Every vacation comes with certain time constraints, so it’s important to plan each day accordingly. You may be looking at your Hawaiian vacation itinerary and wondering when you can squeeze in a visit to Pearl Harbor. Before you set aside just an hour or two to cover the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and Pearl Harbor Historic Sites, you should know that if you want to really experience all there is to see at Pearl Harbor, it isn’t something that takes only a couple of hours.

So how long should you expect to spend at Pearl Harbor? To answer that, it helps to know what all there is to see and do there.

First Stop

When you arrive at Pearl Harbor, you find yourself at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. You can easily spend a good amount of time here walking through the “Road to War” and “Attack!” galleries, which display relics of Pearl Harbor in the form of newspaper clippings, ships’ artifacts, and other original materials.

A Somber Trip Through Time

Arizona Memorial Half Flag

USS Arizona Memorial

This part of your visit starts with a 23-minute documentary about the attack, specifically the events leading up to the sinking of the USS Arizona. Detailing the greatest tragedy of the Pearl Harbor attack, the film is a prelude to your visit aboard to the USS Arizona Memorial, a beautiful white structure built over the wreckage of the fallen battleship.

It’s haunting to look down at the wreckage below, which still leaks droplets of oil—known as the “Black Tears of the Arizona”—into the waters of the harbor from a hole in her hull.

The Other Pearl Harbor Historic Sites

USS Missouri Battleship

Battleship Missouri

While you’re at Pearl Harbor, you’ll also want to see some of the exhibits and memorials that have less to do with the day of the attack and focus more on the war that followed.

Take, for instance, the Battleship Missouri. The “Mighty Mo,” as she’s affectionately known, wasn’t even launched when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, but the battleship earned her place here for being the ship on whose decks the Japanese signed the Instruments of Surrender, bringing an end to World War II.

The USS Bowfin also wasn’t launched until a year after the attack, specifically on the first anniversary. The submarine was dubbed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger” and is now the centerpiece of a submarine museum and park. Walk through the tight hallways of the vessel, learning about the inner workings of these submarines and the armaments they carried.

Aviation played a big part in Pearl Harbor and the war, which is what makes the Pacific Aviation Museum a must-see stop. In addition to aircraft used throughout World War II, you can also get up close to the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero and the Thunder Fish, the fighter plane and torpedo responsible for the bulk of the damage on December 7th, 1941.

Your Day at Pearl Harbor

As you can see, there’s a lot waiting to be explored at Pearl Harbor. It’s not something you want to rush, so plan to spend an entire day here. Be sure to book your tour or get your Passport to Pearl Harbor in advance so you’ll have more time to explore all of the exhibits, galleries, and memorials dedicated to the Pearl Harbor attack and World War II.

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