Iolani Palace, located in downtown Honolulu, is the perfect place to brush up on your Hawaiian history (and learn how to pronounce many of the complicated street names in Honolulu). The Palace is open to the public Monday through Saturday, offering docent-led tours most mornings and self-guided/audio tours in the afternoons. Prices range from $12-$20.
Iolani Palace was built in 1882 and served as the official residence of Hawaiian monarchy until the overthrow in 1893. Following the overthrow, the Palace became property of the provisional government, and any furniture or artifacts that were not deemed useful at the time were sold at public auction. Walls were painted over, carpets were destroyed, and the palace fell into a state of disrepair and neglect.
It wasn’t until 1969, when the government offices relocated to the new Capitol Building, that the Palace regained its respect as a historic landmark. Restoration of the Palace began in 1969, and it opened up to the public as a museum in 1978. Slowly, more and more artifacts have made their way back into the Palace, which is now operated by The Friends of Iolani Palace, a local non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, interpreting, restoring, and sharing the history of the landmark. The Friends of Iolani Palace actively continue their quest to reclaim lost Palace artifacts.
A typical tour of Iolani Palace lasts approximately one hour, and includes a walk through of many first and second story rooms of the palace, including the king’s bedroom, the throne room, and the queen’s imprisonment room. You even get to peek into an upstairs bathroom, which was fully equipped with running water during King Kalakaua’s reign. After the tour, guests are invited to tour the basement galleries, a downstairs exhibition hall which features photographs of the monarchy, the crown jewels, and a themed exhibit that changes every six months.
A late-morning tour on Friday morning guarantees you the most bang for your buck, as The Royal Hawaiian Band holds a free concert (complete with hula dancers) every Friday at noon on Palace grounds. Space is limited on the guided tours, so it’s best to contact the ticket office several days in advance to make a reservation. The Palace grounds are also a great place to relax, take a leisurely stroll, and get away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, while on your Hawaii vacation.
Originally from Loveland, Colorado, Erika Lehman initially came to Oahu for a contract assignment in the field of high technology marketing, but ended up loving the culture, weather, and way of life so much, that she switched gears and took up a permanent position with a local non-profit organization. Erika is a two-time graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Art History and a Master’s degree in Business Administration. As a twenty-something who loves exploring the island and immersing herself in the nightlife/social scene in Honolulu, Erika still finds time to nurture her love for winter sports by training as a competitive figure skater at the Ice Palace, Hawaii’s only indoor ice skating arena.