Darby's Destinations Luxury Travel - Italy

Explore Oahu's Royal Heritage at Iolani Palace

The only royal palace in the US is brimming with stories and antiquities

October 28, 2022

We are drawn to Hawaii for the beaches, natural beauty, and flawless resorts the archipelago provides. However, the state is not lacking in history and Oahu’s Iolani Palace is one of the best places to deepen your knowledge about Hawaii’s regal past. In addition to exploring such sights as Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and the Puu Ualakaa State Park, add touring the palace to your Oahu travel itinerary.

A brief history of Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is conveniently located in downtown Honolulu, the capital of Oahu. Built in 1879 by the architect Thomas J. Baker with input from Charles J. Wall and Isaac Moore, the structure is the only example of American Florentine architecture. This one-of-a-kind order plucks inspiration from Italian Renaissance design and fuses these with Hawaiian elements.

Originally, Iolani Palace served as the royal residence for Hawaii's reigning monarch. The property hosted lavish functions and received dignitaries from all corners of the world. Queen Liliʻuokalani acquired the throne from her brother, King David Kalākaua, in 1891 and resided in the palace for two years. However, in 1893 the monarchy was overthrown and Liliʻuokalani relinquished her claim to the throne. Upon her trial, she was subjected to eight months of imprisonment in one of the upper chambers within the palace.

Following these events, Iolani Palace was used as the capitol building for the Provisional Government of Hawaii followed by the Republic, Territory, and State of Hawaii until 1969. Since 1978, Iolani Palace has been open to the public as a museum. It remains the sole royal palace in the US.

What you will see at Iolani Palace

Now listed as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, Iolani Palace sheds fascinating insight into Hawaiian history and how the cluster of islands became part of the US.  

Interior spaces include the Grand Hall with its statement staircase made of Hawaiian koa wood and the State Dining Room, where Bohemian crystal and Paris porcelain are on show. You’ll see the crimson and gold Throne Room, where the trial of Queen Liliʻuokalani occurred as well as the King's and Queen's suites. All rooms are appointed with original furniture, antique upholstery, and pieces of art.

How to visit Iolani Palace

You may tour the premises independently with an audio tour or select one of the guided tours. Although walk-ins are welcome, it is advisable to book your slot in advance to avoid disappointment. Meanwhile, booking is mandatory for speciality tours. Here is a taster of the tours available at Iolani Palace.

  • Led by volunteers, Docent Tours provide an overview of the building’s history, the situation regarding the overthrow of the monarchy, and stories about the furnishings and royal residents.
  • Fashion Fit for Royalty tours spotlight the apparel and jewelry of Hawaiian royalty in the 19th century. Garments include Queen Kapiolani’s coronation gown, King Kalakaua’s uniforms, and Queen Liliuokalani’s ribbon gown.
  • Speciality Chamberlain’s Tours explore the Chamberlain’s office suite and reveal what it took to run the royal household.
  • Orchestrated by the Palace Historian, Royal Legacy Tours add a behind-the-scenes experience and take you deeper into Hawaiian history and the objects on display.

Contact me when you are ready to book your trip to Oahu and we will devise a bespoke itinerary that includes Iolani Palace.

Ready to embark on your own journey to the extraordinary?