Over 1.8 million travelers visit Pearl Harbor in Hawaii every year. Visitors can experience Pearl Harbor on their own or by booking an organized tour.
Why visit Pearl Harbor?
On the 7th of December 1941, the Japanese led a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu. This significant event on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, killed 2,402 Americans and launched the United States into WWII. Millions of people come to this historic location every year to pay their respects.
There are five sites at Pearl Harbor:
- USS Arizona Memorial
- USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
- Battleship Missouri Memorial
- Pacific Aviation Museum
- USS Oklahoma Memorial
The USS Arizona Memorial is the most well-known landmark at Pearl Harbor. The memorial sits directly over the USS Arizona itself, a sunken warship where 1,120 sailors and marines were killed and remained entombed.
Pearl Harbor is about 45-minutes drive from Waikiki. Visitors can experience this attraction via a do-it-yourself experience or on a half- or full-day tour. When deciding on the best way to see Pearl Harbor key considerations are your budget, how much time you have available, your preference for a guided or non-guided experience, and what are the landmarks you’d specifically like to see.
Do-It-Yourself Pearl Harbor
Independent or budget-conscious travelers can experience Pearl Harbor by arranging their own day of touring. How do you get to Pearl Habor? It’s easily reached by driving or catching TheBus ($2.75 One-Way Fare/$5.50 1-Day Pass).
See the official National Park Service website for car and public transportation directions. Taking a taxi or Uber/Lyft is another option, a one-way journey from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor costs around $40 (depending on traffic).
Once there, exploration should begin at the Visitor Center. The USS Arizona Memorial and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park are nearby. The Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum and USS Oklahoma Memorial are located on Ford Island. Shuttle services depart regularly from the Visitor Center to Ford Island.
This Map of Pearl Harbor pinpoints the location of each attraction, estimates how much time to allow at each site, and provides ticket and admission information. A Narrated Audio Tour can be hired for self-guided touring.
The most important aspect of a do-it-yourself Pearl Harbor itinerary is gaining a ticket for the USS Arizona Memorial. This ticket includes viewing a historic documentary followed by a return boat ride to the memorial site. There are a limited number of these tickets per day. Hawaii Magazine offers up four different ways to get tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial.
In summary, the four ways are:
1. Go online to nps.gov/valr and reserve tickets before you arrive
2. Wake up at 7am to book it online for the next-day ticket
3. Get up early and stand in line at the Visitor Center
4. Book a sightseeing tour
Pearl Harbor Sightseeing Tours
If planning is not your forte, book a tour so that everything is taken care of! Tour inclusions vary greatly depending on the tour operator. As a minimum, they usually include transportation, a driver and/or guide and tickets to USS Arizona Memorial.
The advantages of booking a tour are that transport is taken care of (if included), the assurance that tickets to USS Arizona Memorial are secured (if included) and having a driver and/or guide who can share knowledge their expert knowledge about Pearl Harbor during the experience. Always read the tour inclusions carefully.
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Pearl Harbor Sightseeing Tours
Pearl Harbor is a national historic landmark and an active military base. For security reasons, no bags, purses, backpacks, fanny packs (bum bags), diaper bags, camera bags, luggage or other items that provide concealment are allowed at any of the Pearl Harbor historic sites. Please do not leave valuables in your vehicles. Storage for the above items is available at the entrance of the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center for a $5 per bag fee. Visitors should bring in their wallets, cameras (no large camera bags are allowed), phones and water bottles. Baby carriages and wheelchairs are also permitted. Visitors may bring strollers into the Visitors Center but they are not allowed into the theatre, on the navy boats, or on the memorial itself. Strollers may be stowed at the Visitors Center front desk prior to program tours.
TIP: Watch this informative video Welcome to the Park! on what to expect. If you have a question that hasn’t been answered here, visit the official National Park Service website Frequently Asked Questions section.
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