Like Leonard's Bakery and Rainbow Drive-In, Matsumoto Shave Ice is a can't-miss if you're visiting the Hawaiian island of Oahu for the first time.

From Honolulu, head up the Kamehameha Highway to the slower paces of the island's North Shore. Eventually, you'll hit M. Matsumoto Store, a general store with an unassuming presence that belies its international frozen dessert fame.

The only thing that might give it away? A long line of hot, thirsty customers, eagerly waiting their turn to order. For a better background on this regional favorite, read on.
Shave ice, as it's called in Hawaii, made its way to the islands when Japanese plantation workers brought the tradition of kakigori with them. The treat's popularity caught the eye of Matsumoto store founders Mamoru and Helen Momoyo Matsumoto, who, after opening their store in 1951, soon decided to expand their business to include a shave ice stand. With an influx of car racing enthusiasts, surfers, and hippies during the 1960s came worldwide renown.


A quick glance at the menu board reveals a spectrum of different syrup flavors, from pineapple to lilikoi to li hing mui, all homemade. Order any combination of three flavors, and their bright colors will arrive cascading over a cone of freshly shaved ice that hides a heap of azuki red beans and vanilla ice cream underneath for a mere $3.50.

Minutes before my arrival, I'd seen my first sky-spanning rainbow, and opted for the Rainbow flavor, a refreshing mix of lemon, strawberry, and pineapple. On a sweltering afternoon, it was the ultimate sweet refreshment. Where do you go for your Hawaiian shave ice fix?