Papalani Gelato: Heaven On A Cone & Handmade Chocolates

I remember leaving Papalani Gelato and thinking to myself, "I can't wait to tell people about this place." It may seem strange to get excited about an Italian treat when you're on a Hawaiian island, but owners Marck & Lauren Shipley took this Italian favorite and truly made it all about Kaua'i. At their shop in Poipu, they offer creamy gelatos & sorbettos inspired by seasonal fruits and local flavors. You'll also find handmade chocolate confections for sale. Labeling their values as "Kaua'i Connected, Naturally", the Shipley's focus on sustainability and quality of products. It's always a nice feeling when you can enjoy what you're eating and can appreciate where it all came from.

In 1985, Marck Shipley first met Lauren right here in Hawai'i. Later, Lauren would go to the Bay Area to be with Marck, an executive in Silicon Valley. They would soon find themselves raising a family in Canada, wanting a change in scenery, and then successfully selling gelato in Salt Spring Island. Finally, their romantic journey would bring them back to Kaua'i. They opened Papalani Gelato in Po'ipu, which is a short walk from where I was staying and why I found them in the first place. My mom, Auntie Jocelyn, & I were having some quality girl time strolling through the shopping center when the sign caught our eye.

As soon as I walked in, a friendly man behind the counter happily greeted me with, "Welcome! If you'd like to sample anything, just let me know!" I stared at the pans of rich, dense gelato and had the hardest time choosing. Their macadamia nut flavor has homemade macadamia nut butter, and the liliko'i (passion fruit) cheesecake flavor is spiked with local Koloa Rum. They even had an APPLE. BANANA. GELATO. (We all know how much I love apple bananas!) So, 3...or 4 or 6...tasting spoons later, I finally ordered Papalani Pie in a waffle cone. Papalani Pie, one of the signature flavors, has coffee, large coconut shavings, macadamia nuts, chocolate cookie sauce, and espresso crunch. Not too sweet, not too bitter. The gelato was velvety with just enough crunch from the espresso clusters. The coconut and macadamia nuts gave the whole thing a subtle island touch. Heaven on a cone, alright.

The base for each flavor is always made daily, on-site, and from scratch. Papalani Gelato even has gluten-free and sugar-free options. My mom, a diabetic, especially enjoyed the latter. As for more traditional flavors like pistachio or hazelnut, the classics are there for your consumption as well.

Auntie Jocelyn had a combination of the POG and Dragonfruit sorbetto. "POG" is their play on the popular passion fruit-orange-guava juice, using Kaua'i-grown liliko'i, blood orange, and pink guava. It was a refreshing blend of tropical flavors, sweet and a little bit tart. To top it off, the dragonfruit sorbetto--with hints of lime and liliko'i--was also a perfect balance of sweet & sour. It was certainly a flavor that I've never seen in any gelato shop before. Since the Shipleys were able to form a relationship with local farmers as a way to uphold their beliefs in sustainability, the sorbettos are made with fresh, seasonal fruits grown on the island. They purchase local, organic, and fair-trade ingredients when possible and prefer to use Kaua'i grown before anything else. Your scoops of frozen concoctions, drinks, and take-home pints & quarts are also served in 100% biodegradable containers. Papalani Gelato even took steps to make sure their equipment is energy-efficient. Aware of the ecological "footprint" that their business can leave behind, the Shipleys care about the small island community and respect Kaua'i as a natural source. Their brand even has the Kauai Made seal of approval!

The production doesn't end with the gelato machine, though. Papalani Gelato also sells handmade chocolate truffles. Again, they utilize Kaua'i-based products and farmers. Some of their creations include Chocolate Coconut Haystacks, Chocolate Dipped Caramels, and Macadamia Nut Butter Cups. As their "Natural Guarantee" dictates, these chocolates are made in-house with...yup, you guessed it...Fresh. Local. Ingredients. Hawai'i is currently the only state producing chocolate, so the Shipleys want to support the state's growing industry through their featured chocolate.

I had two of their truffles: the Creamy Milk Chocolate and a vegan Thai Basil-Coconut Milk. The milk chocolate wasn't cloyingly sweet, but rich and flavorful. And, speaking of flavorful...the vegan truffle was one of the most interesting chocolates that I've ever had! It's infused with Thai basil and chilis, balancing the natural sweetness of the chocolate and coconut milk. The Thai basil is definitely the central flavor and comes through as soon as the filling melts in your mouth. I love using basil in sweets, so this combination was fun to try.

I had a blast just walking through the shop and admiring all of the delectable desserts, let alone sampling some of Papalani Gelato's sweet fare. The staff was welcoming and easily answered all of my questions. If you want a different way to taste the fruits of Kaua'i, come here to experience "heaven on a cone" and handmade chocolates!