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Oahu’s Kawaihao Church

A drive through historic downtown Honolulu reveals many incredible site, stunning buildings, and a collection some of the most famous locations in Hawaii. These sites may not be on the beach, and may not be what many visitors are seeking out during a trip to the island, but their significance to the history of the islands is vital, and uncovering the history of these structures unravels another layer of the beauty of Hawaii.

Among the famous buildings in the downtown district is the Kawaiahao Church, situated on King St., and one of the most unique buildings you will ever encounter. Known as the “Westminster Abbey of Hawaii”, the church was constructed between 1836 and 1842, and is built entirely of coral rock, quarried from an offshore reef on the southern coast of the island.

The fact that the church is built of large coral bricks is enough of a feat, and the fact that divers dove 3-6 meters below the surface to hand chisel the rocks makes the church that much more amazing.

While still in use today, the church was frequented by the chiefs of the Hawaiian Islands, the upper gallery of the church decorated with the portraits of Hawaiian Royalty. The body of King Lunalilo rests in the courtyard of the church, keeping a direct connection to the islands royalty.

The stunning church can be seen on any drive from downtown Honolulu along King St., and is a common site for walkers exploring the downtown area. Visits to the church grounds are open to the public, and one of the best options for seeing the church is a historic downtown Honolulu tour following a morning at Pearl Harbor. Not only does this tour pass right by the Kawaiahao Church, it also shows off additional building that have been so important to Hawaiian history, including the Ali’iolani Hale, Iolani Palace, and the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

Even if you just opt for a drive by of the church, just knowing a little about it will make the visit even better. Once you notice the size of the coral bricks, you’ll be impressed and be curious to know the details of its construction. The Kawiahao Church is an impressive structure, and should be a stop during your visit to Oahu.

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