Are you planning a trip to Oahu and considering visiting Pearl Harbor? Find out exactly how to visit Pearl Harbor and all the historical sites!
This guide to how to visit Pearl Harbor on Oahu was written by Marcie Cheung (a Hawaii travel expert) and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Pearl Harbor is a special place in Hawaii with a big story to tell.
Many years ago, during World War II, a major event happened here that changed America’s history: The Attack on Pearl Harbor.
This spot reminds us of brave people and important lessons from the past.
If you want to visit Pearl Harbor and really understand its story, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. That way, you can make the most of your time there and truly appreciate what it stands for.
Why trust my insights? My numerous trips (over 40!) to Hawaii have given me a rare depth of knowledge about the islands.
I’ve visited Pearl Harbor many times over the years and it’s always a moving experience.
Let’s dive into how you can make your first trip to Pearl Harbor memorable and meaningful!
Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Oahu itinerary complete with daily schedules, fun activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.
Scheduling Your Visit to Pearl Harbor
Planning a trip to Pearl Harbor? Let’s pick the perfect time! The best months to go are during spring (March to May) or fall (September to November).
During these times, the weather is great, and there aren’t too many tourists.
If you want to avoid big crowds, it’s a good idea to visit on weekdays, especially Tuesday through Thursday. Mornings, right after opening, are usually the quietest.
Now, how long should you stay?
To see everything and really understand the history, it’s best to set aside a whole day. There’s a lot to explore and learn.
By spending the day, you can take your time at each site and get the most out of your visit.
How to Reserve Tickets for Pearl Harbor
Are you wondering how to get tickets for Pearl Harbor? Don’t worry; it’s pretty easy!
There are two main ways to grab them. First, you can buy them online before you go. This is super handy because you can plan ahead and make sure you get the tickets you want.
Or, if you’re more of a last-minute planner, you can grab it right there at Pearl Harbor when you arrive.
Now, let’s talk about the cost. Prices can vary depending on what you want to see.
There are different attractions like the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri Battleship, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Each has its own ticket price.
Tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial are FREE if you get them in person. However, they have a limited amount and they usually get snapped up quickly.
However, you can pay $1 and reserve them online.
But here’s a tip: If you want to see multiple spots, consider getting a combination package. These packages bundle several attractions together at a discounted price.
Not only do you save some money, but you also get a richer experience of Pearl Harbor’s history!
What are the Best Pearl Harbor Tours?
Passport to Pearl Harbor Self-Guided Tour
If you want to see all the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites at your own pace, this is definitely the Pearl Harbor tour you’ll want to do.
It’s what I always book when we visit Pearl Harbor because we rent a car and like to go at our own pace.
It provides tickets for the USS Battleship Missouri, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. You’ll need to make your USS Arizona Memorial reservations directly through the NPS. Check the latest rates and availability.
Pearl Harbor Remembered Tour from Waikiki
If you’re staying in Waikiki and aren’t renting a car, I suggest booking this tour because it will pick you up from your Waikiki hotel.
It includes tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Battleship Missouri, and the WWII Valor in the Pacific Monument. Plus, you’ll get a driving tour of Honolulu. Check the latest rates and availability.
Pearl Harbor Remembered Tour from Ko Olina
If you’re staying in Ko Olina (that’s where Disney Aulani Resort is) and don’t have a car, you might want to book this tour because it will pick you up right from your resort.
Like the Waikiki tour, it includes tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Battleship Missouri, and the WWII Valor in the Pacific Monument. Plus, you’ll get a driving tour of Honolulu. Check the latest rates and availability.
Ford Island Bus Tour
Want to see the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials on Ford Island? If you don’t have a Military ID, you’ll need to get a spot on the Ford Island Bus Tour.
Why? Ford Island is a working military base, so we need to make sure visitors are guided safely.
This tour is led by park rangers who know lots about Pearl Harbor. They team up with the US Navy to make sure everything goes smoothly.
So, what’s in it for you? A cool bus ride from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to Ford Island. There, you’ll get to see some special spots that not everyone visits.
