Explore Maui

Best Cold Treats on a Hot Maui Day

Here's the inside scoop on some of the island's icy desserts.

We know that Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. And history tells us that during the 11th century, the Arabs developed shrb, “sugar syrup,” a base for making fruit sorbets, medical herbs, spices and flowers. However, when it comes to sweet cool pleasures, Dan Blessing, Nicol Bradley and Cindy Tasaka-Ing literally and figuratively have the inside scoop. While their choice of icy treats varies, each of their preference refreshes the palate on a hot Maui day, or any day for that matter.

Ice cream cones on a table
Island Cream Co. offers a wide variety of flavors. (Courtesy Island Cream Co.)

Cream of the Crop

Upon completion of a three-week course in how to make gelato in Italy, Dan Blessing walked away with a new idea: develop a hybrid between gelato and ice cream, and name it Island Cream. “I have a science background and I realized that the chemistry in some of the ingredients they were using was wrong. It may be a traditional recipe but it doesn’t mean it’s right.”

After trying to establish his first shop for months in St. Augustine, Florida, the 56-year-old entrepreneur decided instead to open one on Maui. “Within a week, we found a location and a home,” Blessing says. “This is now our fourth year and we just exploded. We’re definitely thinking of expansion.”

Located at the Lāhainā Gateway Center, Island Cream Co. offers a rotating menu of what Blessing describes as “more than 150 crazy blends … and counting.”  “Everything is handmade, from our chocolate cake to cookies, and we used local ingredients whenever possible,” Blessing explains. “It’s very labor intensive and we take more of a scientific approach.”

Among the more popular flavors is the Maui Loco, which starts with a special cream base that’s blended with dulche de leche, coconut, macadamia nuts and chocolate chips, and served in a homemade cone with a Pirouline stick for dipping. Other unique flavors include Kaua‘i Karmel with roasted pecans, Maui French Toast, Lāhainā Cream, Hilo Hot Chocolate and Hāna Carmel Popcorn.

Blessing has also invented the Glacier Ice Station, which is what he calls “The Ultimate Shave Ice Experience,” a tap-like system that allows guests to build their own cold concoction. Top your mound of shave ice with such syrups as French vanilla, root beer, guava, watermelon, coconut, pineapple, raspberry and, a crowd favorite, tropical heat.

“We want to bring excellence to every recipe,” Blessing says. “We want every flavor to be the best you have ever had. We like to say ‘We Make Cravings’ because we believe we do.”

Lāhainā Gateway Center, 305 Keawe S., 808.298.0916, islandcreamco.com.

Cindy Tasaka-Ing holds up a cup of the strawberry guri guri.
Cindy Tasaka-Ing holds up a cup of the strawberry guri guri. (©Isaac Arjonilla)

Oh Goody, Goody

I imagine the family’s secret recipe scrawled on a piece of paper that’s now yellowed through time and probably hidden in a corroded metal lock box. It has been more than six decades since the late Gunji Tasaka introduced the hybrid sherbet-sorbet-ice cream-ish treat to Maui residents. And today, it’s still the same recipe and the same two flavors: pineapple and strawberry.

“We don’t like change,” chuckles Cindy Taska-Ing, the fourth generation family member to work at this quaint mom-and-pop shop in Kahului. “It’s also easier this way since people don’t have to decide which flavor they want; it’s either pineapple or strawberry.”

When Gunji Tasaka’s father, Jokichi Tasaka, first opened the shop near the railroad tracks in Kahului in the early 1900s, he sold mostly confections, such as chi chi dango, senbei, mochi and yōkan (a chilled Japanese red bean jelly with chestnut). However, once the younger Tasaka introduced and perfected his recipe for guri guri, sales for all other goods waned and the shop became widely known as Tasaka Guri Guri rather than by its original name of Tasaka Confectionary Store.

“My dad (Henry) and uncle Setsuo continued to focus on the guri guri,” says daughter Cindy Tasaka-Ing. “They didn’t like change, either. My dad always joked that he and my uncle weren’t smart enough to make more flavors.”

As the fourth generation Tasaka to work at the eponymous Guri Guri shop in Kahului, Cindy Tasaka-Ing, along with her sister Gail Saito, hold the heavily guarded secret to the hybrid sherbet-sorbet-ice cream-ish treat. Her dad’s father invented the Japanese recipe, which is a dairy-based treat that Tasaka-Ing describes as “not as heavy as ice cream but not as icy as shave ice.”

Once asked by the LA Times if it could publish the family recipe, the late Henry Tasaka rebuffed the idea, commenting that he couldn’t do something like that because then everybody else would be doing the same, adding that it was more or less a family secret, so forget it.

