Over 1.8 million travellers visit Pearl Harbor every year, visitors can choose to experience Pearl Harbor on their own or by booking a Pearl Harbor tour.
Why visit Pearl Harbor?
On the 7th of December 1941, the Japanese led a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This significant event killed 2,402 Americans and launched the U.S. into WWII. Over 1.8 million visitors come to this historic location every year to pay their respects.
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.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater is often incorporated on the same day as a visit Pearl Harbor.
Located 45-minutes from Waikiki by vehicle, visitors can experience Pearl Harbor “do-it-yourself” or by booking a half- or full-day tour. When deciding on the best way to see Pearl Harbor the key considerations are your budget, how much time you have available, your preference for a guided or non-guided experience, and the landmarks you specifically want to see.
Do-It-Yourself Pearl Harbor
Independent or budget conscious travellers can experience Pearl Harbor by arranging their own day of touring. Pearl Harbor is easily reached by driving or catching TheBus (USD2.50 per ride). See the official National Park Service website for car and public transportation directions. Taking a taxi, Uber or Lyft is another option, a one-way journey from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor costs around USD40.00 depending on traffic.
Exploration should begin at the Pearl Harbor 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 Pearl Harbor 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” version of Pearl Harbor is gaining a ticket for the USS Arizona Memorial. This admission includes viewing a historic documentary followed by a return boat ride to the memorial site. There are a limited number of tickets per day. HAWAII Magazine offers up four different ways to get tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial.
Book a Pearl Harbor Tour
If planning is not your forte, why not book a tour so that everything is taken care of! Pearl Harbor tour inclusions vary greatly depending on the tour provider. As a minimum, they usually include transportation, a driver and/or guide and tickets to USS Arizona Memorial. Always read the tour inclusions carefully.
The obvious advantage to booking a tour is having a dedicated driver and/or guide who can share their expert knowledge about Pearl Harbor and direct you to and around the precinct.
Here’s a selection of Pearl Harbor tours bookable in my Hawaii Activity Shop:
Pearl Harbor Tour From Honolulu: For those short on time this is a very fast, hassle-free and affordable way to visit Pearl Harbor. It departs Waikiki at 8:00am, 10:00am or 12 noon and returns 4.5-hours later. Avoid the large bus tours by taking this small group tour. This isn’t a guided tour of Pearl Harbor itself, it is a return transfer to the park including USS Arizona Memorial tickets and a drive-by of historic Downtown Honolulu on the way back.
Day at Pearl Harbor Tour: For those with a significant interest in Hawaii’s military history this full day excursion is one of the most comprehensive tours available and features all major attractions of Pearl Harbor. It departs between 6:00-7:15am and returns 9.5-hours later.
Ultimate Pearl Harbor Circle Island: For those who would like to combine a quick visit to Pearl Harbor with a beautiful circle island drive afterwards. This day tour includes USS Arizona Memorial, Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, North Shore, Dole Plantation and Hukilau Marketplace Complimentary Lunch Buffet. It departs from 6:00am and returns 10-hours later.
There are a tremendous selection of tours available to visit Pearl Harbor, for more options simply search “Pearl Harbor” in my Hawaii Activity Shop. It’s best viewed off a desktop computer, rather than a smartphone. Bookings are made in AUD and a detailed confirmation voucher is provided via email which includes the tour operator’s direct contact information.
• As a national historic landmark, Pearl Harbor is also 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 above items is available at the entrance of the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center for a USD4.00 per bag fee. Visitors should bring in their wallets, cameras (no large camera bags are allowed), cellular phones and water bottles. Baby carriages and wheel chairs 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.
• Watch this informative video Pearl Harbor Visitors Center – Welcome to the Park! on what to expect at Pearl Harbor.
• If you have a question that hasn’t been answered here, visit the official National Park Service website Frequently Asked Questions section.