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Visiting Iolani Palace in Hawaii

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When it comes to exploring the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii, there is no better place to start than Iolani Palace. Nestled in downtown Honolulu, this historic gem stands as a testament to the grandeur and legacy of the Hawaiian monarchy. Visiting Iolani Palace in Hawaii is a must see stop for families. 

Iolani Palace

Visiting Iolani Palace in Hawaii

Continuing our trip in Hawaii on Oahu Island we made a stop at the only official royal residence, Iolani Palace for the audio walking tour. This tour gave us a view of rooms in the palace along with learning about important historical events and the historic people of Hawaii. 

Taking a visit to Iolani Palace offers a unique opportunity to delve into the captivating history of the Hawaiian Kingdom. I wanted the kids to have fun and learn some history on this visit and this was the perfect place. The kid’s interest was kept while we went on the self-led audio tour and my whole family enjoyed this stop. 

Museums to Visit with Kids

Iolani Palace

What is Iolani Palace?

Iolani Palace is a historic landmark located in downtown Honolulu, Hawaii. It is the only royal palace on U.S. soil and served as the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchs. The Palace was constructed in the late 19th century during the reign of King Kalakaua and completed in 1882. It was named after his predecessor, King Kamehameha III’s hānai (adopted) son, Io-lani, who was also his brother.

front stairwell of Iolani Palace

Why is Iolani Palace significant? 

Iolani Palace is significant for several reasons. It reflects the unique architecture known as American Florentine, blending European and Hawaiian architectural elements. It was one of the most modern and technologically advanced buildings of its time, featuring innovations like indoor plumbing and electricity before even the White House in Washington, D.C.

The palace was not only a residence for Hawaiian royalty but also a center of political and social activity. It hosted grand events, receptions, and diplomatic ceremonies. The royal family resided there until the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893.

After the overthrow of the monarchy, the palace was used as a government building for many years, and its interiors were modified. However, in the 1970s, a significant restoration effort took place to restore the palace to its original glory. Today, Iolani Palace stands as a museum and historic site. When you visit this national historic landmark it tells the story of the Iolani Palace when their Majesties, King Kalakaua, and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani walked the grand halls.  

Iolani Palace stairwell

Is Iolani Palace worth it?

Yes! We took the audio tour and loved it. Not only is the palace a beautiful place just to see the tour provided a lot of historic information and learning for the kids. On the tour, the kids learned about the important historical figures in Hawaii, and the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, and saw amazing artifacts. The tour was short enough to keep their interest while being informative. 

bedroom at Iolani Palace

What do you see when you are on the tours?

Depending on the tour option that you choose will depend on the rooms of the royal residence that you see. Each room contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the palace’s significance and offers a captivating journey through Hawaiian royalty.

The interior rooms of Iolani Palace offer a captivating and immersive experience, providing a glimpse into the lives of the Hawaiian royals. With a rich variety of rooms to explore, you will learn about the palace’s fascinating history and discover the different facets of royal life. The Grand Hall, Throne Room, State Dining Room, Queen’s Bedroom, and King’s Bedroom showcase the living quarters of the monarchy. 

Meanwhile, the Music Room, Blue Room (used for informal audiences), and King’s Library shed light on the more relaxed and personal aspects of royal activities. The King’s Library, in particular, was where King Kalakaua dedicated time to studying Hawaiian language, English, and technology. 

You can also see the imprisonment room where Queen Liluokalani was kept when under house arrest. 

You have the opportunity to explore all these rooms and the beautiful exterior grounds of Iolani Palace through various tour options.

dining room at Iolani Palace

What are the Walking tour options at Iolani Palace?

There are a few different tour options that you can pick from when you are visiting the Iolani Palace. We went on the audio tour which was perfect for the kids. These tours provide varying levels of access and depth of information. Here are the main types of tours offered:

kids on a self-guided audio tour at Iolani Palace

Self-Guided Audio Tour 

The Audio Tour offers a self-guided experience where visitors can explore the palace at their own pace. It provides recorded commentary and descriptions of each room. Yoi will learn about the palace’s history and cultural significance as you move through the different spaces. The Audio Tour also takes approximately 45 minutes to complete.

Docent-led Tour

Knowledgeable volunteer docents lead you on a journey through the history of Iolani Palace. Starting with its construction in 1882 to the pivotal event of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. As you explore the palace, the docents share captivating stories about the furnishings. They tell you about the lives of the royal residents who once inhabited the stately rooms on the first and second floors. These areas include the grand staterooms on the first floor and the more intimate private quarters on the second floor. The tour finishes with an opportunity to continue their exploration through the basement Galleries.

