By Lisa

We were on Kauai for two glorious weeks and before we went, the kids told me that one of the reasons they love vacation there is because I’m “super-nice” the whole time. Apparently this has a lot to do with the fact that I let them eat shave ice almost every day. This is easily the Hawaiian equivalent of gelato, with a lot less fat.

Jo Jo’s Blue Raspberry

Their flavor picks evolved with the trip, for example:

Day 1= lime and cherry (Ella); mango and guava (Finn)
Day 2=guava & li hing mui/root beer & cotton candy
Day 3=vanilla & coconut / peach & pineapple

After that,  I lost track, but Ella was often seen eating coconut and vanilla to match her toweling shirt.

Finn was the wild card. One day it would be tropical, another day candy-sweet. They liked things that turned their tongue unnatural colors.

Sometimes, we had ice cream on the bottom–vanilla or macadamia nut, which is a real treat.  I dusted mine with li hing mui powder, or tried the haupia (coconut) cream topping.

With Li Hing Mui (salty preserved plum powder)

Not all shave ice is created equal.  There was a decent roadside stand on the way to Koloa, and Jo Jo’s, a shack in Waimea, has terrific syrups (60 in all), and Shave Ice Paradise in Hanalei is open long hours and is good, too.  But the Wishing Well in Hanalei still takes the prize.

Wishing Well’s Local Girl:  Li Hing Mui + Coconut

Grape + Vanilla

Lime + Coconut + Whipped Cream (for Ella’s local girlfriend)

Vanilla + Coconut

Pineapple + Coconut + Guava

It’s in a truck, and it’s almost never open as far as we can tell. Her posted hours are flagrantly wrong (in our limited experience) and she runs out of ice regularly. The owner is ageless, tall and thin and tanned and usually clad in draping island wear.  She is secretive and dictatorial–you have to order in a prescribed way and you can NOT substitute anything in the specials. She will not let you hold the kids up to the tiny screened window so they can see how she works.  But she is amazing and her shave ice is glorious. It’s light and delicate and melts in your mouth. But it does not melt quickly in the cup like some other shave ice does.  I don’t understand how she does it, and when I asked if she had a different machine and she answered cryptically, “No, I just take my time.” She claims her syrups are the same as everyone else’s, save for 4, but I’m not sure I believe her.  There is something mysterious about this truck and magical about just how good the shave ice is.  So if it’s open when you drive by, stop immediately.  While pretty much any shave ice will hit the spot, this is what ice was made to do best.

At Jo Jo’s