This palace is a fascinating study in the rapid shift the Hawaiian royal family made from Polynesian god-kings to Westernized monarchs. Here’s the skinny: Hawaiʻi’s second governor, ʻJohn Adams’ Kuakini, built a simple two-story, lava-rock house as his private residence in 1838. After Kuakini’s death, the house became the favorite vacation getaway for Hawaiian royalty. The palace contains Western antiques collected on royal jaunts to Europe and ancient Hawaiian artifacts, most notably several of Kamehameha the Great's war spears.
Hard times befell the monarchy in the early 20th century, and the house was sold and the furnishings and artifacts auctioned off by Prince Kuhio. Luckily his wife and other royalty numbered each piece and recorded the names of bidders.
In 1925 the Territory of Hawaii purchased the house to be a museum run by the Daughters of Hawaiʻi, a women’s group dedicated to the preservation of Hawaiian culture and language. This group tracked down the furnishings and royal memorabilia, such as a table inlaid with 25 kinds of native woods, several of Kamehameha the Great’s war spears and the (surprisingly small) bed of 6ft, 440lb Princess Keʻelikolani.
You’ll learn these and other stories on 40-minute guided tours ($2 extra charged on adult tickets only) given by Daughters of Hawaiʻi docents. The free concert series, held at 4pm on the third Sunday of each month, is a treat, with Hawaiian music and hula performed on the grass facing sparkling Kailua Bay.