In the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, the world was forever changed when the Japanese launched a surprise air attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor Naval Base near Honolulu, Hawaii.
Following the assault from hundreds of Japanese fighter planes, nearly 20 American naval vessels and at least 300 airplanes were damaged or destroyed.
Far more devastating is the 2,400 American lives lost, including civilians, and another 1,000 wounded, making it one of the most defining moments in U.S. history.
In fact, the attack was the catalyst that catapulted the U.S. into World War II. The following day, acting President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan, thus changing the balance of power in the world and cementing the United States’ status as a global superpower.
Now, visitors from all over the world journey to Pearl Harbor to commemorate that fateful day and remember fallen comrades.
Plan Ahead to Visit Pearl Harbor
Even though many decades have passed since the attack on Pearl Harbor, the naval base remains the most visited site on the island of Oahu. Guests visiting Pearl Harbor can explore many memorials, exhibits, and other historic venues.
When organizing your Pearl Harbor tours, make sure you plan ahead, and early, as tours sell out fast.
Read up ahead of time on how to get your tickets to Pearl Harbor.
Also, if you are staying on Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island, you can still make a visit to Pearl Harbor easily fit into your itinerary by booking a Pearl Harbor day tour that includes flight, transportation, and entrance ticket.
Things to See at Pearl Harbor
USS Arizona Memorial
Still found bobbing within the waters of Pearl Harbor, alongside its modern-day models, is the USS Arizona —- one of seven battleships tied up along what is known as “Battleship Row”.
Visitors to the accompanying USS Arizona Memorial will get a unique glimpse into one of the most important and pivotal moments in American history via rare memorabilia, photographs, documents, and other visuals and mixed media covering the time period spanning this integral era of US history.
Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
Visitors may also walk through the USS Bowfin Submarine, docked in Pearl Harbor, to get an intriguing glimpse into what combat submarine life was really like.
Visitors will board the submarine and are invited on a self-guided, narrated tour using a Walkman-style cassette recorder keyed to stops throughout the submarine.
Battleship Missouri Memorial
The USS Battleship Missouri secured its place in history as the site of Japan’s unconditional surrender to the United States, thus bringing an end to World War II, when the formal papers were signed on the deck of the battleship on Sept. 2, 1945.
Visitors can still visit the ship today, as it remains intact and bobbing along the harbor.
USS Oklahoma Memorial
The U.S.S. Oklahoma Memorial is dedicated to the 415 sailors and 14 Marines who lost their lives when the USS Oklahoma sank during the 1941 strike on Pearl Harbor.
The names of those sailors and Marines are engraved in black granite on 429 individual white marble columns, each of which is 7 feet tall and weighs 120 pounds.
Pacific Aviation Museum
Known as “America’s Aviation Battlefield,” the Pacific Aviation Museum provides visitors with a stunning visual narrative of aviation’s role in the history of the Pacific.
The Museum is home to two WWII era hangars, which survived the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Ford Island Control Tower.
Pearl Harbor Visitor Center Hours
Pearl Harbor is open every day of the year except New Year’s Day (January 1), Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day (December 25).
Operating hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visit the National Park Service website for additional information.
How to Get to Pearl Harbor Visitor Center
Those planning to visit Pearl Harbor can do so by bus or by car.
If you are coming by bus, a good starting point would be to depart from Waikiki or the Ala Moana Shopping Center and catch a public bus, which will take you straight to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center (just confirm with the driver when boarding to be sure/safe, and to know when to get off)!
For more information and the full bus schedule and operating stops/locations, visit thebus.org.
If you’re traveling by car, the trip typically takes about 45 minutes by car and over an hour by bus from Waikiki.
Traffic will factor heavily into your drive time, so use a maps app to check on traffic and road conditions for the date and time you intend to visit Pearl Harbor. The address to plug in is: 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, Hawaii 96818.
Parking fees were added in April of 2023, at a cost of $7 per day.