Built in 1845, Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the United States. It was the royal residence for the Hawaiian monarchy until 1893. Today it is a museum that is open to the public. Here's everything you need to know to about visiting Iolani Palace.
What Is Iolani Palace?
Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the US. It is a national historic landmark and a must-visit when you come to Hawaii.
Iolani Palace is located in the heart of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. It is a 15 minute drive from Waikiki and 1 minute from Downtown Honolulu.
The Palace served as the royal residence for the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1845 to 1893, starting with Kamehameha III and ending with Queen Liliʻuokalani.
The monarchy was overthrown in 1893 and Iolani Palace was used as the government headquarters for the Provisional Government until 1969.
It was then restored and opened as a museum to the public in 1978.
Growing up in Hawaii, we toured Iolani Palace as school children. The history of Hawaii is unique and being able to tie what we learned in the classroom to a physical place helped to paint a full picture of Hawaii's royal history.
As an adult, I love taking friends and family who visit. Yes Hawaii is very much sun, sand, and beach. But that showcases just a tiny fraction of Hawaii. A visit to Iolani Palace is one of many things that provide a richer and more complete understanding of our home.
Can You Visit Iolani Palace?
Yes. That is the whole point of this post! ^_^
Iolani Palace offers several types of tours ranging from an audio tour to a white glove tour.
We typically book the Docent-Led Tour. It is a 1-hour group tour that gives just the right amount of time and guidance to learn about the history of the Place.
It is a walking tour that covers the two floors of the Palace so you have a chance to walk the grand staircase and see all the different rooms from the dining room to bedrooms.
The docents at Iolani Palace are gracious and very knowledgeable, some have been leading tours for many years. Come with questions, they seem to know everything!
This tour is currently $30 per person (there's also a $19.95 *kamaaina rate).
*Kamaaina means local. Many places in Hawaii offer kamaaina discounts and to get the discount you need a local ID card.
Iolani Palace Facts
Here are few interesting facts to get you started for your visit to Iolani Palace:
Electricity and Telephones
Did you know Iolani Palace had electricity and telephones four years before the White House? So modern! In 1881, King Kalākaua (who was very interested in technology) went on a world tour. He met with Thomas Edison in NYC and the rest was history! Electric lights were officially installed and turned on at Iolani Palace in 1887.
There is a very famous quilt (pictured above) made by Queen Liliʻuokalani during her 9 months of imprisonment (in her own Palace). One part of the tour takes you into a room that holds the original quilt. It is an intricate patchwork quilt that documents her memories and important events in her life. You can read more about the quilt in this 2003 Star Bulletin article.
The architectural style of Iolani Palace is called American Florentine. It is the only example of American Florentine architecture in the world.
There are events held throughout the year that you can attend on the Iolani Palace grounds (without needing to book a tour).
Though you can't access the inside of the Palace without a booked tour, you can still enjoy the palace grounds which are quite beautiful!
A popular event this summer is the The Royal Hawaiian Band at Iolani Palace. This takes place most Fridays between 12pm-1pm (make sure to double check schedule/time online). It's a live band concert held on the palace grounds. The band was founded by King Kamehameha III in 1836. It is the only band in the US with a royal legacy...so cool! Bring a picnic mat and snacks to make it a full experience. Don't forget to wear sunscreen.
P.S. The Royal Hawaiian Band also plays at many venues throughout the island.
Check out the most current events on Iolani Palace's Events page.
Tips and FAQ
There is metered parking available onsite and on nearby streets. Make sure to bring coins. Fill the meter for 2 hours to be on the safe side. Last thing you want is to leave the tour midway to fill up the parking meter.
Dress codes are fairly relaxed in Hawaii, but Iolani Palace requires shirts and footwear. Definitely no bathing suits or beachwear. You are in a palace, after all.
Tours run throughout the day, but we prefer the early morning tours. It can get pretty hot in Hawaii, so if you want a chance to stroll the Palace grounds before/after the tour, it's wise to book for a morning tour.
Iolani Palace is right by Downtown and Chinatown, so there are plenty of good food options. From takeout to sit down, casual to fancy, there's something for every appetite and budget.
Here are a few great spots: The Pig and the Lady, Lam's Kitchen (best chow fun dishes and you tiao), Fête, Maguro Brothers (super fresh sashimi on rice), The Daley Burger, and Kahiau Jerky Poke & Provisions (make sure to try the Hapa Poi which layers taro and sweet potato poi).
Iolani Palace: Info
- Iolani Palace | 364 South King Street Honolulu, HI 96813 | (808) 522-0822
- Price: Tour prices range from $25 to $99.95 per person. Kamaaina rates available. Check tour page to confirm pricing.
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday (9am-4pm)