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Iolani Palace officials urge kamaaina to visit to help keep landmark open

  • By Craig T. Kojima /

    Iolani Palace reopened its doors on Friday. It is now open on Fridays and Saturdays with special discounted ticket prices.

                                Iolani Palace.


    Iolani Palace.

Local residents are being urged to visit Iolani Palace in the coming weekends to help keep it financially afloat.

The historic landmark has been closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic and has not been receiving any revenues, but is now accepting online reservations — although bookings for this weekend are sold out.

Palace executive director Paula Akana said Friday the facility is losing about $7,700 a day and, without additional money, will likely run out of money in three to four months.

Even when closed, the museum needs to run the air conditioning to preserve the items, and operates a security system around the clock, she said.

>> PHOTOS: Iolani Palace welcomes back visitors

“We’re hurting — badly,” Akana said. “The palace is really in trouble. We really need your help by buying a ticket and coming to visit us, by buying a membership or making a donation. Or buying a ticket for someone else.”

With flights from out of state still severely limited, the palace will be open during weekends only.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell urged the public to visit the palace now when there are significantly fewer visitors.

“I would guess that many, many people who were born and raised here have never stepped their foot into this palace and maybe part of the reason is it’s crowded with visitors for the most part,” Caldwell said.

“We have very few visitors to our shores right now,” he said. “Come down to the palace and see the history of this place. I promise you, you’ll hear the voices of those who lived here.”

Discounted tickets for kamaaina and active military are $11.95 for adults, and $4.95 for youths 5-12.

Due to social distancing considerations, about 105 visitors will be allowed each Friday and Saturday. During normal times, the palace sees 400-550 daily, Akana said.

About half the palace staff was furloughed but then brought back after her administration received federal Paycheck Protection Program money. Most of those employees will likely need to be furloughed again after the PPP money runs out, Akana said.

The palace’s electricity bill, for many years, was paid for by Campbell Estate heiress Abigail Kawananakoa. But that stopped several years ago.

“Right now, we’re reaching out to anyone who wants to help ‘power the palace’ and keep it open,” Akana said, adding that she has been trying to seek both federal and state assistance.

Built by King David Kalakaua in 1882, it is the only official royal residence in the United States. It was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

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