- Mon: 9am-4pm
- Tue: 9am-4pm
- Wed: 9am-4pm
- Thu: 9am-4pm
- Fri: 9am-4pm
- Sat: 9am-4pm
Iolani Palace is the only royal residence on United States soil. King Kalakaua, Hawaii's last king, who ruled from 1874 to 1891, oversaw construction of the palace, which took three years, from 1879 to 1882. King Kalakaua, a sophisticated and well-traveled man, saw that his new home had the most modern amenities, including indoor plumbing and electric lights — four years before the White House had electric lighting. After his death, Queen Lili'uokalani ascended the throne and lived in the palace; after the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893, she was held prisoner there for a year. The palace served as a government building until 1978, when it was restored and opened to the public. When you walk through the entry of the palace, it's like stepping back in time; the rooms feature original furnishings, along with personal items, artworks, and the royal jewels. A must see for anyone interested in Hawaii's royal history.
Parking and public transportation at Iolani Palace
There is limited parking on the palace grounds and surrounding streets, via parking meters. There is also a parking garage nearby at 1099 Alakea Street, between King Street and Hotel Street. If coming by bus, take the #2 or #13.
When to go to Iolani Palace
A palace tour is a great "rainy day" option. If you go earlier in the day, you'll have a better chance of missing school groups. Check to see if any festivals or parades are scheduled; such events also draw large crowds. You'll also encounter more people during Hawaii's peak travel seasons, winter and summer.
Admission to Iolani Palace
You can tour the palace with a guide, or on a self-guided audio tour. Admission for guided tours is $21.75 for adults, and $6 for children ages 5 to 12; children 4 years old and under are not permitted. Entry times for guided tours are 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.- 11:15 a.m. Friday-Saturday (tours enter every 15 minutes). Reservations are required for guided tours. Admission for self-guided tours is $14.75 for adults, and $6 for children ages 5 to 12; children 4 years old and under are free, but must either be carried in a front-held child carrier, or in a stroller provided by the Iolani Palace staff; personal strollers are not allowed. Entry times for self-guided tours are Monday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Friday-Saturday noon – 4 p.m. A tour of the Basement Gallery, which features more items from the collection and information about the palace's restoration, requires separate admission; adults are $7, children ages 5 to 12 are $3. The Basement Gallery is open Monday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Must see/do at Iolani Palace
After you've explored the palace and its grounds, be sure to cross South King Street to see the statue of King Kamehameha that faces the palace (it's often draped with colorful lei). As you return, note the Coat of Arms of the Hawaiian Kingdom mounted on the entrance gates.
Other places to visit near Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace is in Honolulu's historic district, and there's a lot to see within walking distance. Kawaiaha'o Church, dubbed the "Westminster Abbey of Hawaii," is Honolulu's oldest church, with portraits of Hawaiian royalty displayed inside. St. Andrew's Cathedral features an impressive stained glass window. Explore missionary life at the Mission Houses Museum. The Hawaii State Art Museum is also nearby.
Insider tip for visitors to Iolani Palace
Schedule your visit on Friday, when the Royal Hawaiian Band gives a free concert at the Coronation Pavilion on the grounds at noon.
Author's bio: Gillian G. Gaar is a Seattle-based freelancer who writes about music, entertainment, and travel. Hawaii is one of her favorite destinations.