The whole trip takes about 90 minutes and is full of neat stories and sights. It’s like getting a VIP pass to some hidden treasures at Pearl Harbor! Make reservations HERE.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center: Your Starting Point!
Before you dive into the history of Pearl Harbor, there’s one place you should definitely start: the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Think of it like the front door to all the amazing stuff you’re about to explore!
So, what’s at the Visitor Center? A lot!
First, there are cool exhibits. They have pictures, artifacts, and stories that give you a sneak peek of Pearl Harbor’s past. It’s like a mini-museum that sets the stage for everything else you’ll see.
Then there’s a super helpful information desk. If you’ve got questions (like where to go first or how to find a restroom), the friendly folks here have answers. They’re like your personal tour guides, ready to help!
Want to grab a souvenir or maybe a book? The gift shop has loads of neat things you can take home. There’s everything from t-shirts to model ships, so you can remember your visit long after you leave.
But the best part of the Visitor Center? The feeling. It’s a place that welcomes you, teaches you, and gets you excited for your Pearl Harbor adventure.
It’s also a spot to relax, grab a snack, or sit on a bench and soak in the views of the harbor.
Tip: Don’t rush through the Visitor Center! Spend some time here. Check out the exhibits, chat with the staff, and maybe even watch a short film they show. It’s the perfect way to kick off your Pearl Harbor experience!
Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is home to many historical sites, but the USS Arizona Memorial stands out as one of the most touching.
It’s not just a place on a map; it’s a place that tells a deep story of bravery, loss, and remembrance.
The USS Arizona Memorial is the most well-known spot at Pearl Harbor.
It’s built directly over the final resting place of the USS Arizona ship, which was tragically sunk during the 1941 attack.
The sailors and marines on board that day are still within the ship, making this memorial incredibly significant.
Now, to get to the memorial, you’ll hop on a boat ride. As the boat gently moves across the harbor, you might feel a mix of excitement and reflection.
The water around you holds so much history, and soon, you’ll be floating right above a part of it.
As you approach, you’ll notice a stunning white structure that seems to float gracefully on the water. That’s the USS Arizona Memorial.
Once inside, it’s almost like the world goes quiet. The atmosphere is calm, peaceful, and you can sense the reverence of the place.
You might feel a lump in your throat or even shed a tear thinking about the events of that fateful day and the brave souls who were there.
Tip: When you’re on the memorial, try to find a quiet spot and just listen. Often, there’ll be a guide or park ranger sharing stories about the ship, the attack, and the people involved. These tales can bring history to life, making your visit even more impactful.
In the end, the USS Arizona Memorial is more than just a tourist spot; it’s a place of reflection and honor.
When you visit, take a moment to pay respects, think about the stories, and appreciate the sacrifices made for freedom.
Other Must-See Monuments and Attractions
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial has a lot more to offer in addition to the USS Arizona Memorial.
There’s the USS Battleship Missouri, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum (formerly the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum).
USS Battleship Missouri
This huge ship has a big history! It’s where World War II officially ended. You can take a tour, walk the decks, and see where the surrender documents were signed.
We usually like to take a photo on the deck in front of the giant cannons because it really puts things in perspective!
One of the most fascinating exhibits inside the USS Battleship Missouri is Divine Wind: Kamikaze and the Battle for the Pacific.
It’s a huge display of letters written by Japanese kamikaze pilots before they did their mission at Pearl Harbor and it’s a perspective that we don’t normally hear about when learning about WWII.
Tip: Wear comfy shoes because there’s a lot to explore on this massive ship!
There’s also a place to get grab-and-go food if you need to refuel. We always stop here to get fresh Dole Whip. It’s the perfect way to cool down after walking around the USS Battleship Missouri in direct sunlight.
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
If you love planes, this is your spot. The museum has old warplanes and tells stories about the pilots who flew them. There are hands-on exhibits and even a flight simulator!
