The Iolani Palace in Honolulu is one of the top attractions in Oahu, Hawaii

Visiting the Iolani Palace in Oahu, Hawaii (2024 Guide!)

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Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States, is located in the heart of Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

Home to the last rulers of Hawaii, Iolani Palace is a National Historic Landmark.

For travelers that enjoy local history and culture, a visit to the Iolani Palace is one of the best things to do in Honolulu and should definitely be on your itinerary for Oahu!

Grand Hall Iolani Palace Honolulu Oahu Hawaii
The Grand Hall at the Iolani Palace in Honolulu

In this article, we tell you everything you need to know to plan your visit to historic Iolani Palace in Honolulu!

Looking for fun excursions for your Oahu itinerary? Consider a snorkeling tour at Turtle Canyon, where Hawaiian green sea turtle sightings are very commonplace!

King Kalakaua's Bedroom at the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Oahu
The King’s Bedroom at the Iolani Palace

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History of Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace was built between 1879 and 1882.

Upon its completion, Iolani Palace became the official residence of the Hawaiian monarch King Kalākaua, and, upon his death, that of his sister Queen Liliʻuokalani, who succeeded him to the throne.

The Hawaiian royals entertained important foreign visitors at the palace, where formal receptions and grand balls were held.

A view of the Grand Hall at the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii
Another view of the Grand Hall and the Grand Staircase

In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown and the palace became the seat of the provisional government. Queen Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned in a part of the palace.

Following the overthrow of the monarchy, many of the original furnishings were sold.

The palace continued to function as the seat of government after it became a US territory and then a US state.

In the 1970s, the palace was vacated as a seat of government and restored to its original grandeur and majesty, following which it opened to the public as a museum and historical landmark.

How to Visit Iolani Palace

Exterior of Iolani Palace

The exterior of Iolani Palace is easy enough to view: you can walk onto the grounds when the gates are open, view the facade, tour the grounds, and snap photos.

The gates and fence are grille, so even if you happen to visit when the gates are locked, you can still view the exterior of the palace from the street and snap photos through the steel bars.

Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii
You can peek at the Iolani Palace even when it is closed

Interior of Iolani Palace

You can only visit the interior of Iolani Palace on a tour.

Basic tours are either docent-led or self-guided, and the palace also offers various specialty tours for travelers that seek a more unique Iolani Palace experience.

We’ve taken both a docent-led tour and a self-guided tour (which has an audio narration), and we’ve enjoyed both tours.

One of the colorful quilts on display at the Iolani Palace in Oahu, Hawaii
The quilts on display in the Imprisonment Room are gorgeous!

The docent-led option is great for getting answers to questions that arise as you tour, and additional stories if you get a docent that is passionate about the palace. But we found the audio narration on the self-guided tour quite informative as well.

Tour offerings vary based on day of the week: currently, docent-led tours are offered Wednesdays and Thursdays, while self-guided tours are offered Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

The tours take you through the two floors of Iolani Palace, and, if you wish, you can visit the basement level after your tour.

Whether you opt for the docent-led tour or the self-guided your, you will join a group and enter and exit the palace within a set time along with your group.

So if you enjoy taking photos, do so as you visit each room, because you can’t go back.

What to See and Do at Iolani Palace in Honolulu

As royal palaces go, Iolani Palace is not very big and not as ornate as palaces in Europe. But it still offers a lot to see and experience!

Hall at entrance to Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Oahu
Hall at the Iolani Palace entrance, where you wait for your tour to begin

The Palace Interior

The interior tour of Iolani Palace takes you through the two floors of the palace, and there are several highlights you will enjoy.

The Grand Hall and Staircase

The Grand Hall is large, and its focal point is the sweeping staircase that leads to the royal suites on the upper floor.

The staircase is made of gorgeous Hawaiian koa wood and is graced by a beautiful blue rug.

The Grand Staircase at the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Isn’t that staircase stunning?
Decorative vases in the Grand Hall at Iolani Palace in Oahu, Hawaii
Decorative objects line the walls of the Great Hall

Along the walls of the Grand Hall are portraits of Hawaiian royals, with niches bearing urns, vases, and other decorative objects from Japan, India, France, and England.

The Throne Room

Also on the lower level is the lovely Throne Room, decorated in deep red and gold. The gilded thrones were made for King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani.

Throne Room Iolani Palace Honolulu Oahu
The sumptuous Throne Room

This room is also historically significant as the place where the trial of Queen Liliʻuokalani was conducted.

The Blue Room

Named for the blue furnishings that grace the room, the Blue Room served as the place where smaller receptions and less formal audiences were held.

The walls are lined with portraits, including portraits of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani painted by William Cogswell, a portrait artist from New York.

The Dining Room

The formal dining room has a lovely long table complete with place settings of French porcelain and Bohemian crystal. Beautiful red draperies form a majestic backdrop.

State Dining Room Iolani Palace Oahu Hawaii

The Imprisonment Room

On the upper floor you will find the room where Queen Liliʻuokalani was held prisoner following the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Today the centerpiece is a showcase of pieces from colorful Hawaiian quilts.

