Iolani Palace is the only official state residence of royalty in the United States. Located in Honolulu's capitol district, this regal structure and National Historic Landmark was home to the Hawaiian Kingdom's two final monarchs. The palace was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani resided there until the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893. Iolani Palace was also used as the capitol building for the Provisional Government Republic of Hawaii until 1969, and was opened to the public as a museum in 1978.
King Kalakaua was a well-traveled man, earning respect as the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe in 1881. His desire was to create a palace that would rival those in Europe and signal Hawaii's place as a modern sovereign state. He incorporated the most up-to-date technology into Iolani Palace, including indoor plumbing, incandescent lighting, and telephones. This national historic landmark and beloved Hawaiian monument showcases the 19th-century grandeur of a unique architectural style known as “American Florentine” and features a grand hall and piano, both built of koa wood.
Many of Iolani Palace's artifacts were lost or stolen during the overthrow of the government in 1893—a bloodless coup that was led by American industrialists in Hawaii and supported by the U.S. Marines. The caretakers of Iolani Palace are constantly locating and purchasing many of the original furnishings with the hopes of being able to show the palace as it looked in the Victorian Era. Despite some under-furnished rooms, visitors rave about the ornate architecture and woodwork.
Visitors will have access to the main rooms and halls, including the Grand Hall, the Throne Room, the State Dining Room, and King and Queen’s private suites. You'll also see the Blue Room, which was used for small receptions and displays a portrait of King Louis Philipe given to the palace as a gift from the French government. Iolani Palace also houses a collection of furniture made by famous Boston furniture maker A.H. Davenport. On the palace grounds you can explore the ornate royal tomb and the Coronation Pavilion. The Iolani Barracks, originally built in 1877 to house the royal guard, is now home to the palace gift shop, a video theater, and the ticketing office where you can redeem your pass.
In order to preserve the original wood floors, you'll be asked to wear cloth booties over your shoes. Photography is not allowed inside Iolani Palace, even without a flash, but you can take photos outside the building and on the palace grounds. If you're visiting with young children, please note that children under the age of five are not allowed in the upstairs galleries.
Reservations are recommended for your guided tour, so call ahead. Iolani Palace is less than a mile from the Honolulu Academy of Arts; you can make a full day out of visiting these two institutions of Hawaiian history and culture.