Queen Kapiolani’s Legacy Lives On

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Hawaiian Queen Esther Kapiolani has a hospital named in her honor, a park and even a hotel, but who exactly was this woman and how did she fit into the rich history of Hawaii?

Those who knew Kapiolani described her as kind-hearted and compassionate, and as one of the last reigning queens of Hawaii, she was a woman full of humility. Kapiolani made it her mission to improve the health and wellness of her people, traveling throughout the kingdom to get a better idea of their needs and wants.

A statue of the queen at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki.

Among those needs, she saw a need to ensure that Hawaiian mothers and children received proper medical care. Therefore, in 1890, she established the Kapiolani Maternity Hospital to improve childbirth for mothers and babies. The hospital, now called Kapiolani Medical Center, continues its care in Honolulu today.

Everyone loved the queen. Always the gracious hostess, she welcomed visiting dignitaries with grand receptions – making them feel right at home in the islands. But no one loved her as much as her king, David Kalakaua. She served as queen to her husband for almost two decades, until he passed away from failing health at the age of 54.

The regal couple had such a h3 bond that the king gifted her a park in Waikiki, which is known today as Kapiolani Park. Although that was more than a century ago, the park is still very much alive, as the home of the Wakiki Shell and Honolulu Zoo. A bronze statue of the queen welcomes park-goers to enjoy the views of Diamond Head, the melodies of the nearby ocean and the colors of the setting sun.

Another place to see the queen today is at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel in Waikiki. There’s a portrait of her wearing that famous blue peacock dress she wore to Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887. Whether in a park or in a portrait, the legacy of the queen lives on in the islands and so does her motto in life, “Kulia i ka nuu,” which means “strive to reach the highest.”

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