South Bay açaí bowl review

Before trying out an açaí bowl, know where to go.


Illustration by Cecilia Apitz

Açaí bowls, rich in nutrients and antioxidants, serve as the ideal energy boosting snack on a warm (or cold!) day. These refreshing and healthy mini-meals can be prepared in many ways, but a typical bowl usually includes a thick purée of açaí berries topped with a variety of fresh fruit, granola and honey. 

Here in the South Bay, there are many options for açaí bowls, but it may be difficult to find the place that sells the best one. To help ease any stress that may arise from this search, I tried bowls from Beach Bowls, Paradise Bowls, Jamba Juice and Nekter to discover the top bowl. 

I first went to Beach Bowls, where I got the Guarana Bowl—the traditional blend containing guarana syrup from a guarana plant commonly found in Brazil—and the Basic Bowl—the plain blend containing just the açaí. After trying both bowls in a size small, the only noticeable flavor difference was that the Guarana, which was $8.70, was sweeter than the Basic Bowl that cost $7.75, but both blends still had a rich and fresh flavor. Both bowls also came with granola, banana and honey, and had a choice of one other topping—I chose strawberries. I also wanted blueberries on mine, and despite it being an additional $1.30, the extra flavor it provided was worth it. The bowls were additionally served in a see-through cup with a nice presentation, showing the deep violet color of the açaí, even though it also made the outside cold to the touch. This establishment also had the option of a mini or a large bowl size and its menu included an impressive wide range of other bowl flavors and toppings I’d definitely try on my next visit. 

I then went to Paradise Bowls, where I ordered the Gaucho Bowl in a small size for $6.50, which encompassed a tasty blend of banana, strawberries, blueberries, açaí and apple juice and was topped with granola, banana, honey, strawberries and blueberries. It was nice that the bowl already came with the toppings I liked, so I didn’t need to add any extra for an additional cost. The white paper bowl it was served in also made it easy to hold without freezing my hands, and it had a natural, vibrant appearance and flavor. I enjoyed the snack even more knowing exactly what was in it. Though the menu did have a smaller selection of açaí bowls, medium and large sizes were also offered and all the other bowl options looked extremely tasty.  

After that, I tried the açaí bowl at Jamba Juice. I ordered the Açaí Primo for $7.99 in the one size they offered, which included an açaí blend made with soymilk and was topped with blueberries, bananas, organic granola, honey and shredded coconut. The açaí itself wasn’t as thick as the other bowls I tried, and had an overly sweet flavor—most likely due to too much honey. Though it lacked an enticing texture, the various toppings placed atop the bowl seemed fresh. During my next visit, I would refrain from getting an açaí bowl and instead stick to the delicious smoothies and juices found on the menu, for which they are more well-known and popular. 

Lastly, I tried the açaí bowl at Nekter, which was offered in one size for $8.80. Called the Açaí Banana Berry Bowl, this bowl had a blended mix of açaí, strawberry, pineapple, blueberry, banana and housemade cashew milk and was topped with hemp seed granola, fresh strawberry, blueberry, banana and agave nectar. Though this bowl was noticeably fresh and healthy, I found it lacking flavor and containing too much granola. The bowl also wasn’t filled all the way to the top, and for a higher price than most of the other bowls, I would have expected to get the most for my money. Even though this was the case, the açaí was a nice color and the fruit on top was yummy. Next time I go to this place, I’d probably get a smoothie instead. 

After my experiences with all four açaí bowls, I’ve found that the bowl from Paradise Bowls is the best based on its ideal presentation and tastiness of toppings, as well as the vibrant flavor and texture of the açaí.