You know of Hawaii's iconic color-drenched shave ice, but every place that knows hot weather also knows how to cool down with its own refreshing icy desserts, from the Philippines’ halo halo to Mexico’s raspas. In Honolulu, you’ll find a world of multicultural options influenced by countries including Korea and Vietnam. Here are six favorites.
Lin's Hawaiian Snacks
401 Kamakee St.
Mango shave ice is a phenomenon unto itself in Taiwan, where hot humid days and locally grown mangoes combine with ice for a quintessential refreshing treat. Lin’s Hawaiian Snacks, started in the 1980s by husband-and-wife Shin Fu and I-Jan Lin, immigrants from Taiwan, serves this taste of Taiwan at its Kaka‘ako store. Soft shaved ice is heaped with fresh mangoes, a thick housemade mango syrup, vanilla ice cream, and drizzled with condensed milk. Be warned: Enter Lin’s Hawaiian Snacks, and you’ll likely walk out with more than just shave ice. The shop offers a wonderland of crack seed (preserved fruit), candies and snacks, from salty-sweet-sour li hing mui (preserved plum) to ahi jerky to a local favorite — gummy bears dusted with preserved lemon peel.
2570 S. Beretania St. #105
Also conjuring Taiwan, Frost City serves towers of Taiwanese-style shave ice in an unassuming space tucked into a two-story walkup in Moiliili. This style is as unlike Hawaii's classic shave ice as you can get: first, the ice is flavored, and then shaved into wide, ribbon-like sheets, fluffy on the tongue. Flavors range from black sesame to lychee to thin mint and are accompanied by soft cubes of mochi. Favorites here are the fruit flavors, including mango, which taste of fresh fruit.
Filipino halo halo
Magnolia Ice Cream & Treats
Of all the shave ice in the world, the Filipino halo halo (“mix-mix” in Tagalog) may be the most maximalist, a riot of textures and vivid colors. Magnolia Ice Cream & Treats, with locations across Honolulu and Las Vegas, offers a few halo halo variations, but the Mahalo-halo is the way to go: a coarse crushed ice is piled on top of tropical delights including jackfruit, bananas, macapuno (coconut strings), nata de coco (coconut gel), and kaong (date palm jelly). It’s all drenched with evaporated milk and topped with ube ice cream and puffed, crispy rice. Magnolia, which bills itself as The Halo Halo Place, is the best place to start your adventure into the halo halo multiverse.
Vietnamese che ba mau
Pho Que Huong
1160 Maunakea St.
In the heart of Chinatown, this popular Vietnamese restaurant offers a wide variety of desserts, including the icy che ba mau, or “three color dessert” in Vietnamese. Red beans, yellow mung beans, and green pandan jelly, made with the aromatic plant popular across Southeast and South Asia, give che ba mau its colors. They’re topped with crushed ice and coconut milk, making for a dessert drink of thrilling textures.
Matcha Cafe Maiko
2310 Kuhio Ave. Ste. 143
Set back on a bustling stretch of Kuhio Ave, Matcha Cafe Maiko is an oasis of everything matcha, the green tea powder sourced from a family-owned tea farm in Kyoto that dates back to the 19th century. The brand now has locations across the country, but its first location opened here in Waikiki in 2016. You can get everything from the Maiko Special, a Japanese-style sundae, with matcha soft serve, matcha cake, corn flakes, agar jelly and kuromitsu (a black sugar syrup) to a matcha float, but our favorite way to cool down here is with its kakigori (Japanese shave ice). Get the matcha shaved ice, where a coarse-style shave ice soaked in matcha syrup serves as a bed for mochi balls, sweetened azuki beans and chestnut, crowned with a swirl of matcha soft serve. Matcha lovers, this is your sweet spot.
Jejubing Dessert Cafe
1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Ste. 1201
At this sleek shop on the ground floor of Ala Moana Center, K-pop and bingsu, or Korean shave ice, reign. The powdery soft shave ice, like freshly fallen snow, is milk-based, providing a gentle backdrop to toppings of fresh fruit and even desserts like tiramisu—no syrups are necessary. Our favorites here include the strawberry, covered in slices of the fresh berry; mango, piled high with juicy chunks of fruit; and the classic Injeolmi, dusted in a roasted soybean powder and topped with red bean paste and mochi. The sizable bowls come with a side of condensed milk to sweeten the ice to your liking.