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The Capitol District Tour in Honolulu (Self Guided), 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 Honolulu.
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The Capitol District Tour in Honolulu Map

Guide Name: The Capitol District Tour in Honolulu
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: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: helenp
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Iolani Palace
  • Aliiolani Hale
  • Kawaiahao Church
  • Honolulu Hale (City Hall)
  • Hawaiian Mission Houses
  • Hawaii State Library
  • Hawaii State Capitol
  • Washington Place
  • Central Fire Station
Iolani Palace

1) 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
Aliiolani Hale

2) Aliiolani Hale

Aliiolani Hale is one of the former governmental buildings of the Kingdom of Hawaii. It sits directly across from the second Iolani Palace, in an area originally called Pohukaina.

Aliiolani Hale was designed as a follow up to the original Iolani Palace. When King Kamehameha V visited Europe, he was inspired by the palaces he viewed, and wanted to create a grand, modern government building for his kingdom. The original palace of the Hawaiian royal family, the first Iolani Palace, was a single story wooden building that was rapidly becoming inadequate for Hawaii's needs. King Kamehameha V commissioned Aliiolani Hale to serve as a palace, but soon realized that Hawaii needed a purely governmental building, too. As a result, the extravagant structure was designated as a government office building before it was completed.

In 1893, Aliiolani Hale was the site of the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani. The Committee of Safety, led by Lorrin A. Thurston, deposed the queen. The Marine Corps was then ordered to remove her, in a military action which was declared illegal in 1993 by Congress and then-President Bill Clinton. Today, Aliiolani Hale is on the National Register of Historic Places, and houses the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Kawaiahao Church

3) Kawaiahao Church

Kawaiahao Church is known as Hawaii's Westminster Abbey. It was, at one point, the national church of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and the personal chapel for the Hawaiian royal family. It is Hawaii's oldest standing Christian religious building, even though the current building is not the original structure. Four smaller, thatched churches stood on the site of the current Kawaiahao Church, which is built of coral rock.

The name “Kawaiahao” comes from a Hawaiian phrase meaning “the water of Hao.” This refers to the fact that the site was originally a spring and small freshwater pool, which was under the care of High Chiefess Hao.

Kawaiahao Church was commissioned during the reigns of Kings Kamehameha II and III. It was designed by Reverend Hiram Bingham, to mimic the style of Hawaiian missionaries. The coral rock used in its construction has to be quarried by hand, a process which required highly trained divers to dive up to 18 feet below sea level to cut out the stone slabs by hand. The slabs then had to be transported from under the sea to the shore, then to the site of the church.

It was at Kawaiahao Church that King Kamehameha III said the phrase “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness,” which became Hawaii's official motto.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Honolulu Hale (City Hall)

4) Honolulu Hale (City Hall) (must see)

Honolulu Hale is the official seat of government of the city and county, site of the chambers of the Mayor of Honolulu and the Honolulu City Council. In the Hawaiian language, "hale" (pronounced HAH-leh) means house or building.

Honolulu Hale was an idea started by Joseph J. Fern. Originally, Honolulu was overseen by a Board of Supervisors. During the existence of the County of Oʻahu, the Board met in city halls all around Honolulu. When the County of Oʻahu and the Board of Supervisors dissolved in 1907 and established the City & County of Honolulu, Fern became its first mayor and began making preliminary plans for the construction of a city hall. Unfortunately, Fern died in 1920 of diabetes before he could persuade residents of the need for a permanent city hall. Mayor John H. Wilson, who was also the Honolulu Chapter President of the American Association of Engineers, carried on Fern's dream.

Honolulu Hale was built in an Italianate Spanish Colonial Revival style that was popular in the islands at the time. Its interior courtyard, staircase, and open ceiling were modeled after the Bargello in Florence. Einar Peterson was commissioned to paint frescoes in the interior while Mario Valdastri was commissioned to install intricate stonework. In 1951, two three-story wings were added to the original structure. A new, high-rise Honolulu Municipal Building was later added at 650 South King Street.

Surrounding Honolulu Hale are other prominent historic and artistic landmarks: Aliʻiōlani Hale, Hawaiʻi State Capitol, ʻIolani Palace, Kawaiahaʻo Church, Sky Gate (a 24-foot (7.3 m) high sculpture by Isamu Noguchi), and the Territorial Building. Within walking distance are Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew and Washington Place.

A great time to visit the Hale is during the holiday season when they decorate it with a display of illumination nicknamed the Honolulu City Lights. Make sure you look up!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-4:30pm
Hawaiian Mission Houses

5) Hawaiian Mission Houses (must see)

The Mission Houses Museum collects and exhibits documents and artifacts relating to Hawaiian history between 1820 and 1863 – the “missionary” period. Today, the museum has over 3,000 Hawaiian, Western, and Pacific artifacts, and more than 12,000 books, manuscripts, original letters, diaries, journals, illustrations and Hawaiian church records.

