Iolani Palace was the home of Hawaii’s King Kalākaua and his sister/successor Queen Liliuokalani, who ruled from 1882 through 1893 as the kingdom’s final 2 monarchs. The only official state residence of royalty in the history of the USA, it’s a remembrance of the state’s monarchy history, transformed into a museum to showcase Hawaii’s past.

    Spread over 7,000 sq ft, the palace draws locals and visitors alike to marvel at her beautiful inside and out. The incredibly opulent interior tells the stories of yesteryear through portraits of Hawaiian royalty, ornate furnishings, a grand hall, koa wood staircase, throne room, and private suites as well as the room in which the queen was imprisoned following the coup in 1885.

    A guided tour reveals how all the royal members once lived, the clothes they wore, and how they affected the history of the island. Some exhibits reveal the palace’s role during WWII.

    Iolani Palace in Honolulu - one of the highlights of 11 Best Things to Do in Honolulu and 10 Best Things to Do in Oahu When it Rains (Read all about Honolulu here)

    What are the highlights of Iolani Palace?

    When the monarchy was overthrown and Hawaii became part of the US, many artefacts that were in Iolani Palace were auctioned off, but those that remained are now displayed in the museum.

    One of the must-sees is the quilt the queen stitched while she was imprisoned for 9 months in a small room on the upper floor of the palace. Also impressive are the collections that show off royal style and fashion, including four gowns that are recreations of dresses worn by both Queen Liliuokalani and Queen Kapiolani on display in the throne room. Their attire often took advantage of the island’s natural elements – note the peacock feather gown and ostrich feather and lilac gown, they are sure to have you oohing and aahing.

    A brief history of Iolani Palace

    Standing out among the modern skyscrapers in downtown Honolulu, Iolani Palace is stately and elegant as the Hawaiian monarchy’s crown jewel. It’s held that distinction ever since its initial construction, built in American-Florentine style with the cornerstone laid in 1789 and completion nearly a century later in 1882.

    This was the second palace constructed on the site, with the original more modest. After falling into disrepair, King Kalakaua ordered it to be demolished with the new one taking its place.

    The palace was first home to King Kalakaua, followed by the former nation’s last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. It was more than the official royal residence, as the epicentre of Hawaii’s cultural, social, and political life. While the palace has undergone many changes since the monarchy was overthrown, in 1962 it was designed a National Historic Landmark and ultimately restored in the 1970s to the magnificence you see today.

    Good to know about Iolani Palace

    Pay your respects at the Sacred Mound located in the southeast quadrant of the palace grounds. Once the site of the Royal Mausoleum, the landmark is fenced-in to respect the Hawaiian chiefs who are believed to be buried there.

    A mausoleum made of whitewashed coral blocks was built to house the remains of Kamehameha II and his consort, Queen Kamamalu who both died from measles while on their journey to the UK. Over the next 4 decades, it was the final resting place for Hawaiian kings, their consorts, and important chiefs.

    If you have the opportunity to watch reruns from the original Hawaii Five-O TV series that ran from 1968 through 1980, you’ll notice that many scenes were filmed in Iolani Palace.

    Iolani Palace in Honolulu

    Location: 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 2.30 pm

    Phone: +1 808-522-0822

    K.C. Dermody | Contributing Writer

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