If you search Trip Advisor for the best restaurants in Maui, Ululanis Shave Ice is above all others. All the five star restaurants on prestigious golf courses and in ancient plantation houses evidently cannot compare to the modest shave ice stands you can find scattered throughout the island.
Because they are so popular and renowned I felt the need to give Ululani's a fair and honest review. I decided to give as many flavors as possible a chance to dance around in my mouth and be reviewed for us all. Hard work, I know.
To be fair, I only visited the two Ululani's locations in Lahaina in West Maui. There is one in Kahului and one in Kihei as well, but I just went to the ones on either side of Front Street.
Ululani's says that the reason their shave ice is so good is because it's made with filtered water and the finest shave on the island, as well as homemade fruit-based syrups. What I know is that their ice is perfectly soft and cut into tiny crystals, so you never run into a piece of ice you feel like you have to bite. It's more like ice cream than a standard snow cone.
And speaking of ice cream, you can get a scoop of coconut ice cream on the bottom of your snow cone, but the servers thought there was probably dairy in the actual ice cream. I really wish they'd look into making their ice cream entirely with coconut milk, which makes a creamy, decadent ice cream-- just ask Coconut Glen's on the other side of the island.
Each serving of shave ice is cut from a block of ice that spins inside their shaving machine. It's mounded up in a huge ball the size of a small cantaloupe, and then the edges are knocked off so it fits nicely into your brightly colored shave ice cone. The servers punch holes in the snowball to make sure the flavoring makes its way to the bottom, and then the flavors are poured on top, typically three flavors to a cone.
So which flavors did we like best? Ululani's Shave Ice specializes in the tropical flavors like coconut, mango, pineapple, and lilikoi (passionfruit). I stand behind them for doing those flavors well because the real fruit in Maui is outstanding.
Every one of their tropical flavors is incredible, but I think coconut got the top honors. It has a really nice soft texture with just enough sweetness and tons of coconut flavor.
If you want to venture out of the tropical arena, Ululani's will most likely still impress you. I loved their kiwi flavor, and I strawberry and cherry both reminded me of being a little kid at a carnival. I even tried blue raspberry because I remember when that flavor became popular and how I ate blue raspberry everything.
I wasn't overly excited about the coffee flavor, and I thought the vanilla was a bit too sweet. Plus, vanilla was colored blue, which the server said is just how it's always been done in Hawaii.
Above: Strawberry, Coconut, Blue Raspberry
Left: Tiger's Blood, Vanilla, Coffee
We also heard some kids near us ordering pink lemonade, bubblegum, and cotton candy flavors, which sound pretty much like how I would have styled my shave ice as a kid, so I can appreciate it. But, when in Maui, you've really got to try the tropical flavors.