Outside of the main museum area, there’s a cool stand-alone exhibit about Bob Hope. There’s also a separate hangar where you can see the actual bullet holes from the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Tip: Ask questions. The staff here know a ton and can share some awesome facts!
There’s also a sit-down restaurant inside the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum that has fun, retro paintings on the wall. And the food is classic American stuff like burgers and fries.
One of the newest things to do at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is climb up the Ford Island Control Tower. You’ll take an elevator up a few floors and then climb up the spiral staircase to the observation deck.
The views from the top are really cool!
Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum (formerly the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum)
Have you ever daydreamed about being on a real submarine? Dive into history at the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum!
This isn’t just any submarine – it’s a window to World War II.
Climbing inside, you’ll see exactly how sailors lived and worked during those intense times. It’s like hopping in a time machine!
Walking through the narrow hallways and tiny rooms, you’ll be amazed at how sailors managed in such close quarters.
But a quick heads-up: Watch your head! Submarines weren’t built for tall folks, so there are low ceilings and tight spots.
While exploring cool spots like the Bowfin is super fun, remember this isn’t just about the ‘wow’ factor. It’s about the stories of bravery and sacrifice from years ago.
So, as you wander through, take a moment to think about the heroes who once stood where you stand.
What to Wear to Pearl Harbor
It’s really important to remember that many people lost their lives at Pearl Harbor and it’s a place to pay your respects to the fallen soldiers.
This means you should skip the flip-flops and beach attire and wear something a bit more respectful. My husband usually wears an Aloha shirt and I usually wear a long dress or lightweight pants.
Military visitors to the memorial are within the bounds of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and military regulations relating to military dress are enforced by Navy personnel.
According to COMNAVREG Hawaii Instruction 1020.2N, military visitors in uniform are required to dress in Class B or better in order to gain access to the USS Arizona Memorial.
Battle dress uniform is not allowed on the memorial, though it is allowed throughout the visitor center and at sites on Ford Island. However, military visitors are welcome to wear civilian attire when visiting.
Logistics of Visiting Pearl Harbor
So you’re ready to dive into the history of Pearl Harbor? Great! But first, let’s figure out some of the practical stuff so your trip goes smoothly.
Getting to Pearl Harbor
If you’re staying in Honolulu, there’s a public bus that goes directly to Pearl Harbor. It’s affordable and convenient, but remember to check the schedule!
Driving yourself? It’s pretty easy to get to Pearl Harbor from Waikiki. There’s a big parking lot right outside the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and guess what? It’s free! But try to come early to grab a good spot.
Do not take the “Hickam AFB / Pearl Harbor” exit. This will take you to the active military base, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, not to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
Many tour companies offer trips to Pearl Harbor. This can be a great choice because they handle all the driving, and often, the guide will share fun facts on the way! THIS is the tour that I recommend.
What You Can (and Can’t) Bring to Pearl Harbor
No Big Bags
Bags bigger than 1.5″ X 2.25″ X 5.5″ aren’t allowed. This includes things like purses, backpacks, and camera bags. You are allowed to bring in clear bags like THIS ONE if you need to.
Near the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center entrance, there’s a place to store your bags for a small fee. You can use this same storage for all the Pearl Harbor sites you visit.
Just remember, Pearl Harbor is very serious about safety, so all the rules are there to protect everyone. We always store our bags here.
Food & Drinks
You can bring food and non-alcoholic drinks to the area, but you’ll need to carry them in your hands if you won’t have a bag.
Inside the museums, theaters, and on certain ships and the USS Arizona Memorial, you can only have water.
And a quick tip? Please take all trash with you when you leave to help keep the place clean.
If you have a health condition and need a special bag, you’ll need to tell security. They’ll check the bag to make sure it only has the medical stuff you need.
The final decision is up to the Park Security Rangers, so give yourself some extra time for this.
Where to Eat at Pearl Harbor
Feeling hungry? There’s a snack shop near the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center with sandwiches, drinks, and more. You can enjoy your meal while looking out over the harbor.
