Though this stately two-story lava rock and stucco home in downtown Kailua-Kona is no castle, it did serve as a vacation home for royalty in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Built by Hawaii’s second governor John Adams Kuakini in 1838, the six-room estate was handed down to Princess Ruth Keelikolani after his death, and she opened its doors to many visiting members of the Hawaiian royal family including King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiolani. The palace today is run as a museum of Hawaiian artifacts downstairs—including kapa (bark) cloth, King Kamehameha’s own giant spears, royal busts—and a showcase of royal life with original Victorian furniture and details—koa wood furniture, original bed frames and quilts—upstairs. Docent-led tours give a brief overview of Hawaiian and palace history including the rapid adoption of European tastes evident in the home’s décor.
Set on prime ocean-front real estate in the heart of downtown Kailua-Kona off Alii Drive, the palace is close to other historic attractions including the islands' oldest Christian church (1820) across the street and the final residence of Island-uniting King Kamehameha I visible from the palace’s top floor lanai (porch). A small gift shop on the property outside the palace sells Hawaiian cultural books and souvenirs, and one Sunday a month, traditional music and hula performances take place on the palace lawn.
The palace is located at 75 -5718 Alii Drive and open from 9am to 4pm Monday through Saturday, except major holidays. Admission is $8 for adults and $1 for children 17 and under. Docent-led tours are on-demand (for a $2 additional charge for adults only) before 3 pm.