Iolani Palace. Palace in Oahu, Hawaii

Iolani Palace

Palace in Oahu, Hawaii

Iolani Palace Photo © ouswond

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Iolani Palace

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Pohukaina in the Hawaiian language means “the land is calm”. Iolani Palace was either named ‘Pohukaina’ having the intentions of describing the place so, or it was named after the chief Pohokaina.


Ioalani Palace was not always a palace. Originally, it was a stone house on a missionary compound. In the compound, there were the Kawaiahaʻo Church (Wikipedia Article), thatched huts, and a missionary’s home. The stone house was built by the Prime Minister, Kalanimoku, and named it ‘Pohukaina’. His house was the first stone house ever to be built on the site. After his passing, his home remained to be referred to as a palace.

The so-called ‘palace’ often became the conference hall of the council of chiefs. The site, which consisted of many houses, was later converted into the residence of the royal chamberlain.

'Iolani Palace Front - Iolani
'Iolani Palace Front. Photo by daryl_mitchell


Pohukaina and the rest of the Iolani Palace has been through a lot of years and changes. In the late 1870s, the Iolani Palace was restored by designer, Thomas J. Baker, and architect, Isaac Moore. The whole structure is about 43 meter by 30 meter and is about 16 meter high.

The architecture of Iolani Palace is actually quite unique. Its style is known as American Florentine which is not quite widely used by name infrastructures. The first floor has a grand staircase made of koa wood. There are ornamental plasters as interior decorations. There is a throne room which was called the blue meeting room and adjoins with the dining area. There is a private library and royal bedrooms. Most of all, it had electric and telephone connections even before the White House ever acquired them.

The palace was renovated and remodeled again with steel framing and concrete walls around 1935. During the Second World War, it was briefly the headquarters of the military governor. The palace was used for about 70 years with much functionality but little to no care at all, which left it in poor shape. Finally, when Hawaii became a U.S. state, the governor, John A. Burnsbegan, restored the palace into its great wonders.


Many of the things that belonged to the palace have been returned and the whole place fully restored through the efforts of many researchers, non-government individuals, donations, and volunteer work. Iolani Palace was open to the viewing of the public in 1978. One can see a display of the Hawaiian crown jewels, royal decorations, and royal clothing in a beautiful photo gallery.

Media Depiction

With the palace having a very interesting history, series of reconstructions, and a naturally beguiling aura, it had become a subject of a few literary fictions. The books , Days of Infamy and End of the Beginning by Harry Turtledove (Wikipedia Article) included the Iolani Palace significantly.

There were also films such as the Princes Kaiulani (2008), The Withdrawing Room (1981); I Dream of Jeannie, Lilo and Stitch; and of course Hawaii Five-O.

How to Get Here

One can take the bus number 2 or the bus number 13 to reach Iolani Palace. Do not hesitate to ask the bus driver which way he is going to because they might be going the other way and had already passed by the palace. You can take a taxi or get on a tourist shuttle bus in Waikiki. You can wait for these buses in Ala Moana as well. If you like, you can hike it from Waikiki. It takes some time but it helps you see more iconic landmarks at a leisurely pace.

Similar Places

Hawaii was predominantly a monarch island before. There are consequently so many royal residences. Each one is unique and is very different than the other noble dwellings you can find elsewhere in the world. Here are more Hawaiian monarch homes that you can check out on your visit to the islands.

- Haimoeipo or Hawaii State Capitol - standing humbly in Honolulu is the Hawaii State Capitol which was once called Haimoeipo, a royal residence of Queen Dowager Kalama. She was King Kamehameha III's wife. Today, the once monarch abode is the statehouse of Hawaii.

- Keōua Hale in Honolulu - a royal blood, Ruth Luka Keanolani Kauanahoahoa Keelikolani, used to reside in this mansion down in Honolulu. She was among the sponsors of the Kamehameha educational facilities.

- Brick Palace in Lahaina - among the most interesting structures in the islands of Hawaii is the Brick Palace in Lahaina. It is in western architecture and is the first ever to built in such style in the islands. It was the home of King Kamehameha's lovely wife Kaahumanu, who however preferred humble lifestyle and resided in a regular Hawaiian house.

Hawaii is not only for swimming, surfing, hiking, and all other adventurous activities. Luxury vacation can also sometimes mean royalty, which one can do by participating in a tour over the Hawaiian monarchy’s residences.

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Author: kimn. Last updated: Jun 06, 2015


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