A trip to Hawaii isn’t complete without visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. December 7, 1941 is a “Day that will live in infamy.” The history of the attack on Pearl Harbor really comes to life as you look at the sunken ships, listen to first-hand accounts of the attack and see the historic artifacts preserved at Pearl Harbor.
Here’s your guide to visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.
Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Visitor Center
Parking and admission to the historic site are free. But know that for everyone’s safety, no bags, purses or backpacks are allowed in the visitor center.
When you arrive at the Pearl Harbor, you’ll want to make your way to Aloha Court. This is where you can pick up your tickets to visit the USS Arizona Memorial (see below for specific details on visiting the USS Arizona Memorial). Once you have your tour reservation time, you can spend the rest of the time exploring wayside exhibits and artifacts from the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
While in Aloha Circle, note that there are multiple tour options available. However, some of those options require an additional per person cost. For example, a narrated tour headset adds $7.50. But you learn about 29 places around Pearl Harbor. It’s narrated my actress Jamie Lee Curtis and includes some personal accounts from survivors. A deluxe tour package is $12.50 and includes the narrated headset out and a visit to a virtual reality experience.
Throughout the area, you’ll find treasures from history like the USS Parche Conning Tower and the Waterfront Submarine Memorial on the north end of the park. Or the anchor and bell from the USS Arizona. Along the shoreline of the southwest end of the park, you’ll be able to reflect on the events of that day in Remembrance Circle or Contemplation Circle.
Learn About the History of WWII in the Pacific
The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (another name for the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites) offers two exhibit galleries: Road to War and Attack. Each indoor exhibit provides the history that led up to the attack on Pearl Harbor that fateful Sunday morning, the devastation brought on by the surprise, and the aftermath of the attack on Oahu.
Throughout the exhibit, you’ll be able to see memorabilia from the people who witnessed the attack. Photos and actual artifacts also help tell the real story of December 7, 1941. But the most impactful part of either gallery are the kiosks that allow you to listen to accounts of the attack on Pearl Harbor from those who saw the raid first-hand.
Take the time to read through the exhibits so you can gain a better understanding of what it was like on both sides of the attack.
Tour the USS Arizona Memorial
There are two ways to get tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial:
- Reserve your tickets online in advance. There is a cost of $1.50 per ticket for online reservations at recreation.gov. Tickets can be reserved up to two months in advance. When you arrive, you pick your tickets up from the ticket counter at Aloha Court. The benefit: You select the start time of your tour and can plan your travel accordingly.
- Get tickets when you arrive. There are 1,300 tickets available each day to visitors. However, tickets are for specific blocks of time throughout the day. For example, if you arrive at 10 a.m. and the only remaining tickets are for 2:30, then you will be on the 2:30 p.m. tour. The benefit: The tickets are absolutely free.
Tours begin every 15 minutes at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater near the south end of the monument. You should plan on about 75 minutes for your tour.
Each tour begins with a 25 minute video about the attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Following the video, a short boat ride takes visitors out to the memorial. Once inside the memorial, the open walls allow you to see parts of the ship that reach above the water. At the far end of the narrow white memorial is a wall listing all the sailors who were entombed when the USS Arizona was attacked. Shipmates who survived the attack and lived full lives would often have their remains “buried” with their fellow shipmates in the USS Arizona.
Following your time on the USS Arizona Memorial, the boat will bring you back to the visitor center.
5 Other Memorials and Museums at Pearl Harbor
There are a few other exhibits to explore while at Pearl Harbor. Some are free, while others charge additional admission fees. Here’s a rundown on some of those options:
- Battleship Missouri: The ‘Mighty Mo’ is located on Ford Island. A shuttle bus leaves the visitor center every 15 minutes. There is no cost to visit the Battleship Missouri. Guided or self-guided tours are available.
- USS Oklahoma: A shuttle departs from the visitor center every 10-15 minutes. There is a $3 cost per person.
- USS Utah: There is no cost to visit the USS Utah, but there is also no shuttle available. Visitors are required to drive themselves out to the memorial. However, since Pearl Harbor is an active military base, you must have a military ID to access Ford Island.
- USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park: Tickets to board the USS Bowfin are $15 for adults and $7 for children (ages 4-12). You can explore a WWII era submarine. Allow for about an hour for the self-guided tour.
- The Pacific Aviation Museum: The museum features vintage aircraft spread among two WWII-era hangars. Visitors can also see actual battle damage remnants from the attack on Pearl Harbor. You could spend 2+ hours exploring the museum. Tickets are $20 for adults, and $10 for children (ages 4-12).
If WWII-era ships and history interest you, here are a few other places I’ve visited that you may be interested in checking out:
- USS Jeremiah O’Brien: A WWII Liberty ship docked in San Francisco.
- USS Midway: An aircraft carried commissioned just as WWII ended. It’s docked in San Diego.
- The Maritime Museum of San Diego has a WWII-era soviet submarine, as well as other boats and ships.
Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818
Cost: Entrance to the Visitor Center, USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri are free. Tickets for the USS Oklahoma are $3. The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park: $15 for adults; $7 for kids (ages 4-12). The Pacific Aviation Museum General Admission: $20 for adults; $10 for kids (ages 4-12).
Hours: Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. It closes three days a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas (Dec. 25) and New Years Day (Jan. 1).
Phone: (808) 422-3399