Last updated on November 25th, 2019 at 10:02 pm
It’s true. I have been called a “shave ice snob.” But I don’t apologize for trying to find the best shave ice in Kauai! And my kids definitely don’t complain helping me “research”!
I promised my family shave ice every day of our trip and we tasted this Hawaiian treat all over Kauai from Hanalei to Kapaa to Poipu!
This post on the best shave ice in Kauai may contain affiliate links.
What is Hawaiian Shave Ice?
In case you aren’t familiar, shave ice is a refreshing Hawaiian-style dessert or sweet treat.
Most of the time, you’ll find them in colorful snack shacks or trendy trailers/food trucks in parking lots or at the beach.
SHAVE ICE VS. SNOW CONE
So, a lot of people assume Hawaiian shave ice is just another term for a snow cone. That would be incorrect.
Snow cones are made with crushed ice and syrup. The syrup usually pools at the bottom of the cup/cone and you are left with two distinct items: unflavored ice and syrup.
Proper shave ice comes from a solid block of ice that is finely shaved and patted. Most places will add syrup as they go, or poke holes in it to make sure the syrup is consistent throughout.
This blends the ice and syrup together so each bite is packed with flavor!
While the ice is shaved, it’s called “shave ice” NOT “shaved ice.” In fact, if you see a stand calling it “shaved ice” you probably won’t want to go there!
Trust me, it’s usually more of a snow cone than actual shave ice.
SHAVE ICE TOPPINGS
As if shave ice wasn’t already amazing just with the ice and syrup, over the past decade or so there has been a rise in available toppings.
Here’s a run-down of the most popular shave ice toppings:
This is my favorite shave ice topping! Usually it means they drizzle condensed milk on top, but other times it’s coconut milk or some sort of cream.
It’s the perfect way to add a touch of creaminess!
Li Hing Mui
If you want something that will spark joy on your taste buds, add some li hing mui powder on top!
It’s powder made from dried salted plums and it pairs really well with fruity flavors. At home, we sprinkle it on fresh pineapple, mango, and apples.
If you haven’t tried it before, I suggest just getting it on half of your shave ice, as it can be an acquired taste.
My kids insist they get a scoop of ice cream at the bottom of their shave ice! Most of the time it’s vanilla, but sometimes you can find macadamia nut ice cream!
The syrup mixes with the ice cream for a delectable treat!
If you visit an all-natural shave ice stand, they will most likely offer you a fresh fruit topping.
The fruit in Hawaii is super flavorful and the sweetness and texture works so well with shave ice.
Nowadays, it’s easy to find all-natural shave ice with organic syrup and fresh fruit.
While I didn’t see this offered at any of the Hawaiian shave ice places on Kauai, I have seen it on Maui.
Basically, you can get little mochi balls on top of your shave ice. They are chewy and provide such a great texture to the super smooth shave ice!
Best Shave Ice in Kauai
I’ve visited Kauai more than 30 times in the past 25 years. I don’t say that to brag, but to help establish how long I’ve been eating shave ice on Kauai.
When I first tried Hawaiian shave ice as a kid in the 90s, the only kind I could find on Kauai tasted like a Hawaiian snow cone.
I’m talking about clumpy ice where they just pour the syrup on top so there’s naked ice and I used to just eat the syrupy parts and throw the rest away.
And there are still Kauai shave ice spots like that. (Don’t worry! Those are not on this list.)
However in past 5 or 6 years, Kauai has fully jumped on the “gourmet” shave ice bandwagon and there are some really great options now that feature real fruit, cane sugar, and organic products.
And most of these Kauai shave ice stands use eco-friendly, recyclable and compostable packaging.
So, after trying a LOT of shave ice over the past few years, here are my top 5 spots to find the best shave ice in Kauai:
5. RipTides Shave Ice & Snacks in Lawai
If you are spending the afternoon playing on the beach in Lawai, there’s nothing more convenient than RipTides Shave Ice & Snacks.
They offer all kinds of salty snacks (including Hawaiian potato chips and Cup Noodles!) and it’s a super cute stand across the street from the beach.
But, we’re here to talk about their Hawaiian shave ice.
What I appreciate about RipTides is that they offer both “traditional” and organic Hawaiian shave ice options. This is helpful if you are going with kids who really want bubblegum or grape flavored shave ice.
And their organic options are fantastic!
My husband ordered the strawberry and I ordered mango/passion fruit and they were both very tasty! We could tell they were made from real fruit because the syrup was thick and a little pulpy (in a good way!)
