The Best Honolulu Shave Ice You’ve Probably Never Tried
When it comes to lists of our favorite shave ice and acai bowl spots, there’s a place that’s often overlooked, a place that has quite possibly the best version of both of our island’s favorite cold treats: Island Vintage Coffee.
Overlooked by locals, at least. When visiting the Royal Hawaiian Center, Ala Moana Center, Ko Olina and Hale‘iwa locations, there is no shortage of tourists crowding the cafés, and this is one of those occasions where that’s not just a nice way of calling it a tourist trap. Island Vintage Coffee Co. is perhaps the best kept secret from those who live here.
First, the shave ice. You should go get it right now, because during the summer, you can add fresh local mango for $2 to any shave ice, or get the Aloha Mango ($9.50), topped with juicy chunks of fruit, haupia cream and mochi. Island Vintage Coffee Co. is one of the very few places you can get local mango on shave ice. (Unlike Ice Monster’s Taiwan locations, where mango is a seasonal treat, Ice Monster in Hawai‘i offers mango shave ice all the time, which means the fruit is usually imported.) And all year-round, Island Vintage drenches its soft shave ice with thick, real fruit syrups, including fresh liliko‘i, seeds and all. (The shave ice is available at the Ala Moana and Royal Hawaiian stand-alone shave ice locations only.)
Acai bowls are another crowded field, but Island Vintage stands out by topping some of its concoctions with local fruit—another unfortunate rarity, as 99.9% of acai bowl places favor imported berries. I’m guessing it’s partly because of convenience (blueberries and strawberries are more consistently available and easier to prep than mango and papaya) and partly a casualty of Instagram (they’re berry pretty). While Island Vintage does have the standard banana, blueberry, strawberry bowl, the honey is always local, the bananas local when possible, and some of the bowls include island papaya. The Liliko‘i Moana Bowl ($9.75 for small) has fresh papaya and pulpy liliko‘i, the crunchy seeds adding texture on top of the granola. And I love that Island Vintage adds a little drizzle of extra honey at the bottom of the bowl as well, a delightful attention to detail that has defined all of my visits to Island Vintage.
So go to Island Vintage—because why should the tourists have all the fun?