Built in 1882 by Hawaii’s final King, David Kalakaua, the palace has gone through many changes over the years. After the siege in 1893, it was used as headquarters of the provisional government and later as State headquarters, complete with Government Issue paint. All the glorious furnishings had been sold at auction and had to be recovered bit by bit once the new State Capitol was built and the Friends of `Iolani began their meticulous restoration.
In spite of the indecencies of the past, modern visitors are urged to offer the appropriate level of respect in this resting grounds of ali`i. An aura of hushed dignity also extends to touring the interior of the palace. Visitors are only allowed into the hallowed halls of the main structure twelve at a time accompanied by trained docents. Volunteer guides enthusiastically regale guests with historical facts, surprising anecdotes and detailed descriptions of the palace contents.
The Grand Tour, ($20) begins when a lovely wahine ushers the group through the palace grounds. After pointing out the coronation pavilion, the royal burial plots and various fragrant flowering trees, she leads guests to the steps of the verandah, where the docent begins his work. Pointing out the building’s exquisite exterior elements imported from around the world- the carved facade, the etched glass windows - he describes the unique mingling of native themes with popular turn-of-the-century styling brought from European courts.
Then visitors don protective booties and step inside. The State Dining room is set for a lavish dinner, with a 12-course menu that would shame a modern host. The Throne Room, enormous enough to house a grand ball, is replete with lavish red thrones rivaling a European 16th century court. The Blue Room, the setting for political debates and royal receptions has been meticulously restored. A crystal chandelier, recovered in sections from various owners who bought it at the infamous auction following the overthrown in 1893, shines overhead.
The palace is filled with gifts from dignitaries and foreign royals and brilliant portraits of the royal family and many delegates who enjoyed Aloha as the guests of King David and Queen Kapi`olani. The intimate poker room in the turret was a favored hangout for Robert Louis Stevenson and other notables of the era.
King David built `Iolani to show the world that Hawaii was no longer an isolated, primitive society. In his "American Florentine" palace, he installed electric lights and telephones before Buckingham Palace and the White House had them. But what he is most remembered for is his graciousness and merriment. He embraced people of all cultures on his trips around the globe while promoting and honoring his own Kingdom and culture, making David a King in the truest sense of the word, and `Iolani a palace fit for such a King.
Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
March 6, 2006
Iolani Palace offers a glimpse through the residence of the last two monarchs of Hawai'i, King Kalakaua, who built the palace in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Lili`uokalani. You must wear booties over your shoes to protect the finished wood floors prior to entering the escorted tour. We were briefed by our guide as we walked through the palace. At one point he told us about the sadness of the queen at being placed in house arrest after her failed attempt to restore power to the Hawai'ian monarch from the big business interests of the day, much like what's happening of the world's citizens with large corporate interests of today, as our fate awaits us. It's a beautiful palace to visit, and the sadness of the end of its royalty is felt.
Afterwards you may spend as much time browsing their gallery and gift shop. You must purchase your tour ticket prior to 3:15pm at the Barracks, and lockers are available to lock your bags and backpacks prior for the same-day tour, but be back to get your belongings before the Barracks closes for the day 4pm. The Royal Hawaiian Band performs on Fridays 12 to 1pm, weather permitting. Usually the first Sundays of the month are Kama`aina Sundays, where residents (with proof of id) are admitted free.
Grand Tour Palace/Gallery Tuesday-Saturday 9am-2pm. Admission adult $20, resident/military with ID $15, children 5-17 $5. Bathing-suit attire not permitted.Gallery Tour Tuesday-Saturday. 9am-4pm Admission adult $6, resident/military with ID $5, children 5-17 $3, resident child with ID $2.Pre-recorded tour information (808)538-1471, tickets & reservations (808)522-0832 or (808)532-0823Email email@example.comBus routes nos. 2, 13, 19, 20, 42
From journal HNL
August 13, 2005
I find the culture of Hawaii fascinating, as, being from the Midwest, we did not get that much exposure to it in school. The palace museum is very nicely put together and showcases events and lifestyles of the monarchy. The benefit of the guided tour is that you can see the interior of the palace and get the history from the guide. As I entered the self-guided part, there was a guide finishing a tour, and I could tell that she was knowledgeable and the guided tour would be useful, although the time/availability did not work for me. The next stop on the bus tour was the Ala Mona Shopping Center.
From journal Conference in Honolulu
by smmmarti guide
August 23, 2003
From journal Hawaii's Cultural Capital - Honolulu
Knowing some history of Hawaii’ royalty makes a visit to the Iolani Palace even more astounding, since the dramatic changes that occurred in Hawaii during the hundred years leading up to the Palace’s construction is the greatest wonder of it all.
Prior to the arrival of Captain Cook in 1786, Hawaiians, although governed by a strict social and legal code of law called kapu, basically lived off the land. Because the islands were so isolated, access to natural resources was limited. Although everything needed for pleasant and hearty survival was available, Hawaiians had no metal, precious or otherwise. Therefore, Hawaiians crafted everything from surfboards to calabash bowls using wood and stone tools. There was no cotton or flax, no cloth, no sails, no finery. Before the missionaries convinced them to do otherwise, the Hawaiians wore very little clothing and used leaves to protect themselves from the rain. They did not live in permanent structures, had no furniture in their thatched gathering rooms, and created no porcelain or glassware.
Before Cook, the missionaries, whalers and others, brought news of the outside world into Hawaii’s realm, the King’s greatest fortune was the reverence afforded him by his subjects. Before Hawaiians had access to precious metals and other natural resources, a King’s power was his lineage and raw physical might. His regal cloak was made of feathers.
To the Hawaiians, Cook’s arrival and all he brought with him, was akin to being visited by aliens. The newcomers came armed with goods, treasures and knowledge that was previously unimagined. With the exception of marvels revealed in mythological stories, the Hawaiians had never been exposed to such wonders. They mistook Cook as a demi-god and, as a result, the formerly isolated culture embraced the newfound access to the outside world.
The formerly isolated islanders also succumbed to disease, since they had no antibodies against common illnesses, eventually loosing 90% of the population. They abolished strict kapu laws, converted to Christianity, and the strength of the former culture was lost to the new order and immigration.
Within one hundred years of Cook’s arrival in Hawaii, after four generations of Kamahamehas educated themselves and their people with the knowledge brought by the haoles (outsiders), King Kala`kaua, Hawaii’s last king, built the Iolani Palace. He built it with the determined interest in proving to the outside world that Hawaii had become a capable, powerful, sophisticated monarchy with remarkable adaptability. His goal, to coax immigration to the islands, was successful and ironically brought an end to Hawaii’s long line of monarchs and the island Kingdom’s independence.
Tour `Iolani with all this in mind and you’ll find the Palace utterly mesmerizing.