The Royal Bedrooms

Upstairs you will also find the bedrooms that belonged to King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani.

Most of the original furnishings were sold after the monarchy was overthrown, but the restoration does include appropriately grand furnishings that you can see today.

The Gold Room

The Gold Room on the upper floor is also known as the Music Room. Reportedly, the Hawaiian royal family enjoyed music!

The Gold Room at the Iolani Palace in Oahu, Hawaii

The King’s Library

King Kalakaua’s study and library on the second floor has a massive sturdy table and tall-backed chairs.

King Kalakaua is said to have spent a fair amount of amount in this private retreat.

King Kalakaua's Library at the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii
The King’s Library

The Palace Basement

After the completion of your tour, you can walk through the basement if you like.

Here you will find some of the royal jewelry as well as other artifacts and information on the process of restoration of the palace.

Royal Orders in the basement of Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Oahu
Royal Orders on display in the basement of Iolani Palace

The Palace Grounds

The Iolani Palace grounds surround the palace. Pathways are lined with coconut palms and there are grassy areas to offer a tranquil ambience.

The land here is considered sacred, having once been the site of a heiau or temple. The grounds are surrounded by an iron grille fence, and formal gates bearing the royal coat of arms.

Also on the grounds you can see the Coronation Pavilion, the Iolani Barracks (which now houses the ticket office and palace shop), and the Sacred Mound, which was once the Royal Mausoleum.

The Iolani Barracks, which houses the ticket office

Getting to Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is located in downtown Honolulu, at the corner of King Street and Richards Street.

If you are based in the tourist hub of Waikiki, you can drive to Iolani Palace if you have a rental car, or you can take the local bus, or a taxi or an Uber. The Waikiki Trolley (Red Line) stops at Iolani Palace. The palace is also a must-stop spot on a downtown Honolulu walking tour.

Grounds of Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii
Walking the grounds of Iolani Palace

By Car

Iolani Palace is a little over 4 miles from the heart of Waikiki, and, in normal traffic, it should take you about 15 minutes to drive there (see map).

There is a parking lot on the grounds of Iolani Palace, and, at the time of writing, the parking fee is $4.00 for two hours. You can pay the fee at a pay booth at the entrance to the lot. The machine accepts credit cards as well as bills and coins.

Two hours should give you enough time to tour the interior of the palace and walk the grounds.

If the parking lot is full, you may find street parking on surrounding streets outside of rush hours in the morning and afternoon. There is also a paid parking garage at Aliʻi Place on nearby Alakea Street.

Fence at Iolani Palace Honolulu Hawaii
A view of the fence surrounding the grounds of Iolani Palace

By Bus

TheBus, the local bus service, offers service between Waikiki and Iolani Palace. Routes 2, 13, and the Country Express are all options.

Depending on where in Waikiki you catch the bus, the bus ride should take about 20 to 30 minutes.

By Waikiki Trolley

The Red Line of the Waikiki Trolley stops at the Iolani Palace.

By Taxi or Uber

A taxi or an Uber are very convenient options for visiting the Iolani Palace from Waikiki, with rides taking just around 15 minutes each way in normal traffic.

Ubers are relatively easy to get, especially if you plan to visit outside of peak hours.

Royal Coat of Arms on one of the gates of the Iolani Palace in Honolulu
A close-up of the Royal Coat of Arms on one of the palace gates

Iolani Palace Hours

Iolani Palace is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed Sunday and Monday and on many Federal and State holidays.

Check the palace website for up-to-date hours before you visit.

Self-guided tours of the interior of Iolani Palace are offered on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, and docent-led tours and specialty tours on Wednesday and Thursday.

Iolani Barracks in Honolulu, Oahu
A view of the Iolani Barracks

Iolani Palace Entrance Fee

Self-guided tours are the cheaper option for touring the interior of the palace, with docent-led and specialty tours more expensive.

At the time of writing, general adult admission for a self-guided tour costs $26.95 and a docent-led tour costs $32.95. Discounts are offered for military personnel and residents of Hawaii.

Admission for teens 13-17 $21.95 for a self-led tour and a docent-led tour costs $29.95 each. A self-led tour for youth 5-12 costs $11.95, while a docent-led tour costs $14.95 each. Kids under 5 are free.

Coronation Pavilion on the grounds of Iolani Palace in Oahu
The Coronation Pavilion on the grounds of the Iolani Palace

Are Reservations Required for Iolani Palace?

You have to buy tickets online in advance. Same day reservations are not offered, so buy your tickets the day before at a minimum.

Although the website says otherwise, walk-up tickets may be offered based on availability. If you forgot to make reservations and want to tour the interior, call the ticket office to check for walk-up availability, or stop by.

Docent tours typically tend to fill up in advance, so if you are keen on one, make sure to get your tickets beforehand.

The Best Oahu Tours

Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?

Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!

The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.

Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!

Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.

A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu adventure for your bucket list.

We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.

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How to visit Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii! Get the complete guide to the only royal palace in the US : how to get there, what to see and do, and more!


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