I've planned vacations entirely around visiting shave ice shops. In 2018, I devoured 68 bowls of shave ice from shops in Japan and Hawaii. I just might be a little obsessed with shave ice. I know, I'm weird.
Kula Shave Ice in downtown Hilo has been on my hit list for a while. The pastel-hued domes of ice with fluffy haupia cream hats are irresistible on Instagram. I plan to try them on my next visit to the Big Island, but for me air travel is out of the question right now despite attractive flight deals. So you can imagine my delight when Kula Shave Ice set up a second location right here on Oahu. I book it out to the North Shore as soon as I can.
Drive through Haleiwa town and you'll find an empty field home to the Farm to Barn cafe and Kula's colorful trailer parked close to the road. If you're lost, follow the signs pointing you to shave ice. It's just past Kaimana Shave Ice, which is known for homemade fresh fruit syrups and ice creams.
Kula's fresh syrups are also made in-house using organic sugar and fruit like Tahitian lime, guava, mango and pineapple. They make matcha and golden milk shave ice as well. Toppings include cubes of mochi, creamy snow caps, lilikoi butter, azuki beans, haupia cream and chocolate shell – all homemade and $1 each. Fillings ($2 each) are either organic vanilla, chocolate or macadamia nut ice cream or fresh O‘ahu poi, the first time I've seen it paired with shave ice.
See also: Kahala Shave Ice keeps Kakaako cool
You have the choice to build your own bowl, regular ($7) or keiki ($5) sized, and choose up to two flavors or go with one of their suggested shave ice combinations. I go with the creation that speaks to me, the Lilikoi Dreamsicle ($10). It comes with vanilla ice cream and a condensed milk snow cap; I add on mochi ($1) for some texture. Tax is included in the pricing. The transaction is completely contactless and quick.
Minutes later, my shave ice pops out of the opposing window. For the price, it's smaller than I expect, but not underwhelming – at Kula it's about quality, not quantity. The first bite is bright, tart and tastes of summer. It's why I love lilikoi so much. I discover a small scoop of melting ice cream after digging deep and it transforms the bowl into a creamy tropical milkshake.
Good thing Kula provides a straw because I slurp that sucker right up.
The mochi cubes are chewy like chi chi dango but with a bit too much potato starch. I love the texture of mochi with cold shave ice so I'll always add them on if they're available. I probably would have also opted for the haupia cream hat too if I wanted a severe sugar coma in the process.
Before I know it, my Lilikoi Dreamsicle is gone and I'm left thoroughly impressed. Next time I'll have to get the mango or pineapple with the haupia cream.
If you want to tackle multiple flavors in one visit, I suggest going the keiki route for economic reasons and you can still have the choice of up to two flavors. They're also just so adorable.
If you're curious as to why Kula Shave Ice is from the Big Island and not Maui, kula refers to a plain, field or open pasture, much like the lands of Kula and the very essence Kula Shave Ice aims to capture with its organic and natural flavors. Kula also translates to golden, as in the family name of owners Tiffany and Luke Golden. Cute!
Kula Shave Ice North Shore
66-320 Kamehameha Highway
Wed-Fri 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Sat-Sun 11 a.m.-6 p.m.