One of the most pleasurable ways to delve into Hawaii’s fascinating history is on a morning or afternoon walking tour of historic Honolulu. Packed into a few square blocks, a walk that centers around the tree-shaded Iolani Palace is pleasant and informative. We suggest parking at one of the inexpensive municipal lots in downtown Honolulu, or at one of the roadside meters on King and Punchbowl streets near the King Kamehameha Statue (look for posted tow-away signs that are strictly enforced during morning and afternoon rush hours).
The original statue of King Kamehameha the Great, so named as the first warrior to unite all the Hawaiian Islands, was temporarily lost at sea during its transport from Europe. That original now stands in front of the Kapaau Courthouse in North Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii. The replica on King Street is a favorite photographic attraction, especially in June when the statue is draped with dozens of 30-foot flower leis on King Kamehameha Day, a state holiday.
Use the marked crosswalk to cross King Street and enter the wrought-iron front gates of the world-famous Iolani Palace. The grand palace, with its tree-shaded grounds, was built in 1882 by King David Kalakaua, Hawaii’s “Merry Monarch.” It was last occupied by Hawaiian royalty in 1893, when Queen Liliuokalani was deposed by American businessmen with an eye on making Hawaii theirs. Tours of the palace interior are available.
The Palace Shops and The Gallery Shop are also on the grounds, inside the Iolani Barracks. They are open to the public and have a variety of affordable gifts and collectible items. There is limited metered parking on the palace grounds. An abbreviated version of your historical walking tour could include a peek at the fascinating architecture of the Hawaii State Capitol, located to the mauka (mountain) side of the palace. The building is open to the public and offers panoramic views from the top floors. There are two notable statues on opposite sides of the capitol, one commemorating Hawaii’s last queen, Liliuokalani, the other dedicated to Father Damien, Hawaii’s first holy man ever elevated to sainthood.
For those who plan to spend the entire afternoon touring this area, we highly recommend a visit to the nearby Hawaii State Art Museum, located across from the Capitol on Richards and Queen streets. The museum has a remarkable collection of Hawaiian art, photographs and sculptures. The museum is a popular gathering spot when Honolulu celebrates its First Friday evening events, and its onsite restaurant serves up quality fare. Known colloquially as HiSAM, the museum is located on the second floor of the No. One Capital District Building. Admission is free; donations are accepted.
Retrace your steps across the palace grounds to the Hawaii State Library, Honolulu Hale (City Hall), Kawaiahao Church and the fascinating Mission Houses Museum, all within easy walking distance. The Mission Houses were built between 1821 and 1841. On site is the oldest frame house in Hawaii, precut and shipped from Boston in 1821.
Tours offer a unique perspective on the lives of the New England missionaries who came to the Islands to spread their Christian beliefs.
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