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Is “shave ice” the same as a snow cone?

Ask the Big Kahuna

“Answering the most common visitor questions”


My sister tells me I should not fail to have a “shaved ice” when I come to Hawaii. Is it the same as a snow cone?

Beverly Hills, CA


Dear LB-

No, they are definitely not the same thing, and your sister is right! Snow cones on the mainland are made with crushed ice and fruit syrup, and are often re-frozen so that when you get them they’re pretty much one chunk of flavored ice.

Shave ice (note that sometimes the phrase is used with no “d” on the “shave”) is a really wonderful delight. The ice is actually shaved off a big block right in front of you into a fine powder so it’s easy to eat. Then it’s topped with any one of countless exotic tropical fruit flavors, and sometimes questionable ones like root beer and bubblegum. Children tend to be partial to rainbow shave ice, usually a combination of strawberry, orange and vanilla (blue), or three other colorful flavors.

If you’re particularly lucky, you’ll find a stand that puts the shave ice on top of ice cream – really delicious. Mmm, Big K has to run across the street to have one of those right now.

If you want to buy shaved ice equipment and make your own shaved ice, go here: Hypothermias.

Big Kahuna