Nicknamed ‘Westminster Abbey of Hawaii,’ Oʻahu’s oldest church was built on the site where the first missionaries constructed a grass thatch church shortly after their arrival in 1820. The original structure seated 300 Hawaiians on lauhala mats, woven from hala (screwpine) leaves. This 1842 New England Gothic–style church is made of 14,000 coral slabs, which divers chiseled out of Oʻahu’s underwater reefs – a weighty task that took four years.
The clock tower was donated by Kamehameha III, and the old clock, installed in 1850, still keeps accurate time. The rear seats of the church, marked by kahili (feather staffs) and velvet padding, are reserved for royal descendants today.
The tomb of King Lunalilo, the short-lived successor to Kamehameha V, is found at the main entrance to the church grounds. The cemetery to the rear of the church is almost like a who’s who of colonial history: early Protestant missionaries are buried alongside other important figures, including infamous Sanford Dole, who became the first territorial governor of Hawaii after Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown.