Oahu’s Statues Honor Royalty and Other Outstanding People of Hawaii

Oahu's Satutes

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku


One of the most entertaining ways to pick up a bit of Hawaii history is to visit the numerous Oahu statues that commemorate Hawaiian royalty and other influential men and women who shaped the destiny of the Hawaiian Islands. At the top of any list would be King Kamehameha the Great, the monarch who first united the major islands and created the Kingdom of Hawaii. There are three statues of the king in the Hawaiian Islands, in Honolulu, Kapaau and Hilo. The most visited one is in the historic district of Honolulu, in front of Aliiolani Hale, the former governmental seat of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the Republic of Hawaii.



Statues in Historic Honolulu


King Kamehameha the Great (approximately 1758-1819). Known fondly as the “Napoleon of the Pacific,” Kamehameha and his descendants—the House of Kamehameha—ruled the Hawaiian Kingdom for six decades, from 1810 till 1872. We recommend reading Kamehameha, Walter F. Judd’s biography of the king, published by Island Heritage. Kamehameha’s statue is located in front of Aliiolani Hale, and is decorated with lei on his birthday, June 11, an event that draws thousands of people every year. There are two other statues of the king, located on Hawaii Island at Wailoa River State Park and in Kapaau. A fourth statue is in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

Plans for a fourth statue were made for a resort on Kauai; however, residents opposed the statue since the Garden Isle was the only island King Kamehameha did not conquer. Instead, in the late 90s, the Princeville Corporation donated the statue, and it is now installed in Downtown Hilo. The fifth and sixth statues are located on Maui at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa and Ka‘anapali Beach Club, sculpted by Herb Kawainui Kāne and Caleb O’Connor, respectively. A seventh had resided in Las Vegas, in front of the Hawaiian Marketplace, but has since been removed to make way for a Chili’s restaurant.

Robert Wilcox (1855-1903). Descended from Hawaiian royalty, Wilcox was extremely popular among the Hawaiian people as an educator and legislator. Known by the Hawaiians as “The Roaring Lion of the Pacific,” he led two counter-insurgency movements, in 1895 and 1898. His attempts to overthrow the Republic of Hawaii and restore the Hawaiian government failed. He was sentenced to death but pardoned by the president of the republic, Sanford B. Dole. Wilcox later served as Hawaii’s congressional delegate.

Oahu StatuesQueen Liliuokalani (1838-1917). Hawaii’s only reigning queen, she lived in turbulent times as the last Hawaiian monarch, deposed on Jan. 14, 1893, and replaced by the establishment of the Republic of Hawaii, on July 4, 1894. Her autobiography, Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, details her fascinating life and the monumental changes Hawaii underwent at the turn of the century. Despite being implicated and imprisoned for allegedly supporting the 1895 counter-revolution led by Robert Wilcox, she was pardoned by Sanford Dole, the republic’s president. She lived in Washington Place until her death at age 79.

Saint Damien (1840-1889). Born Jozef De Veuster, the Roman Catholic priest came to Hawaii from Belgium. Father Damien ministered to the victims of Hansen’s disease on the island of Molokai, on the secluded peninsula at Kalaupapa, where he eventually succumbed to the disease. Mohandas K. Gandhi, who led India to independence, found inspiration in Father Damien. “The Martyr of Molokai” was canonized on Oct. 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI, making him the first Hawaii priest elevated to sainthood. His statue graces the entrance to the Hawaii State Capitol, facing South Beretania Street. One of our favorite books on the subject is Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai, by Gavan Daws.



Statues in Waikiki

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole (1871–1922). A member of Hawaiian royalty when the monarchy was overthrown in 1893, Prince Kuhio was a delegate to the United States Congress, the only Native Hawaiian elected to that office. He served for 20 years, until his death. His statue is at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki. Prince Kuhio Day, March 26, is a state holiday that honors his birth.


Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (1831–1884). The great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, Pauahi left a rich legacy for the Hawaiian people. Her will established Kamehameha Schools, dedicated to educate children of Hawaiian ancestry, as well as the trust that later established the Royal Hawaiian Center. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum was founded in 1889 by her husband, Charles Reed Bishop in honor of his late wife. Her statue sits in the center’s serene Royal Grove, just off of bustling Kalakaua Avenue.


King David Kalakaua (1836–1891). Known as the Merrie Monarch, Kalakaua was one of the most fascinating members of Hawaiian royalty. He gave new life to many Hawaiian cultural practices, including hula, which had been discouraged by puritanical missionaries. His statue is in Waikiki Gateway Park, where Kuhio Avenue splits off from Kalakaua Avenue.


Queen Esther Julia Kapiolani (1834–1899). The wife of King David Kalakaua, Queen Kapiolani dedicated her life to Hawaii’s people, founding a maternity hospital for Native Hawaiian mothers. Today it is known as the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. The king donated crown lands between Diamond Head and Waikiki as a public park in her honor. Her statue is in the park, fronting the Kapiolani Bandstand, site of numerous free public concerts and cultural performances.


Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (1890–1968). Hawaii’s ambassador of Aloha, Duke is perhaps Hawaii’s best-known personality. He became world-famous as a record-setting Olympic medalist, Hollywood film actor, Waikiki waterman and “father of international surfing.” Duke’s statue is on Kalakaua Avenue at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki. The best day to view the statue is on his birthday, Aug. 24, when it is decorated with an impressive array of colorful lei.

Princess Victoria Kaiulani Cleghorn (1875–1899). The beautiful, young part-Hawaiian was heir to the throne prior to Queen Liliuokalani’s overthrow, but died tragically at age 23. A small celebration is held on or close to her Oct. 16 birthday at the statue in the tiny triangular park located at the intersection of Kaiulani (named for her) and Kuhio avenues. The statue depicts the princess feeding her beloved pikake—peacocks.


Photos by Darrell Ishii; Brett Uprichard




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