Hand color tinted photo of Kapiolani Park & Diamond Head Crater, aka Mount Leahi taken in the late 1800s
Kapiolani Regional Park is the largest and oldest public park in Hawaii, located in Honolulu, Hawaii on the east end of Waikiki. The 300-acre (1.2 km2) park, named after Queen Kapiolani, the queen consort of King David Kalakaua, is home to the Waikiki Shell and the Honolulu Zoo.
As swamp land in a desert, the land became a park because it was not suitable for anything else. After horse races were canceled because of muddy tracks in the wet winter of 1876, racing enthusiasts asked King Kalakaua for a permanent, dry course. Since Waikiki was popular with wealthy racing fans, Kalakaua chose the unoccupied and dry plain at the foot of Diamond Head, Hawaii. On June 11, 1877, the park was dedicated as the first Hawaiian public space. Scotsman Archibald Cleghorn was Vice-president and later president of the Kapiolani Park Association, a group of businessmen, who convinced Kalakaua to give them a 30- year lease for $1 per year. Cleghorn was a Hawaiian citizen married into Hawaiian Royalty. Cleghorn planned the park’s landscaping, including the majestic ironwood trees. Money was raised with $50 shares in the association. Shareholders could lease a beachfront lot near the park, and many had cottages there by the 1880s. A lease was granted to the Honolulu Cricket Club in 1893. Top cricket players from San Francisco’s California Cricket Association played for local teams. During the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, most of these became privately owned, and most were later given back to the city or condemned. Baseball replaced horse -racing, lilyponds and bridges replaced the race track.
After the overthrow, the land was conveyed to the Republic of Hawaii and managed by the Honolulu Park Commission. The legislation provided that the park be set aside permanently as a free public park and recreation ground, forbade the sale or lease of land in the park, and prohibited charging of any entrance fees. Since 1913, the park has been maintained by the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Parks & Recreation.
Besides the zoo and the Shell, the park includes tennis courts, soccer fields, and an archery range. Its bandstand serves as an entertainment venue. It is also a popular course for joggers who travel its two-mile (3 km) circumference. The park also serves as the site (or the starting and finish lines) of road races in Honolulu. This includes the Honolulu Marathon, which finished on Kalakaua Avenue on the west end of the park.
Kapiolani park is also home to Honolulu Cricket Club, the only cricket club in the Hawaiian Islands. Founded in 1893, it is the oldest sporting club in the Pacific according to Guinness World Records.
As Kapiolani Park continues south it becomes Kapiolani Beach Park, adjacent to Kuhio Beach and Waikiki Beach. The park itself also serves an a natural border between Waikiki and Diamond Head neighborhood.