Shave ice from Coconut Cafe

    Hawaii is paradise if you are:
    1. into constant heat and 90% humidity. In Hawaii, the world outside your air-conditioned box (e.g., your house, car, or office) is a sauna.
    2. in the shave ice, juice, lemonade, or ice cream business.

    The owner of Coconut Cafe is in *full* control of her life, her shop, and her customers. Her main sale is undoubtedly shaved ice, although her menu also has other dessert drinks (such as bubble teas), sandwiches and burgers. Coconut Cafe has no fixed hours of operation. She opens and closes when she wants to, and even if you walk into the door when she has already decided to close, she will tell you firmly so and there is no changing it. We know this fact, because we experienced it not just once, but 4 times.

    The first day, we got there at 9:30 pm, after dinner, doors were shut tight, understandably, although we were somewhat surprised by how early stores and restaurants close in Hawaii compared to Berkeley. There was no sign anywhere saying what hours they’re open.

    The second day, we got there around 5 pm. The lady said we could get shaved ice to-go because she’s closing, which is fine with us. A couple walked in a few minutes after us and they had to leave empty-handed. We thought about how lucky we were.

    That luck didn’t last, however. The next two days we returned, around the same time, first to a closed shop, then to an about-to-close shop, and the lady said it’d be open around noon the next day. Noon the next day, we returned, a guy promptly greeted us with a simple cross of the arms, “we’re close,” without so much of a sorry. We left, dejected and irritated. Is a cup of shaved ice really worth our pride? Is a shaved-ice shop opening at noon, according to the owner’s words no less, really so much to ask for?

    We were out of patience and ready to not ever go back, but luckily (and somewhat inexplicably), we went back. The owner lady apologized with as much sincerity as she could express, explained why she couldn’t open at noon as promised (I still can’t fully understand her explanation until this day, but I suppose that’s on me), and even waited for our return late that day. She stayed opened until 6:30 pm, just for us. As soon as we got our shaved ice, she closed for the day.

    Shave ice with 3 flavors: pineapple, cherry, and P.O.G. (passion fruit, orange, guava). Photo by bnibroc.

    Shave ice with 3 flavors: pineapple, cherry, and P.O.G. (passion fruit, orange, guava). Photo by bnibroc.

    The fruity syrups, condensed milk and ice cream certainly make her shaved ice desirable. The heat helps, too. But I think her business model is successful for two main reasons:
    1. The completely, unfailingly unpredictable hours (you know, keep us customers on our toes)
    2. The owner is nice. She doesn’t treat her customers with indifference.

    So, as one of the kids exclaimed right after taking his first spoon,
    “This is the best shaved ice I’ve ever had. Thank you!”

    Address: Coconut Cafe
    2441 Kuhio Ave
    Honolulu, HI 96815
    (cash only)

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