I’d say out of all the shave ice we tried, their syrup was definitely the sweetest, so getting it “snowcapped” or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream might balance it perfectly.
It’s a great beachy treat in Lawai, near Poipu.
4. Wailua Shave Ice in Kapaa
For those on the east shore of Kauai, it’s hard to beat Wailua Shave Ice in Old Kapaa Town.
It’s located in an empty lot right in the heart of town between boutiques, restaurants and food trucks.
Families will appreciate that they offer a keiki size for kids who don’t want to share! It was actually one of the few times I saw a children’s size at any of the Hawaiian shave ice places we visited on Kauai.
My husband ordered the Lava Flow (pineapple and strawberry puree) and the haupia foam on top was heavenly!
My 5 year old and I each ordered Da Mango One (mango juice, fresh fruit, and cream) and we gobbled them up!
And my mom ordered the Wailua Sunrise (fresh squeezed pineapple and orange juice) which we’ve loved in the past!
Since it’s located near other food trucks, it makes an easy lunch spot with kids. Plus, there are lots of tables to sit and enjoy your Hawaiian shave ice!
And they have several locations!
My family actually visited their Portland, Oregon location about 2 years ago because we didn’t have a chance to try on Kauai! They’ve also expanded to San Diego, California.
3. The Fresh Shave in Kalaheo
While they have a lot of tasty options, I always come back to The Handle Bar. This Kauai shave ice is topped with fresh pineapple and shredded coconut and is so yummy!
I also really like The Whiskers, which is mint-infused syrup with a hint of lime and it just hits the spot on a hot day!
They also have shave ice options featuring chai tea and cold brew coffee for tired parents!
And those cute mustaches on the straws? Yep, they are stickers!
Families will love knowing about their large shaded seating area with tons of picnic tables.
The Hawaiian shave ice at The Fresh Shave is also the perfect size. Not too big, not too small. Easy to share if you’ve had a big lunch but also the right size to gobble it all up yourself!
If you need a good dose of Hawaii while you’re stuck at home, follow them on Instagram at @thefreshshave for super cute photos!
2. Waikomo Shave Ice in Poipu
Holy moly is their Hawaiian shave ice flavorful!
What’s really cool about Waikomo Shave Ice is that you can order your shave ice in a souvenir coconut bowl. It also comes with a wooden spoon and a wooden straw, which was a HUGE hit with my 2 year old!
They feature all-natural shave ice and it’s so smooth!
We ordered the lychee/passion fruit and strawberry/mango and they both were superb! We had to fight our kids to share with us!
There is limited shaded seating, so be warned.
It’s located in a little strip mall area, where Da Crack is located. So, you can eat some incredible Mexican food and then do dessert at Waikomo Shave Ice.
Or be like me and eat dessert FIRST, then take your lunch to go eat at the beach!
They are actively looking to franchise, so keep your eyes peeled for future locations!
1. Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei
If you are heading up north, you have to make a stop at Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei. Actually, it’s worth the drive just to taste this delectable Hawaiian shave ice!
This was the first place we stopped on our recent trip to Kauai. Coincidentally, it was also the last stop on the Tasting Kauai food tour we did on the North Shore!
Wishing Well Shave Ice has both organic and traditional options. You can order one of their recommended combos, or create your own!
And they feature tropical acai bowls and coffee. Great for breakfast or an afternoon treat!
We had the snowcapped passion fruit Hawaiian shave ice with fresh papaya and it was incredible! I want to try everything on their menu because it all sounds and looks so delicious!
Like Wailua Shave Ice, they also offer a children’s size for kids 12 and under. This is a great way to try a few different combinations, if you are bringing your kids!
Out of all the Kauai shave ice places we’ve tried, Wishing Well Shave Ice definitely has the best ambiance. There are tons of picnic tables, colorful artwork, and it has a cool, laid back vibe.
It’s right next to the road, but it doesn’t feel like it. The area around Wishing Well Shave Ice is just so lush and green that you will feel like you are in paradise!
Honorable Mention: Tege Tege Shave Ice
I also must give an honorable mention to Tege Tege Shave Ice in Kapaa. They were closed for the season on our most recent trip to Kauai so I didn’t include them in this post.
But they had some beautifully crafted shave ice last year. They do Japanese style shave ice featuring expertly sliced fresh fruit and they are always so Instagrammable!
Their line can get a bit long (especially on a hot day) but they are worth the wait.
Hopefully they will be open for our next trip!
Did I miss your favorite Hawaiian shave ice spot on Kauai? If so, let me know in the comments!