The only royal residence in America, this stately Italianate mansion was built in 1882 for King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Lili'uokalani. While things didn't go too well for the Queen, who was overthrown and then imprisoned in the palace, the meticulously restored 'Iolani Palace is an opulent sight and important site in Hawaiian history.
'Iolani Palace was commissioned as a thoroughly modern royal residence to enhance Hawaii's international standing, and boasted electric lighting and telephone communications that pre-dated those of the White House. The King used various residences and 'Iolani Palace was designated as the official residence for functions and to entertain and receive dignitaries. During the overthrow of the Queen and Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, many of the palace artifacts and furnishings were sold at auction but some have since been recovered for display in the palace.
Guided tours allow visitors to view the first and second floors of the palace. The first floor contains the public reception areas such as the Grand Hall with its imposing staircase made of Hawaiian woods and portraits of Hawaiian royalty, the Throne Room and State Dining Room. The second floor houses the private suites including the Music Room and Imprisonment Room where Queen Lili'uokalani was held under house arrest for five months. The Basement Gallery (US$7 for adults, US$3 for children aged five to 12, under-fives free) showcases exhibits from the royal collection including the Hawaiian crown jewels, historic photos and the restored kitchen and Chamberlain's Office.
Around the palace grounds, highlights include the ornate Coronation Pavilion, the Sacred Mound where Hawaiian chiefs were buried, and 'Iolani Barracks. Children under five years are only permitted into the Basement Gallery. To visit 'Iolani Palace in Downtown Honolulu, take the 2 or 13 bus from Waikiki to the stop at Hotel and Alakea Streets. From here, it's a five-minute walk down Alakea Street and left onto South King Street.