Evening Tour of ʻIolani Palace: A Walk Through the Past

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Keli‘i Akina, Ph.D., Trustee, At-Large

On Dec. 26, 2021, my wife, Liz, and I participated in the first evening tour of the ʻIolani Palace held in over a year, celebrating the 187th birthday of Queen Kapiʻolani. OHA sponsored the Queen Kapiʻolani Evening Tours held on December 26 and 27, allowing guests a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in Hawaiʻi’s rich history.

I commend OHA for sponsoring the event and helping to preserve and promote an important part of Hawaiʻi’s history. The evening tours were offered free of charge, and visitors were able to see the palace in its full grandeur, with lights, music, decorations, and stories of Queen Kapiʻolani’s life and legacy, helping to transport them back to a different time.

Seeing the palace lit up at night serves as a great reminder of how advanced, progressive and forward-thinking Hawaiian leaders have always been.

Photo: Trustee Akina
Trustee Akina in the State Dining Room at ʻIolani Palace. – Photo: Courtesy

ʻIolani Palace served as the royal residence for the Hawaiian monarchy beginning in 1845, and was the site of many historical events, diplomatic gatherings and celebrations. Queen Liliʻuokalani was the last monarch to rule Hawaiʻi and live at the palace.

It was the aspiration of Hawaiʻi’s monarchy that the Hawaiian people should hold their own amongst the great civilizations of the world, equal in education and culture. For example, several monarchs were educated in global languages and western knowledge in addition to Hawaiian language and culture. It was also common for children of Hawaiian nobility, such as Queen Liliʻuokalani, to travel extensively to broaden their understanding of the world.

And so the palace came to represent the coming together of the best of east and west in Hawaiʻi. Today, ʻIolani Palace’s enduring legacy is a symbol of Hawaiian achievement and a reminder of Hawaiʻi’s diplomatic status and peer relationship with other nations of the world.

Hawaiian monarchs were open to modern ideas, as evidenced by the indoor plumbing and electricity at ʻIolani Palace. King Kamehameha IV had Hawaiʻi’s first flushing toilets installed on the palace grounds in 1856. In 1881, King David Kalākaua went on a tour of the world, making a stop in Paris to attend the International Exposition of Electricity. He also made a stop at a laboratory in New Jersey to meet Thomas Edison, who had just invented the light bulb two years before. This meeting set off a series of events that resulted in ʻIolani Palace enjoying electricity years before even the White House had electricity.

ʻIolani Palace is a testament to the fact that the Hawaiian monarchy preserved the past while adopting new ideas and embracing the future. The Palace also shows that our monarchs cherished the Hawaiian culture while welcoming other cultures of the world to Hawaiʻi Nei. There are profound lessons to be learned at Hale Aliʻi ʻIolani.


Trustee Akina welcomes your feedback at TrusteeAkina@oha.org.