropical syrups, toppings and fillings. Every option that we tried was simply amazing with just the right hint of flavor, just the right amount of paradise without becoming overwhelmingly saccharine sweet. My personal favorite was a large cup of half lilikoi and half melona, with condensed milk generously lathered on top and ice cream on the bottom.

Before I experienced Waiola, I had never been a fan of Hawaiian shaved ice. But ever since returning to the mainland, I've sought that magic combination of consistency and texture and flavor time and time again with greater and greater disappointment. I now know that my only hope is my next stop at Waiola Shave Ice.


  1. My good friend swears by the shrimp truck on North Shore so that's definitely on my list next time we're in Hawaii. We should do a trip to Oahu. Some of the best food experiences I've had were in Hawaii, including a heavenly poki bowl. Glad that Waiola was good. I was very underwhelemed by whatever famous shave ice place we went to on the North Shore.

  2. Yeah, we were very sad to have missed out on the shrimp truck. But, like you said, I've heard that Matsumoto is a bit overrated and I'm happy that we got to try Waiola instead. I can't wait until September and Kauai--I have childhood memories of the kalua pork pulled from a freshly unearthed pig!!