Uncovering a Royal Past in Contemporary Hawaii

Many don’t realize that Hawaii was once governed as a monarchy. Established by Kamehameha I in 1795, the Kingdom of Hawaii was ruled by two major families, Kamehameha and Kalakaua, until 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown by the U.S. government. While the era of the Hawaiian Islands’ political independence is long past, the mana (power or presence) of the Kingdom’s royal families is still felt in contemporary Hawaii, including at these cultural and historical sites throughout the state:

King Kamehameha I Statue (island of Hawaii, Oahu) – Kamehameha I is believed to have been born in the North Kohala district of the island of Hawaii. He became the Kingdom of Hawaii’s first monarch after unifying the Hawaiian Islands under his reign in 1795. In 1880, a statue of Kamehameha I was forged in Florence, Italy, to commemorate the monarch’s contributions to the Hawaiian Islands. When the statue was lost at sea during its voyage to Oahu, a replica was made and currently stands in Downtown Honolulu. Miraculously, the original statue was eventually recovered in 1912 and now fronts the North Kohala Civic Center in the town of Kapaau.
 
Iolani Palace (Oahu) – Constructed in 1882, Iolani Palace neighbors the Hawaii State Capitol in Downtown Honolulu. The palace served as the official residence for Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs, King David Kalakaua and later, his sister and successor Queen Liliuokalani. Following the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, the palace served as government headquarters for the Provisional Government, Republic, Territory and State of Hawaii until 1969 when construction of the new state capitol building was completed. Iolani Palace has been open to the public since 1978 and serves as a proud reminder of Hawaii’s royal history. The palace interior is furnished with beautiful koa wood flooring and accented by elements of classic Italian architecture. Informational displays highlight the palace’s many paintings, jewelry pieces and artifacts. 
 
Iao Valley State Park (Maui) – This lush and serene valley was the location of one of the most significant battles in Hawaiian history. In his pursuit to unite the Hawaiian Islands under one rule, the future King Kamehameha I and his warriors defeated the forces of the island of Maui here in the Battle of Kepaniwai. Today, visitors can explore the park and hike to the lookout point for 1,200-foot lava remnant Iao Needle. Interactive exhibits about the area can be found at the nearby Hawaii Nature Center. 

Nuuanu Pali Lookout (Oahu) – The Pali Lookout is a site of deep historical significance. Named “Pali” meaning "cliff" in Hawaiian, the Pali Lookout is the site of the Battle of Nuuanu, where in 1795 King Kamehameha I won the struggle that finally united Oahu under his rule. This fierce battle claimed hundreds of soldiers’ lives, many of which were forced off of the Pali’s sheer cliffs.

Royal Hawaiian Band (Oahu) – Founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III, the Royal Hawaiian Band is the only band in the United States with a royal legacy. Now an agency of the City and County of Honolulu, the band’s mission is promoting music, preserving Hawaiian musical culture, inspiring young musicians, and enriching the lives of Hawaii residents. The public is invited to enjoy its performances at the Honolulu Zoo on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and at the Bishop Museum on Sundays. 
 
Hulihee Palace (island of Hawaii) – Hulihee Palace is one of several significant historic landmarks in Kailua-Kona. Once a favorite summer vacation residence of Hawaii’s royal families, the palace was commissioned by High Chief John Adams Kuakini, who contracted foreign seamen to build the palace in 1838. Its elegant structure was constructed with native lava rock, coral lime mortar, and koa and ohia timbers. The palace is now a museum and features displays of Hawaiian artifacts and furnishings. 
 
Bishop Museum (Oahu) – Hawaii's museum of natural and cultural history, the Bishop Museum shares with visitors an exceptional historical overview of the Hawaiian monarchy. Originally constructed in 1889 to house the extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts and royal family heirlooms of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the museum has since expanded to include multiple structures and millions of artifacts, documents and photos about the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiian culture and other Pacific cultures. 

Queen Emma’s Summer Palace (Oahu) – Queen Emma Summer Palace or Hanaiakamalama, served as a summer retreat for Queen Emma of Hawaii, her husband King Kamehameha IV, and their son, Prince Albert Edward. It is now a historic landmark, museum, and tourist site preserved by the Daughters of Hawaii.

Kauai Museum (Kauai) – The Kauai Museum is the cultural sanctuary for the art and artifacts of Native Hawaiians and nurtures the creative spirit of today’s artists. Established in 1960, the  Kauai Museum continues to inspire and promote an appreciation and respect for the indigenous and immigrant people of Kauai and Niihau.

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