As if Hawaii wasn’t fabulous enough with its tropical climate, breathtaking views, and go-with-the-flow mentality, it’s also home to the mother of all hot weather refreshments: Shave ice. My wife and I make it a point to consume as many of these icy, sugary heaps of wonderful as we possibly can whenever we find ourselves on the islands.
Before we get started, let’s talk about the name. It’s “shave ice”, not “shaved ice”. There is no D after “shave”. Yes, technically “shaved” is the grammatically correct approach, but anyone who says it that way is probably from the mainland and thinks that Magnum, P.I. was a reality show. So why is the wrong way to say it the right way? Because that’s how they say it in Hawaii. Why is a “po’ boy” sandwich not called a “poor boy”, and why does Mr. T say “I pity da fool!” instead of “Verily, I feel sympathy for individuals in predicaments such as that one”? Same answer. Local dialect + awesome food = stop complaining. On a related subject, if you’re high strung enough to let the name “shave ice” get on your nerves, you could probably use a Hawaiian vacation. Just hang loose.
Our very first visit, Ululani’s, turned out to be our favorite spot for the entire trip. There are several locations dotted around Maui, and we visited three of them over the course of the week. Ululani’s standout feature is the fact that they make most of their own syrups from scratch and sweeten them with cane sugar. Unlike the fake bottles of dye everyone else uses, these syrups actually need to be refrigerated to keep them from going bad. They’re actually made out of real fruit! *gasp* Their list of flavors is astronomical, from kiwi to wild cherry to mango to lychee and dozens more. It’s probably the best shave ice I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something.
Ululani’s Shave Ice
Flavor options: Mind-boggling
Snow cap: Yes
Ice cream: Yes
Ice texture: Fine, dense, almost powdery
Rating: Your head asplode
Maui is home to dozens of charming towns, lush tropical vegetation, and breathtaking coastal views. Whalers Village shopping center features none of these things. It was an unfortunate turn of luck, then, when my spouse and I found ourselves there due to a bit of devious GPS trickery. There’s nothing especially wrong with Whalers Village per se, but it’s just not special. And it’s certainly nothing like the tropical paradise we inexplicably left behind in order to trudge through retail hell.
To help make something worthwhile out of our journey (and to validate our parking stub), we paid a visit to Maui Barista Coffee & Smoothies. They make shave ice too, but apparently it wasn’t important enough to include in their business name along with everything else. Just like the mall in which it’s located, Maui Barista isn’t bad so much as it’s unremarkable. (In a remarkable place like Hawaii, however, I suppose that probably is bad.) The flavor selections are limited and very standard; banana is about as crazy as it gets. Further compounding the issue of mediocrity, additional options (e.g., snow cap) are nonexistent and prices are a bit on the high side. Service was prompt and friendly and there’s a nicely shaded seating area nearby, but that just about sums up all the good points. If you happen to find yourself trapped in Whaler’s Village and aren’t sure what to do with the extra $4.75 in your pocket, I guess you could consider stopping by.
Maui Barista Coffee & Smoothies
Flavor options: Meh
Snow cap: No
Ice cream: No
Ice texture: Loose and a bit grainy
Breakwall Shave Ice Co. is one of those places you wish you owned. It was founded by a bunch of surfer dudes from the Midwest who decided they were tired of living in the middle of corn fields and moved to Maui. Their first priority was to find some sweet waves, which they did. They then decided that making money probably wasn’t a bad idea, so they opened a shave ice shop. Now why didn’t *I* think of that?? The subtle genius of their simplistic approach is startling.
Personal jealousy aside, the guys at Breakwall sure do know how to make a mean shave ice. Although the flavors aren’t homemade, the selection is as deep as what you’d find at the venerable Ululani’s. Their snow caps are thick and seem to be nearly pure condensed milk. Although I like this particular style quite a bit, my wife wasn’t really a fan and prefers the thinner type snow caps. The texture of the ice at Breakwall is absolutely spot on, and there are seating areas both indoors and outdoors where you can chill and enjoy some surfing videos. Tubular!
Breakwall Shave Ice Co.
Flavor options: Extensive
Snow cap: Yes
Ice cream: Yes
Ice texture: Light and snowy
Rating: Highly recommended, dude