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Originally published Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 7:13 PM

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Historic palace showcases royal trappings, Hawaii-style

Big Island’s Hulihe`e Palace is restored to grandeur after earthquake damage.

Seattle Times travel writer

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KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Europe isn’t the only place to be awe-struck by royalty and its trappings. Some people forget that Hawaii was a sovereign monarchy through most of the 19th century, but reminders come in historic sites such as the Big Island’s Hulihe`e Palace, the 1838-vintage vacation residence of Hawaiian royalty.

Now restored to grandeur after being seriously damaged in a 2006 earthquake, the little palace is a must-see on a stroll through this tourist town, where it occupies a bayfront setting of lovely gardens.

Take a short tour to see one of the most ornate bedrooms imaginable, the Kawananakoa Room, including a four-poster bed with carved vines climbing the posts above wooden clusters of bananas and pineapples. A wardrobe commissioned by King David Kalakaua is built of Hawaii’s most-prized hardwood, koa, and adorned with classic Greek muses. A round table made for Queen Lili`uokalani is inlaid with 20 different Hawaiian woods in richly colored swirls.

Propped and displayed everywhere are kahili, royal standards topped by thousands of colorful bird feathers, which were carried in processions to add pomp and ceremony.

“We didn’t have precious stones,” a docent explained. “When you saw feathers, it was a sign of royalty.”

IF YOU GO: 75-5718 Ali`i Drive, Kailua-Kona; admission $1-$6, closed Mondays; 808-329-1877 or

Brian J. Cantwell:

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