‘Iolani Palace is a magnificent mansion that preserves an important part of Hawaiian history. The Palace is well worth visiting when in Honolulu, and is one of the main structures to see on the Honolulu Historic District Walk.
‘Iolani Palace was the official residence of the reigning Hawaiian sovereign, King Kamehameha, and the only royal palace in the United States. The cornerstone was laid on December 31, 1879. The Hawaiian government at the time had appropriated funds to build the Palace as a way to mark Hawaii’s status as a modern nation. The building was complete by August 1882, and that original palace was known as Hale Ali’I (House of the Chief), however that was demolished in 1874 to make way for the palace that stands today, which was renamed ‘Iolani Palace. ‘Iolani means ‘Royal Hawk’ in the Hawaiian language.
Top image by: Allen.G (Shutterstock).
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Two monarchs governed from the Palace: King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani, and Kamehameha III, IV and V utilized the palace as their main residence. The monarchy was overthrown by the U.S. in 1893, was then used as a capitol building, and was finally restored and opened as a public museum in 1978. Apparently the area was once the site of an ancient heiau (Hawaiian Temple) that was destroyed.
In 1825, a white-washed coral block was constructed as a royal tomb for the remains of Kamehameha II and his wife, Queen Kamamalu. In subsequent years, many kings of Hawaii were buried at the site, but in 1865 eighteen coffins were removed and transferred to a Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanu Valley. Today, the royal tomb area is located in the southeast quadrant of the grounds. With respect for Hawaiian chiefs who may still be buried there, it is marked by a fenced area with ‘kapu’ signs indicating it is a forbidden area.
Also on the Palace Grounds is Iolani Barracks, which looks like a medieval castle, was completed in 1871 and is also a coral block structure that contains an open courtyard which is surrounded by rooms that once housed the royal palace and royal tomb guards, before the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. The Barracks were originally located on the grounds that the Hawaii State Capitol Building sits and was moved block by block and reconstructed in 1965 to be where it is now on the Iolani Palace grounds, where it houses the ticket office and the Palace Gift Shop (open Tues-Sat 8.30am-4.30pm).
The first and second floors of 'Iolani Palace have been meticulously restored and house the stunning Throne Room, Grand Hall, The State Dining Room, the Blue Room, as well as the private suites of the King and Queen. Portraits of Hawaiian Royalty line the walls. Lush crimson and gold décor fill the Throne Room and beautifully carved doors featuring Hawaiian woods abound.
COVID HEALTH NOTICE
Effective September 13, 2021, proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result will be required to visit Iolani Palace in accordance with the City & County of Honolulu Safe Access Oahu program.
Tour options vary based on the day of the week and the time.
Tour Options & Schedule
There is currently a choice of two tour options at ‘Iolani Palace, located in Downtown Honolulu: either a Guided Tour ($30.00) or a Self-Led Audio Tour ($25.00). Approximately 90 minutes is required for either tour, and both options include a tour of the first and second floors of Iolani Palace followed by a self-guided exploration of the basement gallery exhibits.
The ticket office is located in the ‘Iolani Barracks on the Palace grounds and can be contacted at 808-522-0832. You will need to book online.
Ticket sales are online only. No walk-ups. The ticket window in Hale Koa (the Barracks building adjacent to Iolani Palace) will open for ticket distribution at 8:30 a.m. Groups are limited to 15 guests per entry time.
Docent-Led Tours are available on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Self-Led Audio Tours are available on the following days and times:
- Tuesdays | 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Wednesdays | 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
- Fridays | 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Saturdays | 9 a.m. to 4 p.m
For a step back in time and to learn all about the Hawaiian Monarch, ‘Iolani Palace is really worth visiting.