Fashion Fit for Royalty Tour

Led by knowledgeable docents, this guided tour takes visitors through the grandeur of the first-floor State Rooms. It includes the Queen Kapiolani’s Bedroom, the King’s Library, the Music Room, and the Chamberlain’s Office.

Docents will be adorned in special dress attire, showcasing historical garments and accessories. This brings to light the wardrobe and jewelry of Hawaiian royalty, showcasing how they seamlessly integrated Hawaiian culture into European-style attire.

Chamberlain’s Tour

The Royal Chamberlain is a trusted figure directly accountable to the King and Queen. They played a crucial role in overseeing the functioning of the royal household. Through this exclusive tour, you will step into the hallowed grounds of the Chamberlain’s office and be captivated by the insightful and enchanting stories that unfold about the monarchs who once graced these halls.

The centerpiece of this tour is a visit to the Chamberlain’s office suite, nestled in the basement. Here, you will have a rare opportunity to closely examine a myriad of precious objects while gaining an understanding of the Royal Chamberlain’s essential duties. Docents, dressed in authentic period clothing, will tell you tales about King Kalakaua’s unwavering efforts to bolster the Kingdom’s standing on the global stage. Prepare to be captivated by anecdotes about notable guests and the remarkable individuals who served the monarchy.

Hawaii’s Royal Connection to Japan Tour

This exclusive opportunity offers a vivid portrayal of King Kalakaua’s transformative journey to Japan in 1881. Led by knowledgeable docents, guests will enjoy privileged access to restricted areas within the Palace. The “Hawaii’s Royal Connection to Japan” tour celebrates the enduring bond between the Hawaiian Kingdom and Japan. This tour shares pivotal moments in history and the individuals who played a role in shaping this special relationship.

Throughout the tour, you will uncover the stories of individuals who formed King Kalakaua’s inner circle. You will learn about their contributions and roles in fostering the relationship between Hawaii and Japan. Docents will bring to life the King’s resolute endeavors to elevate the Kingdom’s standing on the global stage. This immersive experience will provide you with a deeper understanding of the efforts made to strengthen diplomatic ties and forge lasting connections between these two nations.

White Glove Tour

This extraordinary tour grants you a closer look at an array of precious objects housed within select rooms. You will see the Throne Room, the State Dining Room, and the King Kalakaua’s Library. The Palace Historian will reveal fascinating insights into the distinguished role of the monarchs, their accomplishments, and their enduring legacy. You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for their significance in shaping Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage and their far-reaching impact beyond the islands.

The tour tops off with a truly unique experience as guests venture into the Palace attic. You’ll be provided with a keepsake pair of white gloves, symbolizing the utmost care and respect bestowed upon the priceless cultural objects housed within. This rare opportunity allows you to view select items from the Palace collection that are not typically on public display. 

Royal Legacy Tour

You will have the unique privilege of exploring the State Dining Room, King’s Library, King’s Bedroom, and Throne Room. This gives you the chance to closely observe and appreciate a myriad of precious artifacts. 

The tour tops off in the Palace Galleries. Here you can marvel at the exquisite jewels and other treasures from the Royal Collection. Additionally, a visit to the exhibit detailing the meticulous restoration of the Palace and the ongoing endeavors to protect and preserve it for future generations.

Is there a dress code at Iolani Palace?

While there is no full specific dress code for when you visit they do ask that you dress in a manner that is respectful as it is a sacred place. Shirts with profanity, bathing suits, and beachwear are not allowed. 

Where is Iolani Palace located?

Iolani Palace is located in downtown Honolulu, the capital city of the state of Hawaii in the United States. Its address is 364 South King Street, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96813. The palace is situated on the island of Oahu, specifically in the area known as the Capitol District. It is near the State Capitol building and the Honolulu Hale (City Hall). The central location of Iolani Palace makes it easily accessible to visitors and tourists exploring the city of Honolulu.

What are the hours of operation for Iolani Palace?

The Palace is open for tours on Tuesday thru Saturday and each type of tour is offered on different days of the week so be sure to check out the days and times the tour you want to go on is operating.

How do you get tickets for Iolani Palace?

You can buy palace tickets online or at the ticket window that is next door to the palace.

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