Matsumoto Shave Ice vs. Waiola Shave Ice

If you live in Hawaii then you basically know that there are three shave ice spots that matter, Aoki’s, Matsumoto’s and Waiola’s. Both Aoki’s and Matsumoto’s are located in Haleiwa, in fact they are just a couple of feet from one another. Between Aoki’s and Matsumoto’s, I have to say that I prefer the taste of Matsumoto’s over Aoki’s any day. 

So given my preference for Matsumoto’s. I was perturbed when a friend had said that Waiola’s was superior to Matsumoto’s shave ice. I was skeptical. Although having heard of Waiola’s on many a occasion, I myself had never tasted their shave ice. You can’t blame me, I live on the west side of the island. And when you want shave ice, you always head to the north shore. The question begged, how could anything be better than Matsumoto’s? Impossible. I had to check out this Waiola’s. 

On a rather impromptu occasion, I paid a visited to Waiola’s shave ice on Kapahulu Avenue. Already, I began anticipating the disappointment ahead. Alas, after searching for parking, I finally made it to Waiola’s. Would Waiola’s reign supreme over Matsumoto’s gold standard? Turns out, my prediction had come true. Total disappointment! And so I present to you 9 reasons why Matsumoto’s not only dominates over Waiola’s in terms of taste but in every other aspect as well. 

  1. Parking. Ample parking at Matsumoto’s vs. Hard to find street parking at Waiola’s
  2. Setting. Come on now, how can you even compare Kapahulu Ave. to Historic Haleiwa Town? As you sit and indulge in your shave ice at Matsumoto’s you see the rustic Hawaii of yesteryear. As you sit and indulge in your shave ice at Waiola’s you see a freakin’ golf course!
  3. Simplicity. At Matsumoto’s you get your shave ice how it should be. Ice, syrup and optional vanilla ice cream and sweet azuki beans. At Waiola’s you’re flooded with un-appetizing options like chocolate syrup? Chocolate syrup on shave ice is blasphemy. Sometimes the best kind of shave ice is the kind where you don’t have to try too hard to make it look good. Mochi balls on my shave ice? I’ll pass. 
  4. Price. Matsumoto’s beats Waiola’s yet again. Compare the size differences as well, above left you see a small size Matsumoto serving, and to the right you see me holding a Waiola’s tiny large sized serving!
  5. Line. A line (or queue if your British), is a good indicator of a quality product. At Matsumoto’s there is always a line of people that forms outside of the store. During my visit to Waiola’s, there were three unassuming customers in front of me. 
  6. Taste. The flavor comes from the syrup-ey goodness poured on the shave ice. At Waiola’s you can get a Rainbow (three set flavors) or choose two flavors of your choosing. At Matsumoto’s everything is fair game. I don’t need to pay extra for a third or fourth flavor. My personal favorite flavors at Matsumoto’s are Lilikoi, Pineapple and Melona!
  7. Ice. Generic shave ice (or snow cones in the mainland) have ice that is quite rough in texture. Premium shave ice like that served at Aoki’s, Waiola’s and Matsumoto’s are known for the finely shaved ice particles. And although Waiola’s shave ice was very finely shaven, I found that it was too finely shaven. Matsumoto’s have perfected the art of shaving ice. Shaving the ice fine enough as not to go over the edge. You have to experience it to know what I am talking about. 
  8. Speed. Although the wait due to the line is longer at Matsumoto’s, the speed at which the shave ice is made is far faster than Waiola’s. You get the feeling that they know what they are doing when you’re at Matsumoto’s! 
  9. Bees. Science knows that bee’s love to nibble on sweet sugary goodness. So it makes sense that you’ll always find those harmless honeybees’s buzzing about the outskirts of Matsumoto’s. They want the good stuff that you’re enjoying! I spotted zero bees at Waiola’s. Zilch. 

So that’s it. In head-to-head competition (or should I say ice-to-ice), Matsumoto’s shave ice is the better shave ice. It simply can’t be beat. Bee’s don’t lie. 


Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712

Waiola Bakery and Shave Ice II
525 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815



  1. mchelle says

    I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, Matsumoto’s has better shave ice than the so-called “best place to have shave ice on Kauai”–Jo-Jo’s Clubhouse in Waimea. And just the other day, the Food Network channel did a little special on Matsumoto’s, stating that they do have the art of shaving ice down to a science. Now, why else would they choose to spotlight Matsumoto’s over all the other shave ice places in Hawaii? Exactly.

  2. joelsabugo says

    Although I agree with you that a long line means the demand for the product is high, I don’t feel that it is an actual positive to the experience. Waiting there with all the tourist and the occasional unsuspecting classmates of mine shouting “Eh SABUGO!” HAHA

    I think I’m loving this comment way too much. But yes I do agree Matsumoto is far way better than Waiola. Its not even in a Shave ice cone. Its in a fricken cup. And of course I have to Rep my hometown. Bulldogs! c/0 2002 whoop whoop.

  3. says

    Save the Bulldog! c/o 2002 whoop whoop chant for when I blog about why the Governors! c/o 1999 whoop whoop was the best class ever. Whoop!

    Oh yeah, and the cone deal. What’s up with that?! I don’t want my shave ice in a stinking styrofoam cup!

  4. sheshe says

    I agree that you Oahu people know something or two about your ice ;) even got it down to a science! Hahaha…

    No but for real, I think I may have to agree with those before me. Despite the ample seating that Waiola provides with their wobbly rusted long legged chairs and stools and not to mention the benches outside under a lovely rusted red roof, I have to say that Matsumoto’s is quite enjoyable! it even has the power to satisfy my craving for Shaved Ice for months long after consumption!

    But I also think that they are all good places, why else would anyone go back if otherwise. The great thing about Waiola is it’s convenience for those who are not able to make the trek all the way to Waimea for a cone of our beloved Mastumoto’s frozen goodness. Perhaps they have to give us less at Waiola’s because they pay more to be in town–ah the price of convenience! Who knows, perhaps it just part of the politics in the Shave Ice industry now a days… golly! Oh well, moving on…

    Next topic…. Guri Guri, mmmm!