Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Honolulu's Architecture Self-Guided Tour (Self Guided), Honolulu

Downtown Honolulu is a treasure trove for those, who seek the nineteenth century architectural gems. The district is full of historic buildings showcasing a distinctive Hawaiian style. This style is characterized by a mixture between Western influence and local culture. We encourage you to take this tour and discover the most significant buildings of Honolulu.
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Honolulu's Architecture Self-Guided Tour Map

Guide Name: Honolulu's Architecture Self-Guided Tour
Guide Location: USA » Honolulu (See other walking tours in Honolulu)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
Author: helenp
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Hawaii Theatre Center
  • Royal Saloon Building
  • Honolulu Police Station
  • Kamehameha V Post Office
  • Bishop Estate
  • Judd
  • Joseph W. Podmore Building
  • Iolani Palace
  • Kapuaiwa Building
Hawaii Theatre Center

1) Hawaii Theatre Center

The Hawaii Theatre Center is located near Chinatown in downtown Honolulu. When it was first opened in 1922, it was called “The Pride of the Pacific,” and considered it on the same level as any theatre in San Francisco or New York.

The building itself was designed by Honolulu architects Walter Emory and Marshall Webb, and echoes elements of Neoclassical architecture for the exterior, and Beaux-Arts architecture for the interior. Exterior ornaments include elements of Byzantine, Corinthian, and Moorish designs, while the interior was adorned with Corinthian columns, a gilded dome, marble statues, carpets, silk wall hangings, and a mural by Lionel Walden. One really intriguing feature of the theater was its cooling system- vents under the seats helped to circulate air from an ice storage room located underneath the stage.

During its early years, the theater presented silent films and Vaudeville entertainment. Up to the 1960s, it operated as a movie theater. When the center of entertainment on the island began moving from Honolulu to Waikiki, the theater fell into disrepair, and eventually closed in 1984. Hawaiian citizens wanted to restore and preserve the theater, so they formed the not-for-profit Hawaii Theatre Center, purchased it, and performed extensive renovations. Their efforts were so successful, the Hawaii Theatre was named the “Outstanding Historic Theatre in America” by the League of Historic America Theatres.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Saloon Building

2) Royal Saloon Building

The Royal Saloon was created with a mixture of Florentine Gothic and Renaissance Revival Styles, by Walter C. Peacock. Peacock was a barkeeper and investor, who wanted to create his own business, the Royal Tavern. After Merchant Street was widened in 1889, he took over this bar and another one to serve as a tavern. During Prohibition, the Royal Tavern became a furniture store. During its lifetime, it was also known as the Royal Hawaiian Tavern, Jameson's Tavern, and is now Murphy's Bar and Grill. After the Royal Taven, Walter C. Peacock went on to manage the Moana Hotel in Waikiki.

It took until 1862 for the Hawaiian Government to permit the sale of alcohol, though the island had seen several unsanctioned sales before that. The site of the future Royal Tavern was home to a rudimentary bar for visiting sailors as early as 1873. This bar was one of many- during peak times of year, hundreds of ships would stop at Hawaii, which meant that there could be up to 4,000 sailors looking for a tavern on any given day. There were so many bars in the area, Lower Nuuanu Avenue was affectionately nicknamed “Fid Street,” after sailors' slang for alcohol.
Honolulu Police Station

3) Honolulu Police Station

The Kingdom of Hawaii had one of the earliest police forces in the world, dating back to the reign of Kamehameha III. The Honolulu Police Station was built in 1931, and is located across from the former location of the Yokohama Specie Bank. It was designed by architect Louis Davis in a Spanish Mission Revival style, to match the new city hall, Honolulu Hale. The building has a stucco-covered concrete shell, and is adorned with Waianae sandstone, imported Roja Alicante marble from France, and Philippine mahogany doors.

In 1885, this site was the home of a courthouse. When a devastating fire took out much of Chinatown, police operations had to be moved to this area. In 1930, the Territorial Government demolished the old courthouse, and petitioned local architects to come up with designs that would give Hawaiian architecture a more distinctive and tropical feel. During World War II, the Yokohama Specie Bank was occupied by the U.S. Army and used as a base of military police operations, partly because of its location across the street from the Police Station. The Police Department remained in this historic building until 1967, while the district court remained until 1983. In 1986, the building was renovated by the City and County of Honolulu, and created a three-story addition. Since then, the Police Station has been occupied by the Real Property Assessment Division.
Kamehameha V Post Office

4) Kamehameha V Post Office

Kamehameha V Post Office was Hawaii's first precast concrete and iron reinforced building, and is the oldest reinforced concrete building in the United States. J. G. Osborne built the Post Office in 1871, and it was deemed such a success that the same building method was later used for the royal palace, Aliiolani Hale.

