3 Royal Sites to See When You Visit Hawaii

By Karen Rose

I‘olani Palace. Photo: Joseph Philipson.

Once upon a time in a paradise far away, there lived kings and queens, princes and princesses. Unlike children’s tales of European castles with moats and turrets, these royal families lived and played under the swaying palm trees and warm ocean breezes of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Today, some of these royal residences remain within the state of Hawaii and are available for visitors to explore and learn about their cultural significance. Here are three royal palaces visitors won’t want to miss.

Iʻolani Palace on Oahu

Lavish and extravagant, Iʻoloni Palace in downtown Honolulu was the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy. Painstakingly restored to its former majesty and opulence, I’olani Palace is now a National Historic Landmark designed to sweep modern day visitors back in time when Queen Liliuokalani and King Kalakaua threw lavish parties, giving the king the nickname of “The Merrie Monarch.”

European-influenced architecture, combined with modern amenities like flushing toilets and the first electric lighting system, made Iʻolani Palace ahead of its time. Visitors will admire the spectacular interior, graced with a gorgeous koa wood staricase, ornate furniture and portraits of Hawaiian royalty. When Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959, and for the following nine years, Iʻolani Palace was used as the capitol building. Ten years later, the palace was renovated and opened to the public for visitation.

Visit Iʻolani Palace to learn more about the history and culture of Hawaiʻi. For more information call 808-522-0822.


Queen Emma Summer Palace on Oahu

Located in the cool Nuʻuanu Valley on Oahu, Queen Emma Summer Palace served as a summer retreat for Queen Emma to escape the oppressive heat of Honolulu. The secluded mountain home was occupied by its royal residents from 1857 to 1885.

Built in 1847, the home was saved from demolition by the group The Daughters of Hawaiʻi in 1915. At that time, the territorial government granted The Daughters of Hawaiʻi the responsibility of caring for the enormous home as long as they promised to turn it into a museum.

Today Queen Emma Summer Palace, also known as Hānaiakamalama, is listed on the National Historic Registry. It is also home to Queen Emma’s personal belongings and furnishings. Visitors can stroll Queen Emma’s Palace on their own, or schedule a guided tour by calling (808) 451-0012.

Hulihe‘e Palace on the Big Island

Get a taste of the past on the Island of Hawaii while visiting Huliheʻe Palace in the heart of Kailua Village in Kailua-Kona.

Built in 1838 as a vacation home for royalty, this modest museum boasts beautiful Victorian artifacts, koa wood furniture and ornaments from the days of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani. The palace sits across the street from Mokuaikaua Church, the first Christian church built in the islands.

Two stunning oceanfront lanais overlook the lavish green grounds, where monthly concerts are held one Sunday of the month. “Afternoons at Huliheʻe Palace” bring together family and friends to celebrate Hawaiian cultural with hula, music and Aloha on the lawn of the palace. For more information call (808) 731-3033.

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