Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

Oct 11, 2019

Honolulu is also known for its immense historic value as there are several spots that have detailed stories behind them. Honolulu is a vibrant tropical city where one can find almost everything from historical landmarks to shopping plazas or pubs. One must-visit though is surely Iolani Palace as it is the only official state royal residence found in the U.S. Tourists love to visit this historic place merely to experience what the royal living felt like. The huge palace is picturesque from inside as well as from the outside. People, who are interested in knowing about Hawaiian history, should definitely visit this palace which was restored as a museum in the 1960s. In this article, we will try and help you plan a trip to the Iolani palace so that you are all prepared on your next trip to Honolulu!


  • Introduction of Iolani Palace
  • History of Iolani Palace
  • Why Visit Iolani Palace?
    • 1.Residence of The Hawaiian Monarchy
    • 2.Rich Stories to Learn About
    • 3.Exhibitions to Look At
    • 4.Marvelous and Unique Architecture
  • House of Chiefs – 1st Floor
  • House of The Heavenly King- 2nd Floor
  • How to Get There?
  • Attractions Nearby
    • 1.Bishop Museum
    • 2.Honolulu Museum of Art
Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

Introduction of Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace stands as a remembrance of Hawaii’s monarchy history and was thus made into a museum so that people could learn about it. This is easily one of the best places to visit in Honolulu. Even if you do not want to go inside and see the museum, you can take a stroll around the palatial grounds and soak in all the royal air! The palace will give you more insight into how before Hawaii became part of the USA, it was a self-governing country with its own monarchy. The palace was the home to all the royal members from King Kamehameha III to Queen Liliuokalani. With a guided tour inside the palace, you will be able to see how they lived, what clothes they wore and how it affected the history of the island. Surely people who love museums will geek out over the artifacts kept inside till date. There is an entrance fee and the museum is open from Monday to Saturday. Typically it is a tourist-frequented place so it is better to visit the Iolani Palace when the crowd will be lesser.

Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

History of Iolani Palace

Now that we have started talking about Iolani Palace, let us delve a bit more into the history surrounding this place. The Iolani Palace represents a time in history when Hawaii used to be ruled by King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani. The palace was the official residence of the monarchs and many dignitaries from around the world have walked the halls of this building. The palace’s cornerstone was laid in 1789 and construction was completed in 1882. Not many may know, Iolani Palace is actually the second palace to be built on that site. After the King ascended the throne, he ordered the original palace to be demolished and thus the current palace that we see was built in place of that. On December 30th, 1879, which happened to be the birthday of Queen Kapiolani, the King decided to lay the cornerstone of the palace. In fact, Iolani Palace had electricity and telephone even before Washington DC! Now, that sure is interesting, right? The palace is designed in an American Florentine style. During the monarchy, the Iolani Palace witnessed many a function, balls, state functions, etc. The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1983 and after that, the Provisional Government of Hawaii assumed control of the palace. While some of the palace’s things were put in inventory, some were auctioned off. After some passage of time, Iolani palace was designated as a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Registry of Historic Places. The palace was opened to the public in 1978 after several restorations. Now, it has become a perfectly restored museum which talks hugely of the older times.

Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

Why Visit Iolani Palace?

Now that we have told you about the rich history of Iolani Palace, here comes the part as to why one should keep it as a must-visit place when in Honolulu. While the historical part of it is a major reason to go visit this Palace, people who are interested in architecture or even fancy stories will surely love this little stop in Honolulu. Let’s take a look at the reasons to visit Iolani Palace…

1.Residence of The Hawaiian Monarchy

This is definitely the topmost reason to visit this place. Can you imagine what it would like to live like a King or a Queen? Well, you can definitely feel the vibes in this Palace. The rooms in which the monarchs lived have been restored to perfection in a way that you can experience what all went on inside the halls of the Palace when it was bustling with foreign dignitaries and royal people.The Palace also shows you what Hawaii as before it came under the USA. From preserved clothes to utensils and ornaments, once you enter Iolani Palace, you will surely be transported to a time long ago when the monarchs ruled over the Island!

Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

2.Rich Stories to Learn About

The Iolani Palace doesn’t just talk about the monarchs living there, it also has stories from World War II and also a time when the Americans used it as an administrative building. Since this is the only royal palace in the entire USA, needless to say, the stories are rich and full of interesting little information.You can walk through the place and learn about how the Queen was captured in her room and was asked to stay there for eight months. It even talks about how rooms were made into makeshift Red Cross places to assist during World War II. So, all-in-all it will surely be an enriching experience!

Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

3.Exhibitions to Look At

When the monarchy was over thrown and the castle came in the possession of the Americans, many artifacts in the palace were auctioned off. But, some were kept in the inventory and thankfully those still remain in the museum. The outfits of the King and Queen, the ornaments, the quilt stitched by the Queen, are just a few amazing artifacts that have still been preserved for people to see and get amazed by. There are two floors in the Iolani Palace and both the floors hold military accessories, old furniture, historic photos and much more which talk a lot about the rich history of the palace.

4.Marvelous and Unique Architecture

If there is one thing that is sure to make you go all wow there, it is the brilliant and unique architecture of the palace. As we already told you before, it was built in the American Florentine style and almost all the furniture was procured from the USA or other foreign countries. The staircases are made of Hawaiian koa wood and they are definitely going to leave you awestruck. The rooms are filled with valuable decorative pieces from England, India, Japan, and France. Crimson and gold colors dominate in the Palace and each little detailing is perfect. So architecture enthusiasts will surely have a great time exploring every corner of this beautiful palace.

Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

House of Chiefs – 1st Floor

Now, let’s delve into the Palace a bit more and tell you about each of the two floors. Starting with the first one, it was commonly known as the House of Chiefs. The floor consists of the Grand Hall, The dining room, the Blue Room and the Throne Room. The Grand Hall runs the entire width of the Palace with a large staircase. These staircases lead the way to the second floor which has the rooms of the family. The walls of this Hall have portraits of the monarchs and artifacts are filled in this area. Talking about the State Dining Room, it has sliding doors that open into the extravagant dining space. The room has a crimson theme and koa wood fittings. Portraits of various leaders hang on the walls of this room. It also features some exquisite crystal and porcelain pieces. This was later used as the Senate Chambers. The Blue Room is located across the hall from the Throne Room and as the name suggests, it is all blue! This was for informal meetings with guests and has many portraits of monarchs. This room also has the Queen’s koa wood piano. Now, let’s talk about the Throne Room. This was where the King held formal meetings and diplomatic receptions. There are two thrones in this room and both are the intricately made. The historic significance is that the trial of the Queen was held in this room too.

Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

House of The Heavenly King- 2nd Floor

Moving on to the 2nd floor, this was the family quarters for the King and the Queen. This has the bedrooms of the monarchs, the Music Room and the Imprisonment Room. King Kalakaua’s Suite is definitely one of the most decorated rooms you will come across in this Palace. His bedroom was designed in a way that there is a perfect blend of gothic-revival Asian and European furnishings. It has a library attached to it and one of the earliest telephones of Honolulu. The room has a big carpet and a lot of his accomplishments. Queen Kapiolani’s bedroom has once again red and gold tints and all mahogany furniture. While it is not as decorative as the King’s bedroom, it surely is simple and yet exquisite! The Music Room or the Gold Room was a place for the family members to gather and spend time together. In 2011, a team restored the room by figuring out the exact things from looking at old photographs. Finally, the Imprisonment Room is one of the most talked-about rooms because of the fact that the Queen was imprisoned in it after the monarchs were overthrown. Queen Liliuokalani was arrested and forced to abdicate her throne in 1895. She had a public trial and was sentenced to imprisonment in the upstairs room for eight months. During this time she could not see any visitors so she spent her time reading, quilting, etc.

Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

How to Get There?

By now you must be fairly ready to visit this Palace and wondering how to get there. Well, look no further. Reaching the Iolani Palace is extremely easy. The first option that you can take up is to get a guided tour of Honolulu which will include this place as a stop. But if you want the save some bucks, you can take the Oahu Bus which drops you at a stop just steps away from the Palace. You can also enrich the experience more by taking the iconic Waikiki Trolley. This will take you directly to the Palace and you will surely enjoy the ride immensely! If you are planning to get a rental car, it will be a 15-minute drive from all the popular hotels. Many do opt for a car as it is easier to visit quite a few other tourist attractions which are nearby to this Palace as well. Also, from there you can always drive down to Chinatown and feast on food after your great museum experience!

Attractions Nearby

If we haven’t mentioned this already, Honolulu is definitely full of tourist attractions and one can never run out of things to see in this place. Once you have taken the tour of the Iolani Palace if you have enough time you can see tow other equally famous places nearby as well.

This is yet another museum that is frequented by history enthusiasts a lot. Most tourists call it an extremely comprehensive museum and it has a great collection of Hawaii’s heritage and culture stored in it. The museum was commissioned by the husband of the last descendant of King Kamehameha, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, which is where it got the name of Bishop Museum. One can easily spend around three hours in this place and experience all the valuable items kept there. From the possessions of the King to the science center, the museum has almost everything you can think of. Do not miss the erupting volcano in the Science Centre and no matter what surely take a peek at the Kahili Room and the Hawaiian Hall which have some brilliant cultural artifacts!

Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu

You must be thinking that Honolulu is mostly just about beaches and rich history. But here’s where you are wrong! The place is also a great showcase of some brilliant art and if you are an artist or an art enthusiast, the Honolulu Museum of Art is where you should definitely go! The building itself is unique as it has a lot of outdoor courtyards to get light from a natural source. There are several galleries here from all around the world spanning up to thousands of years. From Chinese Art to Japanese Woodblock Prints to Indian and South Asian Art, you will find everything here. There is even a Coffee Bar and Café where you can take occasional breaks and enjoy a good cup of coffee. A museum shop is also there for tourists who want to buy books, stationery, etc. For an art lover, this will be surely a paradise and you can spend hours in here! The museum is closed on Mondays. On Tuesdays-Saturdays, the museum is open from 10 am-4:30 pm. Sunday from 1-5 pm. There are a few days where one does not have to pay an admission fee to enter the museum.

All-in-all, your Honolulu trip is definitely not going to be complete without a peek into the Palace or the two museums. If you are traveling for a shorter time, make sure you at least visit the Iolani Palace and learn about the place you are touring in! It is advised not to go during peak times as you may have difficulty in finding parking or the inside of the palace may be too crowded. So choose a time wisely and make sure to during the off-season. If you are only traveling during the tourist season, pick a time that will not see many tourists lining up for the palace or the museums! No matter what, we hope you have a great stay in Honolulu.

Plan A Trip to Iolani Palace in Honolulu