The Houses themselves are interesting for the way they demonstrate how New England missionaries progressively adapted to their environment. The Oldest Frame House was built from materials shipped down from Boston around 1821. They were precut and premeasured, so they pretty much just needed to be assembled. The funny thing about the Oldest Frame House is the style – it was made with small windows and short eaves, to help it survive Boston winters, which made it odd to use in Hawaii. The Chamberlain House was built in 1831 from local Hawaiian materials, including coral blocks and salvaged lumber from ships. This house has larger windows, and shutters to provide shade, which the Oldest Frame House did not. The Print House was an addition to the Oldest Frame House. Originally a bedroom, the coral block addition later served as the missionaries' print house. Today, the Print House serves as an exhibit to show how the native Hawaiians and New England missionaries developed the first materials printed in native Hawaiian.

Why You Should Visit:
To take a look at life back when the missions were still in service during the plantation days and to learn about the impact of these missionaries on the native Hawaiian culture.
Lots of great events for kids and adults throughout the year, including certain days with free admission, and a well-appointed gift shop.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 10am–4pm

Guided House Tours:
Tue-Sat: Every hour from 11am; last tour starts at 3pm
Hawaii State Library

6) Hawaii State Library

The Hawaii State Library is located adjacent to Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu. This serves as the base for the Hawaii State Public Library System, which is the only statewide library system in the entire United States.

The building that houses the Hawaii State Library was designed by Henry D. Whitfield, Andrew Carnegie's brother-in-law, and funded by Carnegie himself. Construction began in 1911, and the building was finished in 1913. Before the library was built, the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association provided library services to the community. Prior to 1959, library services were established separately for each island, with minimal oversight by the Library of Hawaii. In 1959, when Hawaii formally became a state, the Hawaii State Public Library System was developed. In 1978, the Hawaii State Library was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the Hawaii State Library holds more than 525,000 books, while the entire library system has over 3 million. The garden courtyard is decorated with an ocean mosaic by Hiroki Morinoue, the Edna Allyn Children's Room contains murals of Hawaiian legends by Juliette May Fraser, and the front lawn sports cast bronze sculptures by Barbara Hepworth.
Hawaii State Capitol

7) Hawaii State Capitol

The Hawaii State Capitol is Hawaii's official capitol building, and is located in downtown Honolulu. It was created to replace the former capitol building, Iolani Palace, and was commissioned by the second Governor of Hawaii, John A. Burns.

The building is designed to evoke Hawaii and its natural features. The building is surrounded by a large reflecting pool, which is intended to represent the Pacific Ocean. Both legislative chambers are conical, to represent the volcanoes responsible for forming Hawaii. The columns surrounding the building are shaped to resemble coconut trees, and are arranged in rows of eight on either side of the building, to represent the eight primary islands of Hawaii. The building is also designed to allow the sun, rain, and wind to enter freely. The center of the structure offers visitors a view of the chandeliers in the legislative chambers, which are intended to represent the sun and the moon. The area normally used for a central rotunda in capitol buildings is left open to the sky.

Other notable features of the building and its grounds are several monuments. These include a statue of Queen Liliuokalani located in the Capitol Mall; a Liberty Bell; a statue of Father Damien, the Catholic priest who cared for lepers for sixteen years before his death, and was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009; and two monuments to honor Hawaiian members of the military.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Washington Place

8) Washington Place

Washington Place is located in the Hawaii Capital District in Honolulu, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2007. It was originally built in the 1840's by the father-in-law of Hawaii's last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, and was the site of her arrest during the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

John Dominis was a wealthy trader who commissioned Washington Place for himself and his family. Tragically, he was lost at sea in 1846, before the house was finished. His wife, Mary, lacking a way to support her family after her husband's death, converted Washington Place to a boarding house in order to support herself and her son. Her son, John Own Dominis, later married Queen Liliuokalani when she was still a young princess. The house became their home, and was eventually left solely to Queen Liliuokalani after her husband's death. She died in the house in 1917, after being deposed.

After Queen Liliuokalani's death, Washington Place served as a governor's mansion from 1921 to 2001. All total, thirteen governors of Hawaii have lived there, until a new governor's residence was built on the same grounds in 2001, and Washington Place was converted into a Hawaiian history museum.
Central Fire Station

9) Central Fire Station

Honolulu's Central Fire Station, a two-story structure, was built in Spanish Mission Revival or, as it's more commonly known, the Mediterranean Revival style. In 1934 it was renovated and some Art Deco decorations were added. It is the largest fire station and the oldest one of the seven fire stations located on Oahu. Locals believe that this building is haunted.

Walking Tours in Honolulu, Hawaii

Create Your Own Walk in Honolulu

Create Your Own Walk in Honolulu

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Business District Self-Guided Tour in Honolulu

Business District Self-Guided Tour in Honolulu

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

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
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Souvenir Shopping

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 Km or 3.6 Miles
Religious Buildings of Honolulu Self-Guided Tour

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Diamond Head Volcano Tour

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 Km or 3.7 Miles
Honolulu's Harbor and Coastline Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles

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