Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice opened its first Oʻahu location on Kapahulu Avenue. (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

By Cameron Enomoto | Staff Writer

“All shave ice is not created equal” is what the sign above Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice on Kapahulu Avenue reads. As the first five-star rated restaurant in the world on both TripAdvisor and Yelp, Ululani’s has expanded its business to 10 locations across Maui, the Big Island, Los Angeles, and now, since Jan. 20, Oʻahu. While each shave ice store has its own unique twist, none hit the spot as well as Ululani’s.

Before trying Ululani’s shave ice, I believed that all shave ice was more or less the same. Though the difference couldn’t have been more obvious from the first bite that I took. Ululani’s is leagues above any other shave ice store, and it’s apparent why the franchise remains at the top of the “Best Shave Ice in the World” list.

The sweet and refreshing shave ice made for a great first experience at Ululani’s, and the friendly staff made it even more enjoyable. From the moment I entered the store, the staff members greeted me and made themselves available in case I had any questions. I decided to order an ulu-sized rainbow shave ice (blue raspberry, pineapple, strawberry) with vanilla ice cream, a snow cap, and li hing mui powder. While I was waiting for my order to be completed, I noticed the store owner engaging in conversations with other guests and helping people take photos to remember their experience. The ‘ulu was big enough for two people, and I got more than my money’s worth after spending only $11.25.

The texture of the shave ice is unlike others, practically melting on the tongue, and every part of it is saturated with syrup made from 100% pure cane sugar. With over 50 flavors to choose from, each being infused with premium, all-natural purees, there is something for everyone to enjoy. There are two sizes to choose from at the Kapahulu location, the keiki ($5.99) and the ‘ulu ($7.25). Guests have the choice of creating their own combination of up to three flavors or selecting one of the most popular combos like Haleakalā (leche, coconut with free snow cap), Sunset Beach (passion orange, mango, guava), and No Ka ʻOi (mango, coconut, passionfruit).

Aside from the smooth shave ice, Ululani’s serves award-winning Roselani Ice Cream’s gourmet tier for its ice cream add-on. Ice cream add-ons are $2.25. Vanilla is a safe flavor to go with, though macadamia nut, haupia, and ube are available for more adventurous guests. Additional add-ons include azuki beans ($1.25), snow cap ($1.00), toasted coconut ($1.00), fresh mochi ($1.25), haupia cream ($1.00), li hing mui reduction drizzle ($0.75), and li hing mui powder (free).

The vision for Ululani’s began when Ululani Yamashiro became disappointed in her search for quality shave ice in the Pacific Northwest, according to the franchise website. She was met with snowcones and chunky shave ice which did not compare to what she grew up with in Kalihi. As a result, she took a risk to purchase a shave ice machine and supplies which allowed her to begin making Hawaiian shave ice at community events and private parties. Yamashiro’s hard work paid off and she was able to open her first location in Lahaina, Maui in December 2008.

The experience I had at Ululani’s is undoubtedly similar to what many others experienced as well. The dedication Ululani’s maintains in striving to create the best shave ice is remarkable. As they continue to embody a genuine service mindset of “alohatude” (spirit of aloha with gratitude) the innovative techniques paired with amazing service ensure the best-tasting shave ice can be enjoyed by guests for years to come.