Hulihee Palace

Visit the Royals Vacation Home at Hulihee Palace
The Bottom Line:

The Hulihee Palace museum and gift shop give guests an immersive look at Hawaiian royalty and the lives they lived decades prior. The rich historic offerings housed within the palace allow guests to see for themselves the beauty and regality that made up life for the royals of that time. 

- The Local Expert Team

Constructed in 1938 by Hawaiian royalty, the Hulihee Palace, located in the heart of the Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) is a historic site worthy of admiration. Originally constructed as a vacation home to royalty, this palace is now a museum showcasing Victorian artifacts. This interesting site also houses ornaments, koa wood furniture, Hawaiian quilts, and artifacts from Hawaii’s royal past. 

The land where the Hulihee Palace sits was originally known as the Kalakee, a former residence of Kamehameha the Great. The palace itself was the first home to High Chief John Adams Kuakini, Governor of the island of Hawaii, who was the brother of Kaahumanu, the favorite wife of Kamehameha. Later, it served as home to even more Hawaiian royals, more than any other residence on the island in fact. 

The palace itself is made up of six large, graciously appointed rooms, and two oceanfront lanais, which are surrounded by lovely grounds. The Hulihee Palace was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, further categorizing it as a unique cultural site. The Palace is currently under the administration of the Division of State Parks but is managed by the Daughters of Hawaii under a long-term lease agreement. 

In fact, when the Daughter of Hawaii first set out to save the Palace in 1925, the grounds were overgrown to the point that the house couldn’t even be seen from the road. When the Daughters officially took over the Hulihee Palace in 1927, there was little interest in historic preservation on the island, but they knew there was a hidden gem in the palace that would one day prove worthy of saving and maintaining. Thankfully, they fought to preserve the site and to help turn it into what it is today, a museum that can be toured by Island residents and guests alike. 

In addition to the regular museum tour of the premises, guests can visit the Hulihee Palace on one Sunday out of each month for the Kona Kai Opua. This is a cultural day with hula and mele that takes place on the lawn of the palace. There is also free music and performances from the Merrie Monarch Chorale and the Hulihee Palace Band during this event. In addition to this regular event, the palace and Daughters of Hawaii also host other events on the regular that guests can enjoy if they happen to be visiting at that time. 

Events tend to sell out, so don’t hesitate to reserve a spot to enjoy one of these special events. An example of the type of event that takes place includes the Wilhelmina’s Tea event, an immersive tour of the palace. Guests will embark on a docent-guided tour, with reminders of the warmth of Hawaiian hospitality. They will also learn about the monarchs who called the palace home and about their lives on the island. The interesting and educational experience concludes with tea service on the oceanfront lanai complete with delightful delicacies and entertainment. Guests aged 12 and older are ideally suited for this event. Dress should be garden attire. 

The Hulihee Palace represents a look at Hawaii’s royal past and presents an example of what life was like for those royals so many years ago. Of course, it’s worth noting that the entire Kailua-Kona town contains great historical significance as it is also home to the Mokuaikaua Church, which happens to be Hawaii’s earliest Christian church constructed in 1820. Across the street is the Ahuena Heiau, which is the last royal residence of King Kamehameha I. Suffice to say that a visit to this area will educate you on historic Hawaiian life and the royalty that helped define the island’s earliest history. 

Insider Tips:
-All guests can access docent-guided tours of the premises with a reservation.
-There is a limit to nine people per group for docent-led tours. 
-The palace does not contain modern-day accessibility for guests with mobility issues as it was built in the nineteenth century. However, with advance notice, arrangements can be made to ensure guests can get around the premises.