The Queen Emma Summer Palace, also known as Hanaiakamalama, is a gorgeous property in the heart of Oahu that once served as a retreat or vacation home for Queen Emma of Hawaii and her son, Prince Albert Edward. King Kamehameha also frequented the palace, but it was best known as being her retreat. Today, the property has been preserved as a historic landmark and museum that is open to the general public.
It is hard to miss the Queen Emma Summer Place when driving around the east side of Oahu. That’s because it lies prominently off of Pali Highway and is a hallmark of the Nuuanu Valley area. Nuuanu Valley was long known as a popular settling area for Hawaiian chiefs, royalty, and others of high status. This is thanks to it offering a nice cooler temperature being located within the highlands and it being close but not too close to the more populous downtown area of Honolulu.
Queen Emma herself chose the Nuuanu Valley location for the building and requested the summer peace be built partially in the Greek Revival style. It was completed in 1850, featuring a one-story layout with six rooms and an expansive porch. In 1869, Queen Emma expanded the home to feature a new room called the Edinburgh Room in anticipation of a visit by the then Duke of Edinburgh.
While today, the Queen Emma Summer Palace is beloved by the community and visitors to the island, it wasn’t always so appreciated. Hawaii was going through a lot of big changes at the end of the 1800s and the turn of the century, including the big move towards statehood as part of the United States. In these changing times, many did not see the value of historic locations. Including the Queen Emma Summer Palace. The local governing body were making plans to bulldoze the structure and build a baseball field over it when a new and unique group called the Daughters of Hawaii stepped in.
The Daughters of Hawaii were a group comprised of native Hawaiians who wanted to preserve their culture and history. They fundraised to purchase the building and restore it to its former glory. In the 1970s, the country at large took notice of their efforts and placed the site on the National Register of Historic Places. The Daughters of Hawaii still own the building, maintain the home and property, and run the many tours and day-to-day operations that are a part of the museum.
When visiting the Queen Emma Summer Palace, you can choose from two types of admissions. The first choice is to go for a self-guided tour. This tour is $14 for general adult admission, with discounts for seniors, military, youth, children, and long-time Hawaiian residents. This is a good choice if you prefer reading information and going at your own pace through the museum.
If, however, you prefer assistance and enjoy more expert knowledge, the Daughters of Hawaii have also introduced regular guided tours. These guided tours are just a bit more but offer much more in-depth information about the location and history of the area. General admission for the docent-guided tours starts at $20 for adults with discounts for military, seniors, youth, children, and long-term Hawaiian residents.
-The Queen Emma Summer Palace is a nineteenth-century one-story building and as such, while there aren’t a lot of stairs, there are stairs up to the porch. To date, there is no ramp-up to the building and so those visitors who may have difficulties should call and make alternative accessibility arrangements with one of the museum’s staff members before visiting.
-While easy to spot from the road, parking is limited here. Consider parking at the other side of the neighboring Nuuanu Valley Park and walking through the park to the Queen Emma Summer Palace.