The Sweet Life

Just a few minutes away from Kuilei Place is our favorite place for a cold treat on a sunny day. Waiola Shave Ice is one of Oʻahu’s iconic shave ice shops, featuring old-school recipes and homemade syrups. With a history dating back to the 1940s, the cherished family-owned business set out to perfect the shave ice with just five flavors: strawberry, banana, blue vanilla, cherry and grape. Today, they are known for the softest shave ice in town with natural flavors and an array of toppings like mochi balls, ice cream and sweetened condensed milk.

Waiola Shave Ice

Owner Jerry Lee started working at the family business when his parents bought the neighborhood store from his granduncle in 1946. As a 16-year-old, Jerry balanced going to school and working full-time at the store, often catching up on sleep in the classroom. Built in 1940, the shop began as a neighborhood grocery store and has since evolved into the iconic shave ice spot it is today. Located in a residential area, Waiola Shave Iceʻs popularity has spread primarily through word-of-mouth. Jerry has loved being part of the neighborhood for decades, positioned right next to the local park and library and just a few minutes from the beach. Heʻs seen generations of famiies delight in the sweet treats.

Jerry recalls one woman who came to the shop and ordered a shave ice. “I told her, ‘I gave you extra mochi because I forgot your mochi the last time.’ And she started crying because her mother had recently passed away and the last time she had shave ice, she had brought her mom to the shop,” he said. “She said that her mom used to bring her and her sisters to get shave ice when they were kids. Later, when she got sick, they would bring her to the shop. Now, they get shave ice whenever they’re missing their mom. You don’t know when you’re going to touch someone’s life.”

Jerry Lee

He says his biggest reward is being a part of people’s special memories. “My job is to give them the best I can. There’s so much going on in their lives, but the moment they step up to the window, I have a mission to perfect every single shave ice that I make.”