Matsumoto's Shave Ice in Haleiwa is Onolicious

Photo of the famous bridge in Haleiwa, taken by my Dad in the 1960's
Photo of Haleiwa taken by my father, Peter in the 1960's

I grew up in Haleiwa and I remember my mom taking me to Matsumoto's for a cold Shave Ice on a typically warm day as a reward for sitting still while getting my haircut. Great memories. The barbershop is now a dress shop and also the new location for Aoki's Shave Ice, but Matsumoto's is in the same spot as when I was a child, some 60 years ago.

Since then, they've recently expanded, spruced up the place and added a larger tee-shirt shop.

Matsumoto's has been around for almost 70+ years and this review will be just as appropriate 10 years from now as it is now. (In fact it is, as I wrote this originally in 2010 so next year in 2020 it will be 10 years!)

Matsumoto's is by far the most-famous Shave Ice place in Hawaii,
maybe anywhere.

So what is Shave Ice? If you've every had a snow cone on the mainland your headed in the right direction with "Shave Ice" having a finer texture. It starts off as a block of ice that is shaved with a machine into a fine powdery "snow" and then scooped up and put on top of a paper cone in a ball. It resembles an Ice Cream Cone in shape when it's all done.

Poured over this powdery snowball is any number of syrups that range in flavors from tropical such as Pineapple, Mango, Lychee or Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) to traditional flavors such as Cherry, Apple or Bubblegum. You can ask for more than one flavor to be poured onto your "Shave Ice" including Rainbow which is three pre-selected flavors.

In addition to the Syrup's you can also ask for Ice Cream or Azuki Beans which are red Japanese sweet beans that are placed into the bottom of the cone or the latest addition which is coconut cream which is poured on top of the "Shave Ice" if you need an additional dose of sugar to get you going!

In the end, you walk out of Matsumoto's with a rainbow of yummy sweet goodness. (If you don't like it too sweet, you can always tell them to use half the syrup.) If your afraid your concoction will drip all over your clothes, you can also purchase a plastic holder to contain all of the sweet goodness. However, die hard "Shave Ice" eaters will forgo the "touristy" touch since they will be in their bathing suits anyway and can just rinse off in the ocean. I'll have to say that I have purchased the holder from time to time when taking it with me in the car instead of eating it on the spot.

Matsumoto's has been open since 1951 and is a popular spot for both tourists and locals and they make 1,000+ servings a day. Don't be alarmed if the line is out the door, down the sidewalk and into the parking lot. This is normal and the ordering process moves the line pretty quickly. If it's a shorter line, count your blessings!

The Matsumoto's Ordering Dance

As the line approaches the front door, you will notice a menu board with all of your options. Here is how you choose.

I. A person will be standing half way down the line taking orders. You don't wait until you reach the cash register.
1 - Select a Large or Small Cone. I always order a large, the rest of the family typically a small.
2 - Decide if you would like Ice Cream, Azuki Beans on the bottom or the Coconut Cream topping. I get Ice Cream or Beans, the rest of the family doesn't want any extra fru fru touching their "Shave Ice".
3 - Decide on your flavors, my favorite (I get all three): Lilikoi, Li Hing Mui and Lychee. My daughter orders Cherry and my Son Pineapple, Mango and his flavor of that moment.
4 - Ask for the plastic holder as needed.

II. When you reach the cash register, pay for your order.

III. Wait over on the side until they call your name at which time you go back to claim your delicious prize. You can use the time to look around at the tee shirts. We buy them from time to time to remind us of home.

We usually visit Matsumoto's after we have had our Mahi Mahi fix at Kua Aina's. If we're headed to the beach, we just take our "Shave Ice" with us. We'll post some of our favorite beaches in a separate post.

Head out of the Beach Villa's Resort on the H1 freeway heading East ("Mauka or towards the mountain"), next take the left exit on the H1 freeway onto the H2 freeway going North ("Makai, towards the Sea"). Continue Makai until the H2 ends. Continue to follow the signs to the North Shore and Haleiwa. There are multiple routes but as long as you continue Makai, your fine as eventually, you'll fall off into the Ocean! At the traffic circle, you'll follow the signs for Haleiwa which is towards the right heading North/East, Waialua and Mokuleia are the other way which we'll cover in a blog for another day. You'll pass Kua Aina on the right and a little past there you'll see a church on the right with Matsumoto's on the left. You may see another line on the left right before Matsumoto's, it's for Aoki's, another Shave Ice place in Haleiwa. It wasn't there when I was a child so being a die hard traditionalist, I have never been.

Come stay with us, it would be our pleasure and we'll see you in line at Matsumoto's!

The Hardings--
Homeowners & Proprietors, the Beach Villa Resort

The Beach Villa Resort is located in West Oahu within the beautiful Ko Olina Resort. We offer luxurious vacation rentals with two and three bedroom villas right on the beach. Luxury hotel accommodations and amenities at condo prices. If you've been to the Paradise Cove Luau or have been shuttled from Waikiki to golf, you've already been here. Click HERE for reservations


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