From award-winning gelato to coconut milk-based ice cream, these local labels are anything but vanilla.

In some European countries, ice cream-eating season is in the wintertime, but there’s something about holding a cone of cold, creamy, lusciousness that pairs so perfectly with the tropics. Take, for instance, Coconut Glen’s (coconutglens.com). Th is little gem of an ice cream shack is located at precisely mile 27-and-a-half on Hana Highway. Boston chef Glen Simkins, aka Coconut Glen, moved to the islands eight years ago on a search for happiness versus the entangling pursuit of financial success. In his little Maui niche, he’s found the genuine article and he’s sharing that happiness with visitors one scoop at a time. Delectable flavors reflect what’s in season, from exotic offerings like Ginger-Lemongrass or Jaboticaba to Liliko`i or Banana Fudge Mac Nut—and they’re all purely coconut-based, straight from trees in the local forests. Hear that vegans and foodies? His flavors are so `ono, that his store was voted amongst Condé Nast‘s top 10 ice cream shops on the planet. Another local shop making global waves is Il Gelato, with two retail locations on O`ahu (ilgelato-hawaii.com). Founder Dirk Koeppenkastrop just returned with honors from helming the U.S. culinary gelato team at the 2016 Gelato World Championship.

fine_20160601_01

Picture 1 of 7

Il Gelato's "spaghetti" gelato.

The team came home sporting a bevy of top awards, and placing seventh overall. Koeppenkastrop’s Ph.D. in chemistry and his interest in food eventually landed him in Italy, and he further sharpened his artisanal skills in the company of some of Europe’s gelato-crafting champions. Savor a spoonful of Il Gelato’s refreshing sorbettos, from Pineapple-Mint to Raspberry-Rosemary, or of his palate-awakening Chocolate Ginger or Italian Hazelnut, and the experience is one of pure gustatory absorption. His confections are made from top-quality local and specially imported ingredients, like coffee and guava from the Big Island, and pistachios and pine nuts from Italy. On the topic of far-out sensory adventures, Lucy’s Lab Creamery (facebook.com/lucyslab-creamery) in Kaka`ako takes the cake. Nursing on an ambrosial serving of Honey-Lavender is nothing short of transcendental. Within the walls of his creamery, that is dressed like an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, creator Lee Wang has melded his love of ice cream and science into an experiment in trendy tastiness. Think Fruit Loops Vodka, Nutella or Earl Gray. Wang continues to invent unique flavors, keeping the list fresh and exciting.

The fourth on our roundup of specialty ice cream shops, featuring house-made scrumptiousness, is Via Gelato (viagelatohawaii.com). This Kaimuki gelateria started as a food truck, and now makes up to 20 batches in a range of island-inspired flavors in the storefront creamery. And they often sell out. Customers are invited to pin up novel suggestions, from sorbet to crispy cone, local ice cream shops are known for making everything in-house, using only the best ingredients which Via Gelato sometimes incorporates amongst its unusual fare, from Haupia and Milk Tea to Black Sesame. On their website is a list of 150 or so fun and adventurous options they’ve produced in the past. There are new selections of frozen goodness anytime you walk in the door. Strawberry Ume? Guinness Malt? Lihing Shiso? You betcha.

These dessert shops all offer a variety of additional concoctions, from to-die-for coconut candies at Coconut Glen’s; gourmet sundaes, smoothies, crepes and “pasta” at Il Gelato; ultra-popular grilled Panini-style ice cream sandwiches, custom-made, at Lucy’s Lab; and latte, mocha and other coffee drinks at Via Gelato.

All photos courtesy of brands