For a chance to examine and explore an important piece of American history, learn more about World War II and U.S. Naval history, and visit a swath of unique museums, make a stop at Pearl Harbor. The harbor has been named a National Historic Landmark and sees an average of two million visitors a year, making it one of the most popular sightseeing destinations across all of the Hawaiian Islands.
Pearl Harbor is located on the island of Oahu, at the halfway point between the continental United States and Japan, also known as “The Gathering Place.” The harbor, which also serves as the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, became a tremendous and tragic piece of American history on December 7, 1941, when a Japanese bombing left 1,177 members of the USS Arizona’s crew dead. Since then, the wreckage of the USS Arizona has been transformed into a memorial—honoring those who died in the line of duty.
Tours of the USS Arizona War Memorial last for about an hour and fifteen minute, all told; the tour includes a short boat ride to and from the floating memorial, and a 23-minute documentary on the history of Pearl Harbor. Admittance to the USS Arizona Memorial is free, but the tickets are time-stamped and given away on a first come, first served basis. So, if you would like to see the memorial, it is important to arrive early!
Experiencing Pearl Harbor is not limited strictly to visiting the Arizona Memorial, however. Pearl Harbor is home to a number of other monuments and museums, including the Battleship Missouri Memorial, WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Pacific Aviation Museum and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. You can purchase tickets to all four sites for you (and your group!) in-person at the Visitor Center, or online, in-advance for the USS Missouri and Pacific Aviation Museum.
It is important to keep in mind that Pearl Harbor is still the headquarters of the United States’ Pacific Fleet, and an active military base. Visitors are allowed to enter and explore many parts of the harbor but without a valid military ID or contractor’s permit certain areas, like Ford Island, remain restricted to the public. Tours begin as early as 6:00 a.m.; unfortunately, all bags, satchels, purses, etc. are not permitted on an active base but can be easily stored at the Visitor’s Center or storage area at the USS Bowfin Park for just $3.