King Kamehameha V was known for commissioning several public buildings during his reign. One of the most important of these was the Post Office, which he commissioned in 1870. Prior to that, Hawaii was relatively isolated from the world. When H.M. Whitney was appointed as Honolulu's first postmaster in 1850, it was a major change. Though letters still had to be delivered by ship- a process which could take weeks, if not months- it was still a considerable advancement when it came to connecting Hawaii to the rest of the world.

Kamehameha V Post Office remained a post office until 1922, when it became a district court office . In 1976, it was restored by the Anderson & Reinhardt architect firm, and now houses a theater. It is considered a prime example of European Neoclassical architecture, and construction methods during the reign of the Hawaiian monarchy.
Bishop Estate

5) Bishop Estate

The Bishop Estate building was built in 1896. It is a Richardsonian-style building, designed and built by Clinton Briggs Ripley and C.W. Dickey. The building is constructed from dark gray basalt, quarried near Kapalama, which was a popular material for building facades during Hawaii's early Territorial Period.

The Bishop Estate is named for Charles Bishop, a banker who married one of Hawaii's largest landowners, Princess Bernice Pauahi. Pauahi was the great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha I, and his last surviving heir. Though she was not rich, she left behind an estate that included over 375,000 acres of land, which was later expanded to 478,184. Most of this was used to create Kamehameha Schools. Charles Bishop created the Charles Reed Bishop Trust in 1895 in order to oversee the estate he and his wife had gifted Kamehameha Schools. When the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown at the end of the 19th century, Charles Bishop left the estate in control of its trustees, and moved to San Francisco. Today, Bishop Estate and Kamehameha Schools has the largest endowment of any secondary school in the United States, and is the third largest landowner in Hawaii, comprising roughly 9% of Hawaii's total area.

6) Judd

The site of the Judd building was purchased in 1861 by Dr. Gerrit P. Judd, a Protestant missionary, and his wife. Judd was a close adviser to King Kamehameha III, and a minister of government in the Kingdom of Hawaii. He also assisted greatly with the creation of Hawaii's constitution, and helped Hawaii return to sovereignty in 1843. After the doctor's death in 1873, the property was bequeathed to his son, Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Albert F. Judd.

The Judd building was created in 1898, and was one of the first rental commercial spaces in Hawaii, and the very first Hawaiian building to contain a passenger elevator. It was the first home for the Bank of Hawaii, which was later purchased by the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Co., who then sold it to the First Federal Savings and Loan in 1950.

The building itself was designed by architect Oliver G. Trapenhagen. He had moved to Hawaii from Minnesota because of his ailing daughter and a lack of architectural jobs in the mainland U.S. at the time. The Judd Building is a four story brick edifice built in a Renaissance Revival style, with a coral rock foundation. After its completion, Trapenhagen went on to create several other well-known Hawaiian buildings, including the Moana Hotel and the Lewers and Cooke Building.
Joseph W. Podmore Building

7) Joseph W. Podmore Building

The Joseph W. Podmore Building was created in 1902 by Joseph W. Podmore. Podmore was an English sailor who conducted business in and around Honolulu during the turn of the century. Originally, the Joseph W. Podmore Building was created as a rental space, to be leased out to retailers and companies in need of office space. Some of its first tenants were a tailor, a decorator, and the Mercantile Printing Company. The land and building changed ownership later on, to Peter Cushman Jones, a businessman and politician. Jones donated them to the local Board of Missions, and it served as their headquarters until 1916. After them, the building was occupied by the Honolulu Advertiser, and the Honolulu branch of DHL Air Cargo.

The building is constructed from local laval rock, in a relatively simple Richardsonian Romanesque style, with one decorative arch over the side Merchant Street entrance. Other decorative touches include a stone balustrade on the roofline, light stone lintels and window sills on the second story, and light red mortar lines.

