Long-awaited work on Hulihe‘e Palace seawall begins

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For about seven years, a portion of the seawall at Hulihe‘e Palace in downtown Kona has been blocked with concrete barriers to keep people safe from the potential collapse of the wall, which is eroding way by the ocean.

Hulihe’e Palace (Photo: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now)

Those barriers were removed earlier this month as work began to repair it earlier this month. At a price tag of $300,000, repairs include 40 feet of wall and repaving of a 220-foot-long sidewalk along the structure.

Manu Powers, regent and president of Daughters of Hawaiʻi, an organization that takes care of the palace, said workers from Isemoto Contracting Co. were hired to do the wall and sidewalk work. “We’re excited they started on time.”

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks is heading up the project, including phase I at a price tag of $3 million of repairs to the palace itself, which include plastering the east wall, replacing roofing, gutters, lanai, downspout, shoring up of basement and shutters.

Two years ago, Powers said the state tried to secure a contractor for work on the palace but was unable to do so because of the scale and scope of the work.


With requirements more lax, Powers is optimistic they will get a bid from a contractor but she is concerned over the short timeline.

A contractor must have a bid in by May 23 or the funding goes away. “We could be set back years if we don’t get a contractor,” Powers said. “We’re optimistic but we’re concerned over the short timeline.”

“Everything got delayed because of Lāhainā, and rightfully so,” Powers said. In the meantime, Hulihe‘e is deteriorating and suffering.”

  • Chipped plaster and exposed foundation at Hulihe‘e Palace. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Paint chipping on ceiling of lanai at Hulihe‘e Palace. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • State archaeologist Tracy Tam Sing takes photos of the newly-built wall. Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

The palace is owned by the State of Hawaiʻi. Project funding must go through the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks.


Tracy Tam Sing, state parks archaeologist said phase I of the project is addressing minor maintenance issues that have become worse over time due to high surf, tsunamis and earthquakes.

“It’s amazing it’s still here,” Sing said of the palace. “I’m just glad we have people who are going to come out and fix it.”

The archaeologist said it’s a constant battle against the sun, surf, storms and wind.

The Daughters of Hawaiʻi are the caretakers of the palace and its collection and run its tours and events.


The palace — one of only three that still exist in the United States — is magnificent. In one of the six rooms is a collection of ancient Hawaiian artifacts, including spears, jewelry, hula implements and King Kamehameha I’s exercise ball, a spherical 180-pound stone that he reportedly used for strength training by pushing it with his feet or anchoring him to the ocean floor.

The property also features beautiful koa wood furniture, ornaments, portraits, tapa, feather work, Hawaiian quilts and other artifacts from Hawaiʻi’s regal past.

The palace currently remains open for events and tours.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at
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