Rainbow shave ice cone
: Honolulu
Text By
Eunica Escalante
Images By
Skye Yonamine

Sweet Heat

On a summer day, relief comes in the form of brightly colored, sugary sweet-decadence that melts in your mouth.

What is it about the heat that fuels a nostalgic desire for something sweet? Maybe Hawai’i’s love affair with frozen sweets is a legacy of its plantation days. Back then, ice cakes—ice cubes flavored with condensed milk or fruit juice—were a welcome treat after a long day in the sun-baked fields. Or perhaps this passion is because such indulgences summon up carefree childhood moments, sitting on a curb with an ice cream cone in hand.

With the explosion of foodie culture in Hawai‘i spreading to the dessert course, the selection of sweet treats on O‘ahu is more varied and unique than ever. From the tried and traditional to more contemporary concoctions, here are our favorite picks for satisfying your sweet tooth.

Gelato with drizzle

A selection of delectable treats dished up in Honolulu help residents and visitors find sweet contentment on hot summer days.

Rainbow colored shave ice.

Among the variety of cool treats offered through the island, shave ice remains a local classic.

Le Mint, House Without a Key
Guests can satisfy their cravings right at Halekulani’s House Without a Key. An homage to the 1925 Earl Derr Biggers novel of the same name, this restaurant has a relaxed ambiance and a menu featuring an assortment of cool concoctions ranging from spirited drinks to frozen treats. Le Mint, a lemonade and mint slushy, is the perfect way to cool down after a day in the sun.
Le Mint cocktail with orange slice on rim
Honey Slush, Wicked HI
Only found at select O‘ahu farmers markets, Wicked HI’s honey slush is the rarest treat on the list. But a search for its bright yellow cart is definitely worth it. The company’s formula for sweet satisfaction is surprisingly minimal: raw, all-natural local honey mixed with fresh-pressed local fruit juice. This allows for a refreshing play on flavors that produces a range of slush choices from liliko‘i to piña colada. A generous drizzling of coconut cream or a sprinkling of honeycomb chunks delivers an extra layer of flavor.
Honey drizzle on slush
Wicked Honey prices
Shave Ice, Shimazu’s
Introduced by Japanese immigrants, shave ice has grown to become Hawaiʻi’s most famous confection. Shave ice stands are a dime a dozen on Oʻahu, found everywhere from the tip of North Shore to the middle of downtown Honolulu. But if long lines indicate where the best shave ice can be found, then Shimazu’s is the spot. First opening in 1951, it’s one of Oʻahu’s oldest shave ice shops. Don’t be discouraged if the wait seems long. Its generous portions (a large doubles the size of its cone) and diverse array of flavors make it worth it.
Rainbow shave ice cone
Rainbow Float, Rainbow Drive-In
With its simple local-style offerings and classic plate-lunch premise, Rainbow Drive-In has been a local mainstay since it opened in 1961. In the past 50 years, its menu and iconic rainbow exterior have remained virtually unchanged, but its popularity has grown. After a loco-moco plate lunch, treat yourself to the rainbow float: a simple amalgamation of strawberry slushy and vanilla ice cream.
Rainbow Drive-in
Strawberry slushy and vanilla ice cream in cup
Papaya Bowls, Banán
Locally grown, GMO-free, dairy-free, and made out of bananas. No, it’s not a sugar-fueled dream. Such a soft serve treat was concocted by the Banán team in 2014 to provide a healthy alternative to frozen sweets. Soon after, this brightly colored, all-natural confection became the highlight of farmers markets and Instagram feeds. Today, its menu features seven flavors of banana-based soft serve including the crowd favorite, Greens, which is comprised of bananas, ginger, mint, and spirulina. Also available are toppings ranging from strawberries to macadamia nut honey butter. Get your pick dished up in a papaya bowl for a more eco-friendly (and Instagram-worthy) treat.
Papaya acai bowl topped with bananas and strawberries.
Affogato, Via Gelato
Looking for pep in your dessert? The affogato at Via Gelato delivers a hint of caffeine for the perfect afternoon pick-me-up by combining espresso with a gelato of your choice. This gelato shop, which opened in 2014, offers a daily rotating spread of flavors like thai chili chocolate or olive oil and balsamic strawberry. Visitors are encouraged to contribute to the menu by pinning their ideas to a suggestion board making for unique flavors.
Coffee being poured onto vanilla ice cream
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