When people share their Oahu experiences, visiting Pearl Harbor is often a favorite memory. With good reason! It’s a breathtaking memorial to the people who fought and lost their lives in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Read on for tips to make the most of your visit to Pearl Harbor.
- Oahu: 8 Tips to Know Before You Go
- What to Pack for Hawaii: Everything You Need for an Amazing Adventure
What You Can See at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor has several different areas to explore:
- Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and exhibits
- USS Arizona Memorial
- USS Battleship Missouri
- USS Bowfin Submarine
You can visit the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and exhibits for free and without a ticket.
To visit the USS Arizona Memorial, you’ll need a timed ticket. You can reserve *free* tickets in advance through Recreation.gov, which distributes tickets on behalf of the National Park Service. Advance tickets can run out. That happened to us when we visited, so try to reserve a ticket as soon as they’re available for your trip.
You’ll need to purchase tickets to visit the USS Battleship Missouri and the USS Bowfin Submarine. One option is to buy tickets separately on the websites for the USS Battleship Missouri website and the USS Bowfin Submarine. Alternatively, you can purchase a “Passport to Pearl Harbor” ticket on Recreation.gov to visit all three memorials (Arizona, Missouri, and Bowfin).
What To Do if USS Arizona Memorial Advance Tickets Run Out
When we were planning our trip to Oahu, we were bummed to learn that the USS Arizona Memorial advance tickets were sold out for the entire time we were visiting. But we did a little research and found out there were still some options for visiting Pearl Harbor:
The first option is to just enjoy the visitor center and exhibits. You won’t be able to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, but you’ll be able to see it from the shore.
Option two is to get to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center early in the morning and hope to get one of the same day walk-in tickets. Same-day tickets are available at the visitor center starting at 7am. With this option, it’s possible your tour time might be later in the day. That means you might have to come back later in the day.
The third option is to reserve a guided tour. Tour companies reserve advance tickets for their customers. That means you can still visit the USS Arizona Memorial even if advance tickets run out on Recreation.gov. This is the option we took. You can find inexpensive options for Pearl Harbor tours on TripAdvisor or Groupon. If you want to visit the USS Battleship Missouri or the USS Bowfin Submarine, make sure your tour states that they are part of the tour.
If you booked transportation through a tour company, you’re all set. To get yourself there, you have several different options – bus, rental car, cab, Lyft, and Uber. The National Park Service provides great directions for getting to Pearl Harbor if you’re taking a bus or using a rental car.
Whatever method you choose – know that there can be a lot of traffic on the way to Pearl Harbor. Use the “depart at” function on Google maps to estimate typical traffic delays around the time you plan to leave. You don’t want to miss your tour of the USS Arizona Memorial because of traffic.
Length of Visit
If you’re visiting all three memorials, you’ll need to plan for an entire day at Pearl Harbor.
If you’re just visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, visitor center, and exhibits, you can plan for about three hours. The USS Arizona Memorial tour lasts 75 minutes. And you’ll want one to two hours to visit the incredible exhibit galleries. They have great photos, memorabilia, and first-hand narratives.
Wind & Sun
You have to take a shuttle boat to get to the USS Arizona Memorial. The shuttle boat is run by the US Navy. If it’s too windy, the Navy may stop running the boat. Or they may take visitors to the Memorial but won’t let them off the boat onto the Memorial. This happened when we visited. We were able to take the boat to get a closer look at the Memorial, but weren’t allowed off the boat. We were disappointed, but glad to get a chance to get even that close to the Memorial.
Unfortunately, you can’t really plan for this. We found out as we were getting in line for the tour that we wouldn’t be able to get off the boat. The National Park Service won’t reschedule your ticket if it’s too windy to visit the Memorial. So you’ll have to go through the process of getting tickets again if you want to visit the USS Arizona Memorial.
The wind can make it feel cool in Pearl Harbor. This makes it easy to forget how intense the sun is on Oahu. Apply lots of sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
What to Bring & Wear
You won’t be able to bring large bags into the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. You can either leave them at the hotel or pay $4 per bag to store them in an on-site storage locker.
As another way to honor those who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, there is a dress code. Bathing suits and profane shirts aren’t allowed.
Pearl Harbor truly is an amazing tribute to the people who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. I hope these tips make your trip to Pearl Harbor an even better experience.