When you think about locations around the world that are home to royal residences, I am sure that the majority of you will think about England or possibly other European nations. How many of you considered Hawaii as a possible location? It’s true, Honolulu on the island of Oahu is home to the United States’ only royal residence by the name of Iolani Palace. If you are heading to Oahu, be sure to take the Iolani Palace tour to not only gain a greater appreciation of the royal heritage on Hawaii but also learn about the rich and somewhat tragic history of this residence.
Iolani Palace is located in the heart of downtown Honolulu and just a couple of miles from the iconic Waikiki Beach. It’s the perfect location to enjoy a little history and Hawaiian culture while at the same time enjoying the stereotypical beach experience that we all associate with the beautiful island of Oahu.
Let’s take a look at the history of Iolani Palace before heading inside and enjoying the tour that we took and perhaps inspire you to add this to your Hawaiian itinerary when you next head to these magical islands.
Iolani Palace Tour Information
If you are interested in taking an Iolani Palace tour, there are a couple of different options available. You can take a guided tour with a friendly, knowledgeable docent or you can take you own self-guided audio tour.
Regardless of which option you choose, you can be sure that you will enjoy an amazing experience once inside the royal residence. You will have access to the first and second floor with either tour option along with the exhibits inside the basement.
If you decide to take a docent-guided tour of Iolani Palace, here are the ticket prices as of the time of publication (as we always recommend, check out the website for any updated pricing).
Adults – $21.75
Children (aged 5-12) – $6
For those of you that want a little more spontaneity and opt for the self-guided audio tour that allows you to experience Iolani at your own pace, the following prices are valid as of the time of publication.
Adults – $14.75
Children (aged 5-12) – $6
Guided tours are available between 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) and between 9:00 AM and 11:15 AM (Friday and Saturday). Tours are scheduled every 15 minutes and can be purchased in advance online or alternatively, you can visit the Iolani Barracks to purchase your tour.
Self-guided tours are available between 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (Monday), 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM (Tuesday to Thursday) and 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM (Friday and Saturday).
Location and Parking
364 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Tel: (808) 522-0822
Parking is limited outside Iolani Palace given the central location of this residence in Honolulu. There is metered parking available outside the gates of the palace and we were fortunate to grab a space.
Our advice is to arrive well in advance of your tour time to find adequate parking. The metered parking takes quarters or credit card which is a handy alternative and unusual for this type of parking. If there are no spaces available, there is pretty convenient private parking garage at Alii Place (1099 Alakea Street) that costs $3 for the first two hours.
History of Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace is the official residence of Hawaii’s royal monarchy. Of course, this monarchy ceased to exist towards the end of the 19th Century but today, Iolani Palace stands as a reminder to everyone visiting the rich history and heritage that Hawaii’s royal family provided to these islands.
The royal residence for the Kingdom of Hawaii started under the rule of Kamehameha III in 1845 and ended with Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1893 under the Kalākaua Dynasty. The tragic end of Liliʻuokalani’s tenure at the head of the monarchy is shared with visitors and provides a poignant memory of what could have been for the Hawaiian royal family.
It’s interesting to note without going into too much detail that the majority of Hawaiian’s were in favor of keeping the monarchy. However, Liliʻuokalani was overthrown by the Committee of Safety in 1893 and imprisoned inside a smaller room on the second level of Iolani Palace (you are taken through this on the tour).
Guided Tour of Iolani Palace
I want to start by thanking our AMAZING tour guide who was everything you could ask for when visiting an attraction like Iolani Palace! Her knowledge was unbelievable and she was always willing to stop and take questions throughout our guided tour.
The tour started on the first level as we explored the reception rooms after experiencing the grand hallway where portraits of ten Hawaiian Kings and Queens were the highlighted features of this entrance. The beautiful, ornate staircase is certainly the focal point of this hallway.
The Blue Room was our next stop as our guide started to delve deeper into the history of the Hawaiian monarchy, particularly focusing on the portraits of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani.
The restoration and preservation of Iolani Palace is an impressive sight throughout all of the rooms and much of what you see is either the original furniture or a direct replica of what would have been used during the 19th Century.
It’s interesting to note that original objects and furnishings have been recovered from around the world, yet there are still many pieces that Iolani Palace experts are trying to find at auctions and other sources.
The State Dining Room is another incredible sight with portraits again providing iconic representations of global leaders while the intricate details of the banquet table is a reflection on how the Hawaiian royal family lived in majestic grandeur.
Our final stop on the first floor was the Throne Room which is the epitome of resplendent beauty.
The stereotypical crimson and gold colors are scattered throughout the room with a number of thrones providing the focal point of this impressive ballroom.
Iolani’s Living Quarters
I think it’s fair to say the end of the Hawaiian monarchy was a pretty tragic event. Regardless of your opinion on royal heritage and the purpose it serves to people across a nation, it’s inevitable that having such a family at the head of a country (or state in this case) can be beneficial.
As we headed upstairs to the second floor, we learned about Liliʻuokalani being overthrown and how she was forced to stay in captivity inside what is now referred to as the “Imprisonment Room.”
It was quite surreal to stand inside this relatively bare room and hear stories about how this young woman had very little contact with the outside world for eight months as she faced her house arrest.
A gorgeous tapestry is the focal point inside this room and heard how Liliʻuokalani spent her time creating this masterpiece.
Our tour guide lead us through the remaining living quarters with the King’s and Queen’s suites and a gorgeous Music Room where the royal family would enjoy gathering and either playing instruments or listening to their favorite artists.
I want to reiterate that every inch of Iolani Palace is immaculately maintained and it’s a true honor to be able to walk around what was once the home of a royal family.
The final story we heard before heading to the basement was one that left a lasting impression on our visit. One of the truly remarkable feats of Liliʻuokalani was her desire to take care of Hawaiian children.
This philosophy has continued to this day with the Queen Lili’uokalani Trust which is focused on ensuring the “wellbeing of orphan and destitute Native Hawaiian children.”
After an amazing guided tour of Iolani Palace, our guide lead us to the basement and said her farewell to us as we were able to experience the myriad of exhibits and the restored kitchen by ourselves.
A really beneficial picture in the basement is the family tree of the Hawaiian monarchies which certainly helps you put into perspective how all the families are related.
There are a number of treasured items from the royal collection in the basement including the iconic diamond butterfly brooch Lili’uokalani bought during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee that she attended.
As you walk through the basement, there is a large number of historic photographs available for your perusal and if you have enjoyed your Iolani Palace tour, you will likely be intrigued to learn more about the monarchies that reigned throughout the 19th Century.
Iolani Palace is not only an iconic location on the island of Oahu because of the incredible architectural design and how it has been preserved but also because of the rich royal heritage that is associated with it.
Having spent time taking a guided Iolani Palace tour, we can well and truly attest that this is a valuable attraction worth visiting on your next trip to Honolulu. If you are a seasoned traveler around the United States, you will know that there are no other royal residences to experience so this is definitely a unique location across the nation.
Whether you feel touched by the tragic events of the monarchy being overthrown in 1893 or simply want to enjoy the grandeur throughout this royal residence, every visitor to Iolani Palace can appreciate the beauty and history within these walls.
Disclaimer – We received two complimentary tickets for a guided Iolani Palace tour for consideration of a blog post. The views contained within this post are entirely our personal opinion/experience and we received no final compensation for this.