Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour
The Hawaii Capitol Historic District in Downtown Honolulu is a collection of historic buildings that were the center of the ruling Hawaiian Monarchy from the 1840s to the mid 1900s.
Park your vehicle in a secure location, and begin this self-guided walking tour at South King Street, to view a range of architectural styles and learn about a significant period of Hawaii’s history. Some of the sites are closed Sunday and Monday, so to maximize your visit we recommend taking this tour Tuesday through Saturday.
1. Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site & Archives
Begin at the corner of South King St and Kawaiahao St, where you will find the Hawaiian Mission Houses, which were established in 1820 and used during Hawaii’s ‘missionary’ period until about 1863. The museum’s collection holds over 3,000 Hawaiian, Western and Pacific artifacts and more than 12,000 manuscripts, books and other documents.
- Phone: (808) 447-3910, for more information.
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2. Kawaiaha’o Church and King Lunalilo Mausoleum
Right across the road from Hawaiian Mission Houses is Kawaiahao Church. Walk along S King St, past Kawaiahao St towards Punchbowl St, and on the left you will see Kawaiaha’o Church. This church was also built by the Hawaiian missionaries between 1836 and 1842 and was designated a U.S National Historic Landmark in 1962, along with the Mission Houses.
Kawaiaha’o means ‘The Water of Ha’o’ because it was built right next to a sacred spring that only the Ali’I (Hawaiian Royalty) could have access to. Immediately to the right of Kawaiaha’o Church, on the corner of Punchbowl and S King St, sits the Mausoleum of King William Lunalilo, who was a descendant of a half brother of Kamehameha I. King Lunalilo became the king in 1872 when King Kamehameha V died and there was no direct heir to the throne. He chose to be buried here at Kawaiaha’o church instead of the Royal Mausoleum with other Ali’I, so that he could be entombed closer to the people.
- Phone: (808) 522-1333, for more information.
3. King Kamehameha Statue and Ali’iolani Hale
Cross Punchbowl St and approximately 500 feet on your left side will be the Ali’iolani Hale with King Kamehameha Statue in front. King Kamehameha commissioned the construction of a Ali’iolani Hale to be the royal palace of the Hawaiian Monarchy. It was built in the Italian Renaissance Revival style and its name means ‘House of the heavenly King’.
Ali’iolani Hale eventually became an administrative building and now houses the Supreme Court of Hawaii as well as the Judiciary History Center. The King Kamehameha Statue is the most recognized statue of the famous King. It was commissioned by King David Kalakaua in 1878, and constructed in honor of Kamehameha’s unification of Hawaii.
- Phone: (808) 539 4999, for more information.
4. U.S. Post Office, Custom House & Court House
Cross Mililani St, and find Merchant St running parallel to King St. This structure is unique in its design in the Mission and Spanish Revival architectural style. It was built in 1922 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It has now been renamed The King David Kalakaua building, in honor of the last king of the Hawaiian monarchy.
5. ‘Iolani Palace and ‘Iolani Barracks
‘Iolani Palace is located directly across from King Kamehameha Statue. Cross King St at Mililani St, which continues all the way to the Palace grounds. ‘Iolani Palace was the official residence of the reigning Hawaiian sovereign, King Kamehameha, and the only royal palace in the United States. The Palace was built in 1882, and has been meticulously restored.
Also on the Palace Grounds is Iolani Barracks, which resembles a medieval castle. This structure once housed the royal guards, and now houses the ticket office and Palace gift shop.
- Phone: (808) 522 0832, for more information.
6. Hawaii State Art Museum
Passing ‘Iolani Barracks walk towards Richards St. Turn right onto Richards and between South Hotel St and S Beretania St, on the left hand side you will see the Hawaii State Art Museum.
It is a magnificent building in the Spanish Mission style, with an enormous Moroccan mosaic fountain. Originally built as a hotel in 1872, the rebuilt version (completed in 1928), now houses three galleries surrounding a courtyard with a swimming pool.
- Phone: (808) 586 0900, for more information.
7. St Andrews Cathedral
Walking further along S Beretania, cross at Queen Emma St and turn right into Queen Emma Square where you can access St Andrews Episcopal Cathedral.
Kamehameha IV and his consort Queen Emma, commissioned the construction of the Gothic-style church in honor of his brother, Kamehameha V, who died on St Andrews Day in 1863. St Andrews is a beautiful cathedral featuring enormous stained glass windows that depict early exploration of the Hawaiian Islands.
- Phone: (808) 524 2822, for more information.
8. Washington Place
Head south along S Beretania St and before you reach Hawaii State Capitol building, you will see Washington Place, which is an elegant Greek Revival mansion built in 1841, and became the last reigning Hawaiian Monarch, Queen Liliuokalani’s home.
- Phone: (808) 586 0248, for more information.
9. Hawaii State Capitol & Queen Lili’uokalani Statue
From St Andrew’s, walk approximately 0.3 miles back down S Beretania St towards ‘Iolani Palace and you will find a large building on the right which is The Hawaii State Capitol. It opened in 1969 and is the official statehouse of Hawaii. This building replaced ‘Iolani Palace as the state government building. It is designed to resemble various natural aspects of Hawaii, such as a reflective pool that symbolizes the Pacific Ocean, and the two legislative chambers are cone-shaped, symbolizing volcanoes.
A more recent addition to the grounds is the Queen Lili’uokalani Statue, which was built in 1982. Lili’uokalani was the sister of the last king of the Hawaiian Kingdom, King Kalakuaua. When the king died in 1892, Lili’uokalani was declared Queen, and reigned for merely a year. She was well-loved by the Hawaiian people due to her dedication in restoring authority to the Hawaiian aristocracy, but was forced to step down from the throne leading up to the overthrow of the monarchy by the U.S.
10. The Hewn Stones of Umi & Honolulu Hale
Immediately to the front of the Hawaii State Capitol, walking towards South King St, is the Hawaii State Archives Building. It is a place of interest for those who wish to delve further into the governmental history of Hawaii, otherwise the most interesting feature of this place is the Hewn Stones of Umi situated right out the front.
This stone was cut during the reign of Chief Umi–a-Liloa, and was used as one of the posts for the front entrance of the first ‘Iolani Palace. Only this chief was allowed to step on the ‘Paepae Kapu’ (sacred threshold) because he had carried it on his back. The Honolulu Hale is right opposite Kawaiaha’o Church and brings you right back to where you began your walking tour. It is the city council chambers of the state, and one of the most architecturally beautiful buildings in Hawaii. It combines California-Spanish Colonial architecture with the Italian Renaissance style, and has some unique features such as a grand double staircase and interior courtyard.
- Phone: (808) 523 4674, for more information.