National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

By Andy Beth Miller
Photo:  melfoody.

Photo: melfoody.

Perched picturesquely in one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring natural settings, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (also known as Punchbowl Cemetery) is the official resting place of more than 25,000 veterans who bravely fought for our country within the armed services.

See here for tours that stop at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

The History of Puowaina Crater

punchbowl cemetery

Photo: Corey Burger.

Spanning an impressively lush 112-acres, the cemetery is actually built amid the center basin of what is now an extinct volcanic crater known as Puowaina Crater. The creation of this natural “Punchbowl” dates back some 75,000 to 100,000 years and is the result of an infusion of molten hot lava erupting through cracks within the area’s old coral reefs—those of which, used to, in fact, stretch all the way to the very base of Oahu’s Koʻolau Mountain Range!

The official name of the crater, Puowaina, is translated in Hawaiian as “Hill of Sacrifice,” or “Consecrated Hill,” and the historic site proudly honors those American citizens who so selflessly gave their lives in service within either World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War, so that we may now enjoy the freedom and liberty that this great nation now affords us.

Resting Place of Our Soldiers

punchbowl cemetery, Honolulu, HI

Photo: Keoki Seu.

Officially opened to the public on July 19, 1949, the cemetery is home to the remains of numerous American war heroes who lie in state here, many of which lost their lives on that infamous, fateful day in 1941, when the Japanese attacked an unsuspecting Pearl Harbor.

Monument to Astronaut Ellison Onizuka

A monument to Hawaiʻi’s astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who perished aboard the Challenger space shuttle, is also found on the cemetery grounds, along with The Courts of the Missing—white stone tablets that bear the names of WWII soldiers missing in action.

Annual Memorial Day Remembrance

Annually, in commemoration of Memorial Day, school children all across Hawaiʻi fashion handmade flower lei, which are then placed upon every single grave at Punchbowl—serving as a sign of respect, as well as a deeply grateful mahalo (thank you) to the brave soldiers buried therein.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Tours

Should you, too, wish to personally pay your respects, there are several Oʻahu planned tours that include stops at the cemetery, or you may just choose to visit on your own, exploring in peace, quiet, and solitude this still and solemn celebration of the lives so selflessly sacrificed for the freedom we are afforded today.

punchbowl cemetery

Photo: Tim Evanson.

The cemetery is located at 2177 Puowaina Drive and is open to the public (and accessible by car). For more information, including specific holiday and operating hours, call 532-3720.

Visit the special Pearl Harbor section at

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