If you want to really “understand” Hawaii, this 45-minute tour is worth your time. The Iolani Palace was built by King David Kalākaua, who spared no expense. The 4-year project, completed in 1882, cost $360,000—and nearly bankrupted the Hawaiian kingdom. This four-story Italian Renaissance palace was the first electrified building in Honolulu (it had electricity before the White House and Buckingham Palace). Royals lived here for 11 years, until Queen Liliʻuokalani was deposed and the Hawaiian monarchy fell forever in a palace coup led by U.S. Marines on January 17, 1893, at the demand of sugar planters and missionary descendants.
Cherished by latter-day royalists, the 10-room palace stands as an architectural statement of the monarchy period. Iolani attracts 60,000 visitors a year in groups of 15; everyone must don booties to scoot across the royal floors. Visitors take either a comprehensive guided tour ★, which offers a docent-guided tour of the interior, or a self-led audio tour. Finish by exploring the Basement Gallery on your own, where you’ll find crown jewels, ancient feathered cloaks, the royal china, and more.
- Martha Cheng