Laniakea Café at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is a casual restaurant with a menu of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and island favorites. There is also a kids’ menu and a selection of sides and beverages.
There’s also a snack shop outside the USS Battleship Missouri with lunch items and Dole Whip.
There are also lots of places to eat near Pearl Harbor if you want more options.
Yep, there are clean bathrooms available for when nature calls. There are options near all the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.
Pearl Harbor is wheelchair-friendly, and they’ve thought about visitors with other needs too. If you have special requirements, just ask a staff member for help.
Things to Remember
There are a few rules to keep the place respectful and safe. Big bags or backpacks aren’t allowed, so leave them in your car or at your hotel.
Also, remember this is a place of remembrance. It’s a good idea to keep things quiet and respectful.
Making the Most of Your Visit to Pearl Harbor
Ready to explore Pearl Harbor? Here’s how to make sure your visit is both fun and meaningful!
Guided vs. Self-Guided Tours
Guided Pearl Harbor Tours
With a guide, you get to hear stories and facts that you might miss on your own. The guide can answer questions and show you special spots. The downside? You have to stick to their schedule.
If you like to explore at your own pace, this might be for you. You can spend as much time as you want at each place. But remember, you’ll need to do some extra homework to know what you’re looking at.
Prep with Some Reading
Want to understand things better? It’s a great idea to read up before your visit. There are lots of books and websites about Pearl Harbor.
You’ll get to know the stories behind the places you’ll see, which makes everything more interesting.
Chat with Veterans or Docents
If you see any veterans (people who served in the military) or docents (trained guides) around, don’t be shy! Say hello and ask them questions.
They have personal stories and insights that can make your visit extra special. Imagine hearing about Pearl Harbor from someone who was actually there!
In the end, whether you go with a guide, read a bunch of books, or chat with veterans, the most important thing is to be curious.
Ask questions, imagine what it was like back then, and remember the stories of bravery and sacrifice. That’s how you make your Pearl Harbor visit truly unforgettable.
How to Visit Pearl Harbor FAQs
The main Pearl Harbor Historic Sites include USS Arizona Memorial, USS Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum (formerly USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park), Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, USS Oklahoma Memorial, and the USS Utah Memorial.
While you can just show up, it’s highly recommended to reserve tickets in advance, especially for the USS Arizona Memorial, due to its popularity.
Reservations aren’t mandatory but are strongly recommended for the USS Arizona Memorial and other popular sites to ensure you get a spot.
The USS Arizona Memorial is free. Other attractions have varying prices. It’s best to check the official website for the most current pricing.
Yes, you can walk around the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and some of the surrounding sites. However, some memorials like the USS Arizona require a boat ride, which is part of a free tour.
The USS Arizona Memorial boat ride is approximately 15 minutes each way.
The USS Oklahoma Memorial is on Ford Island. If you don’t have military access, you’ll need to take an official tour or shuttle to visit.
Like the USS Oklahoma, the USS Utah Memorial is on Ford Island. Visitors without military access will need an official tour or shuttle.
Over 1.8 million visitors come to Pearl Harbor annually.
Parking at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free.
While there isn’t a strict dress code, visitors are encouraged to dress respectfully given that Pearl Harbor is a historical site commemorating those who lost their lives. Comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate clothing are recommended.
Entrance to the visitor center and tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial program are already free, so there is no need for an ID or National Park Service pass at Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
Visiting Pearl Harbor National Memorial Wrap-Up
Visiting Pearl Harbor is more than just a trip; it’s a journey back in time. This place holds deep stories of bravery and sacrifice.
As you walk through and see the memorials, you’ll feel the weight of history. Every corner, every exhibit, speaks of moments that changed our world.
When you come, bring not just your camera but also a heart of respect. Take a moment to think about the heroes of the past. It’s important to approach this place with thoughtfulness, remembering the lives touched by the events here.
A visit to Pearl Harbor isn’t just about seeing sights; it’s about feeling and understanding the stories of our past.
So, as you plan your trip, come ready to learn, reflect, and honor the memories that echo throughout this sacred place.