“We’re still an old-school operation,” says Tasaka-Ing, whose first job at the shop was placing the wooden spoons in the cup. “We have no computer. We don’t have a website. It’s still a family operation in a laidback atmosphere.”

The Tasakas produce and sell about 40 gallons a day, not counting the takeout orders popular with interisland travelers. (Quart-sized tubs packed in foil and newspaper will remain firm for up to three hours.) And if you’re wondering how the family came up with the name “Guri-guri,” Henry Tasaka said it was a made-up name that stuck because when the local patrons had trouble pronouncing the original name of “Goody-goody,” it sounded like guri guri.

Maui Mall, 70 East Kaahumanu Ave., Kahului, 808.871.4513

Ice cream
The Kona Mud Pie is a blend of coffee ice cream and mocha fudge sauce. (©Simplicio Paragas)

Heavenly Rose

Call it love at first taste. When Maui residents had their first scoop of Roselani Tropics Ice Cream, they swoone over the rich and velvety smooth cold treat. That was in 1932 when Manuel Nobriga started churning out ice cream by hand for local ice cream parlors. Not only was it refreshing and delicious, he had a lot of fun adding local ingredients, and the locals had even more fun eating it. In the 1970s, Manuel’s son, Buddy, came up with the name Roselani. It’s the Americanization of the word “lokelani,” which is Hawaiian for “heavenly rose.” Maui’s official flower, this red blossom has been proudly displayed on Roselani Ice Cream cartons ever since.

Now third-generation ice cream maker Cathy Nobriga Kim continues the family tradition, adding innovative Island flavors to old-time favorites. You can find their wide variety of Roselani Tropics Ice Cream in stores statewide, or you can ask for it by name at restaurants and ice-cream parlors. It’s worth asking for, and chances are they’ll have it. 

Although it’s made in an ice cream factory now, the recipe uses the same special formula that made it such a sought-after treat in the olden days. They say it doesn’t get any better than Manuel’s original recipe, Poppa’s Classic Chocolate. But the Kona Mud Pie, Mango ‘n Cream, and Haupia (coconut pudding flavor) are superstars too. And here is some ice-cream advice straight from Buddy: Take the ice cream out of your freezer and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to temper it. This guarantees that you will be enjoying the flavors as they were meant to be tasted. Otherwise, you’re just freezing your tastebuds. No cheating—keep that ice cream off the kitchen counter and definitely out of the microwave.

Shaved ice in a cup
Surfing Monkey's shaved ice comes in a rainbow of colors and syrups. (©Isaac Arjonilla)

Monkey Business

Visiting actors, musicians and diplomats are among those who loyally seek out a mound of shave ice at Surfing Monkey, a modest 10’x10’ shack. And no one can resist the sweet aroma of a fresh waffle cone that lingers in the air, luring in guests with a scoop—or two—of luscious ice cream. Of course, there’s also Pāʻia Gelato at Island Gourmet Markets’ Coffee Bar and tubs of Roselani Tropics Ice Cream at Whaler’s General Store. During our warm summer months, these refreshing icy treats hit the proverbial spot.

“I went from the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea to running a shave ice shop,” says Paul Davies with a chuckle. “I wanted to have kids, so honestly the whole intention of opening the shop was to feed the kids. It’s not a very sexy story.”

The shave ice flavors run the rainbow spectrum, from strawberry and raspberry to banana and watermelon. Davies also carries a small line of Coconut Glen’s Ice Cream, a dairy-free, vegan-style cold treat.

“Eighty percent of our flavors are all natural fruits,” Davies says. “We source most of our ingredients locally.”

Asked how he came up with the amusing name of his shop, Davies explains that his first shave ice shack in Kīhei was in front of beach where surf lessons were held and since he used to call his surfer son “Cheeky Monkey,” he decided to go with Surfing Monkey.

Lappert's of Luxury

The late Walter Lappert’s intention was to retire to Kaua‘i when he moved there in 1983. But instead, he built Lappert's Hawaii Ice Cream & Coffee. His ice cream won a devoted following because the flavors seem so quintessentially Hawaiian. Lappert based many of his flavors on local ingredients. “Heavenly Hāna,” for instance, is a mélange of creamy chocolate ice cream with delicate swirls of marshmallow, handmade chunks of white chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, dark chocolate almonds, chocolate bits and roasted almonds. Other popular premium ice cream includes the Kona Lava Java, Kaua‘i Pie, Coconut Macadamia Nut Fudge, Big Island Inspiration and the Caramel Cashew Turtle Cluster.

Waffle cone ice cream
Lappert's homemade waffle cones can be filled with assorted ice creams. (©Isaac Arjonilla)