This was the summer home for Hawaii's Queen Emma from 1857 to 1885.
General: Cost: Paid
Tours: Self Guided
Cultural & Historical: Museum / Art Center
Queen Emma Summer Palace, or Hanaiakamalama which means The Southern Cross, gives visitors a well preserved look at the summer home and lifestyle of Hawaiian royalty, in this case Queen Emma. The house is run and maintained by the Daughters of Hawaii, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit group so all of your entrance fees and donations should be tax deductible and go back into preserving historical places like this.
The cost to take a self guided tour is $8 for adults ($6 for seniors and kama'aina). Guided tours run $10 for adults ($8 for seniors and kama'aina). Kids are $1 in all cases. Consider that just 150 years ago you'd have to be invited royalty of some sort to come anywhere near this place and the price seems pretty cheap.
The guides and volunteers here are incredibly helpful, knowledgeable, friendly, and eager to answer your questions and share the history of this amazing place. The Palace is open seven days a week, 9 AM to 4 PM, with the exception of major holidays. For docent-guided tours, please arrive no later than 3 PM. Note that you must be able to walk up a few stairs to get in but the staff will accommodate those who have trouble if you call ahead.
This house was essentially Queen Emma's vacation house and where she'd spend some time during the hot Oahu summers since it would be cooler up here. You can imagine a time, decades earlier, where this entire area was empty and something extra special with amazing views all around.
Inside you'll see the main living areas and bedrooms and each will still have a variety of original pieces of furniture, artifacts, and other items that were only used by the Hawaiian royalty of the time. Some of the jewelry and cabinetry inside are pretty amazing to see, with craftsmanship that you would rarely find being made today.
Some of the things I found really interesting were seeing real 'ahu 'ula (feather cloaks) up close. These were worn only by Hawaiian Ali'i and took 20 years to make the smaller ones because the feathers were taken from birds like the 'o'o (using a catch and release system to ensure sustainability) which only produce a few feathers each. The larger cloaks could take many decades to make!
The furniture pieces were also incredible with detail that you're not going to find at your local Ikea. To see large, hand crafted wood pieces with curved glass panels that somehow survived a trip from across the world to Hawaii blows my mind. This is a time before bubble wrap and Amazon Prime after all.
One of my favorites is the Steropticon that Emperor Napoleon III gave to Queen Emma. Now that's some impressive name dropping! This was a large wooden device that you look into to see stereo (early 3D) photos on. Some of us know this as a View Master while today's generation will know this as Google Cardboard or Oculus Rift. Just think about that, Queen Emma had the original Oculus Rift back in the 1800's.
If you have an interest in Hawaiian history and culture then this is a place you'll enjoy walking through. It's not very large so you'll need less than an hour to take it all in but it's very interesting and highly educational. Young children won't like it very much bu Nu'uanu Valley Park is right next door if they need a place to run around after the tour. Then take them to enjoy an easy to find waterfall at Judd Memorial Trail and Jackass Ginger Pool and then onto the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout.
You can also spend a day at the Palace by renting various parts of the grounds out which would make a great place for an event like a wedding.
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