The Joseph W. Podmore Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, at which point it was primarily occupied by the Bon-Bon Cafe.
Iolani Palace

8) Iolani Palace (must see)

Iolani Palace has a lot of unique distinctions associated with it. Constructed in 1882 by David "The Merrie Monarch" Kalakaua, this beautiful building happens to be the only Palace in the United States. Additionally, it had electricity a full four years before the White House, Windsor Palace and the Imperial Palace of Japan, flushing toilets before any palace anywhere, and was the first place in Honolulu to have a working telephone. There are a number of beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding this historic building, and tours proceed throughout the complex every 30 minutes. Adorned with authentic Hawaiian memorabilia, tours of this facility provide both a lesson in history and a look at a wide range of native art.

Why You Should Visit:
Despite being only two levels plus the basement, there's more to see and learn than you might realize if you take your time to check everything out.

If you want to do a guided tour, book it in advance (they sell out quick) and aim for the 1st of the day, as it gets hot in Downtown Honolulu.
You need to wear booties over your shoes (the docents provide these) so keep that in mind if you want to wear sandals.
There is a gift shop both outside of the Palace and in the basement. A book of the Palace is <$10 and makes a good souvenir.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am–4pm; periodically open on Sundays for Kamaaina Sunday
Effective Feb 1, 2019, the grounds (Iolani Palace State Monument) will be CLOSED daily to the public from 6pm to 6am
Sight description based on wikipedia
Kapuaiwa Building

9) Kapuaiwa Building

The Kapuaiwa Building is situated in the Capitol District. It was founded in 1884, while Kalakaua was the King of Hawaii. However, it was dedicated to King Kamehameha V, whose unofficial name was Lot Kapuaiwa. George Lucas, the architect of the building, designed it in Italianate Renaissance revival architecture style. Kapuaiwa Building was constructed out of concrete blocks and has only two floors.

Walking Tours in Honolulu, Hawaii

Create Your Own Walk in Honolulu

Create Your Own Walk in Honolulu

Creating your own self-guided walk in Honolulu is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Diamond Head Volcano Tour

Diamond Head Volcano Tour

Diamond Head Volcano is perhaps one of the best-known attractions on the island of Oahu. The volcano's rugged cone is seen from almost every part of the island. However, at its base, along the coastal line, are situated a couple of other spectacular sights. Take this walking tour to admire one of the most ancient treasures of Hawaii - Diamond Head.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 Km or 3.7 Miles
Business District Self-Guided Tour in Honolulu

Business District Self-Guided Tour in Honolulu

The Central Business District is situated in Honolulu's downtown, between Bishop Street and Fort Street Mall. This area holds most of the subsidiaries of local companies. Also, it's Honolulu's skyscraper district. You can see popular sites, such as Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew and First Hawaiian Center. We invite you to take this self-guided tour and admire the Business District...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 Km or 0.4 Miles
Pearl Harbor Tour

Pearl Harbor Tour

Pearl Harbor, a US deep-water naval base in Honolulu, made history in 1941 when came under attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service prompting the United States' entering World War II. Since 1964, Pearl Harbor has been declared a National Historic Landmark, featuring a number of military objects and installations turned-monuments. This self-guided tour invites you to pay tribute to the...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 Km or 4.3 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Honolulu without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Honolulu, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 Km or 3.6 Miles
Kai Self-guided Tour

Kai Self-guided Tour

The Hawaiian Kai region is especially attractive for two reasons: Koko Head Park and Hanauma Bay. Today, the entire area has been developed, but without harming the picturesque landscape. Here, you can rent a boat, take diving lessons, or simply take a walk. The self-guided tour through Kai is a perfect opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital city, so we encourage you to take...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.9 Km or 4.9 Miles
The Capitol District Tour in Honolulu

The Capitol District Tour in Honolulu

The Capitol District represents a historic area in downtown Honolulu. This civic center includes the biggest majority of governmental buildings at federal, state and city levels. The district is situated among Richards Street, Ward Avenue, Vineyard Boulevard and Nimitz Highway. Some of the largest buildings in the city are located here. Take this walking tour and enjoy the treasures of historic...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

16 Hawaiian Products To Bring Home from Honolulu

16 Hawaiian Products To Bring Home from Honolulu

Pineapples, surfing, flower garlands and colorful shirts are the most distinct things coming to mind in association with Hawaii. Still, when it's time to go leisurely-pleasurely in the remotest part of the United States, it is good to know what is there exactly worth picking up in Honolulu, as...