A Perfect Day at Pearl Harbor

By Hawaii.com Team
USS Missouri

USS Missouri. Photo: Courtesy Battleship Missouri Memorial

The peaceful morning of December 7, 1941 started out like any other, but by day’s end, Hawaii, the United States and the world were changed forever. Hawaii’s leading visitor destination, a day at Pearl Harbor allows you to learn what led up to the Japanese attack and about World War II in the Pacific while paying tribute to those who gave their lives in service to their country. Pearl Harbor now features four distinct destinations and it can be challenging to determine how best to use your time while visiting. This guide provides you with three options based upon spending approximately two, four or seven hours at the harbor and Ford Island.

Option 1: USS Arizona Memorial and the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center

USS Arizona Memorial

Photo: Courtesy Pacific Historic Parks

Time Required: Approximately 2 Hours

The famed USS Arizona Memorial is positioned above the most prolific vessel sunk during the Japanese Navy’s attack. Many of the sailors lost that day remain entombed in its hull. The United States National Park Service provides a free short film and ferried boat tour service to and from the memorial. Note that lines can be long, particularly in the morning. Tickets to the Arizona Memorial are included in Tours to Pearl Harbor. Limited tickets are also made available at the center daily on a first-come, first served basis.

All visitors are required to check in one hour before their appointed movie start time. It is recommended that you use this opportunity to tour the Visitor Center’s two museums. The first museum is titled “Events leading to WWII” and the second is called the “Attack” museum. Each takes about a half hour to tour.

While the Arizona Memorial and Visitor Center are national monuments available free to the public, a narrated audio tour is available for a nominal fee. This recommended option provides the listener with an experience similar to having a Park Ranger with you throughout your visit.

Exclusive Pearl Harbor keepsakes and souvenirs are available at the bookstore located next to the center exit.

Option 2: USS Arizona Memorial + your choice of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, Battleship Missouri Memorial or Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor

USS Bowfin

Photo: Courtesy USS Bowfin Submarine Museum

Time Required: Approximately 4 Hours

Many visitors prefer to spend a half-day at Pearl Harbor before or after a drive along Oahu’s fabled North Shore. In addition to the USS Arizona and Visitor Center, Pearl Harbor features three additional destinations, each with a compelling story of its own.

Immediately adjacent to Pearl Harbor Visitor Center you will find the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. Here you can go below deck to tour a real WWII submarine. The “Pearl Harbor Avenger” launched exactly one year after the Japanese attack and submarine warfare played a pivotal role in turning a day of defeat into victory in the Pacific. The museum chronicles the entire history of submarine warfare dating back to 1776 through the nuclear era of today. The outdoor public area also features a food lanai perfect for a quick bite during a busy day of sightseeing.

Pearl Harbor Historic Sites offers a selection of half-day tours that include the USS Arizona Memorial Narrated Tour and your choice of admission to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, Battleship Missouri Memorial or Pacific Aviation Museum.

Option 3: USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, Battleship Missouri and Pacific Aviation Museum

Pacific Aviation Museum

Photo: Courtesy Pacific Aviation Museum

Time Required: Approximately 7 Hours
The most popular tour available is known as the “Passport to Pearl Harbor.” It features a reduced package price on the USS Arizona Memorial Narrated Tour as well as admission to the USS Bowfin Submarine, Battleship Missouri and Pacific Aviation Museum. A short shuttle bus ride to Ford Island, where the latter two are located, is included.

The Missouri was the last battleship ever built by the U.S. and the last to be decommissioned. It is most famous for being the location where Japan signed its declaration of surrender in a ceremony formally ending WWII in the Pacific. The “Might Mo” features the largest guns ever installed on a Navy ship and offers a fascinating look at life aboard a WWII era military vessel.

The Pacific Aviation Museum is the largest military airplane and helicopter museum in the Pacific. Still bearing bullet marks from the infamous attack on December 7, 1941, the museum’s two hangars feature dozens of aircraft from WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War and even the more recent Gulf Wars.

Visit the special Pearl Harbor section at www.hawaii.com/pearl-harbor.

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