by Karen Rose
Originally published https://www.hawaii.com/big-island/attractions/hulihee-palace
Travel through time, back to the days of Hawaiian royalty at Huliheʻe Palace. Located on Aliʻi Drive in the heart of Historic Kailua Village in Kailua-Kona, Huliheʻe Palace is Kona’s only existing royal residence and one of three remaining in the state.
Huliheʻe Palace was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1973 and today is a museum showcasing Victorian artifacts from the era of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani.
Built of coral lime mortar and lava rock, the palace features beautiful koa wood furniture, ornaments, artifacts, weavings, portraits, tapa cloth, feather work, and Hawaiian quilts from Hawaiʻi’s royal past.
A Royal Retreat
Huliheʻe Palace was built in 1938 by then Governor Kuakini to be his summer home. After his death in 1844, Huliheʻe became a favorite retreat for members of the royal family when King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani refurbished the palace to suit their Victorian taste. However not all of the royal family appreciated the western lifestyle. Their daughter, Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani, not only refused to speak English, but also refused to sleep in the palace, so a traditional hale pili (grass house) was built for her on the palace grounds. If you look closely, you can still see the remains of the foundation of her traditionalhale pili.
Around 1899 Huliheʻe fell into disrepair and became a local hangout for poker players who hung out on the lanai (porch) and played cards by the light of kerosene lanterns. In 1927, The Daughter’s of Hawaiʻi, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the culture and royal heritage of the Islands, took over management of the building and began maintaining it as a museum.
The palace sustained heavy damage in the earthquake of October 2006, and since then was pristinely repaired to allow visitors to continue enjoying its magnificent beauty. Prior to the earthquake, both floors of the palace were filled with ancient artifacts from Hawaiʻi’s monarchy, from tools to exquisite royal dresses. Huliheʻe Palace greets visitors with an elaborate wrought-iron gate surrounded by rolling green lawns and elegant coconut palm trees to offer comfortable shade for visitors.
This historic landmark is located near the seawall on Aliʻi Drive in Kona. The area of town where Huliheʻe Palace is located is referred to as Historic Kailua Village, and is of great historical significance. Mokuaikaua Church, Hawaiʻi’s earliest Christian Church built in 1820, is across the street from the palace, as is Ahuena Heiau Temple, the last royal residence of King Kamehameha I.
Monthly Concert Series at Hulihee Palace
One Sunday a month, the Huliheʻe Palace Concert Series features free music and performances from the Huliheʻe Palace Band and the Merrie Monarchs Chorale. Public tours of the Palace are available for a small donation and the gift shop is open daily.