Iolani Palace // © 2010 Friends of Iolani Palace
). Guided tours cost $20 per adult and $5 per child (ages 5-12). Audio tours cost $13 per adult and $5 per child (ages 5-12). The palace is open Mon.-Sat. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It’s not every day that you can tour a palace, let alone one on U.S. soil, but that’s exactly what your clients can do during their next Honolulu visit. A short drive from Waikiki, Iolani Palace serves as a living testament to the rich history and culture of Hawaii. The only royal palace in the U.S., this distinguished dwelling gives a unique glimpse into the life of Hawaii’s royal family.
Although the palace, originally built in 1879, has been open to the public since 1978, lately it has seen a recent resurgence in interest and visitor numbers. According to a recent Hawaii Star-Advertiser article, the palace took in a record-breaking revenue of more than $100,000 in June 2010 — the largest single-month sales in the palace’s history — and welcomed a total of 8,693 visitors. In February, the palace opened its doors for the first time on Mondays to accommodate the surge in numbers.
“Unlike other museums or attractions on Oahu, our numbers have been steadily growing over the past few years,” said Kippen de Alba Chu, executive director of Friends of Iolani Palace, the organization that has restored and supported the palace.
Such numbers weren’t a surprise to me. Having recently visited the historic site, I can see why so many visitors would flock to it. The timelessness of Iolani Palace is unmistakable. When you are inside the building, donning your cloth-covered shoes (so as to protect the palace’s glossy hardwood floors), you truly feel as though you have entered the personal home of royalty.
The best way to experience the palace is under the guidance of a knowledgeable volunteer docent. During my visit, I was lucky enough to have Zita Cup Choy, a veteran tour guide, as my escort. Choy was like a walking encyclopedia of Hawaiian history. The insights she related to my group were fascinating, making us feel as though the palace were being brought to life with every room we explored. I could just picture the king and queen hosting lively parties in the crimson-hued throne room.
Later, we learned about Queen Liliuokalani’s tragic imprisonment in Iolani Palace in 1895 and that, too, seemed to become real as I saw her upstairs bedroom. I was also surprised to learn that Friends of Iolani Palace is still looking for missing items belonging to the royal building. A guided tour lasts a total of 90 minutes and includes a historical video; a 45-minute, docent-led look at the palace’s restored state apartments and the private living quarters of the royal family; and a self-guided tour of the galleries in the basement.
For clients who would rather tour the gallery on their own, it is highly recommended that they purchase an audio tour. Whether guided or unguided, however, the overall experience is something they won’t soon forget from their next trip to Hawaii.