Visit Pearl Harbor
Every visitor to Hawaii should make time to see Pearl Harbor, the very lagoon that suffered a devastating surprise attack by the Japanese in 1941. This was the crucial event that led to an active involvement of the US in World War II. Even today, more than a thousand fallen men rest at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, inside the USS Arizona, which was sunk during the attack. This makes the memorial a military cemetery.
The Arizona Memorial is open and free of charge for all visitors from 7am to 5pm every day, but closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The easiest way to visit Pearl Harbor is in your own or rental car but there are also buses that go from Waikiki to Pearl City very frequently. Parking is available for free; the bus ticket costs $2.50. Try to visit the Memorial early in the day, as it gets crowded and sometimes very hot later in the day. Every day 1,300 free tickets to the Memorial are given out at the Visitors Center on a first come first served basis, so make sure you are among the first visitors in the morning. Alternatively, you can try to secure one of the few tickets that can be reserved on recreation.gov every day. On week days, the visitor situation may be less crowded but on weekends, try to be there between 7am and 8am at the latest. From Waikiki to Pearl Harbor you will drive around 30 Minutes in a car, about an hour on the bus.
If you bring a car you will find ample free parking. It is advisable to leave all non-valuables in the car, as you will not be allowed to bring a bag into the Memorial. Even small purses and diaper bags are not allowed, due to security reasons. However, there are a few things you should bring along. The most important item is a government issued ID. This could be your state ID or your driver’s license. Foreign visitors should bring their passport, as you will enter a military area and you will be asked to identify yourself. Carry along your camera (leave behind the large camera bag), cell phone and wallet. Please don’t leave valuables in the car. Instead, you can leave bags at the Visitors Center for $3 per bag.
It is also a good idea to bring a small bottle of water to sip on during the tour. To get to the memorial you have to board a US Navy shuttle boat and you will be exposed to the sun. Be safe and bring a hat, especially during the hottest months: between June and September. Sun block lotion, sun glasses and a shirt that covers most of your skin are also a good idea.
The tour around the Visitor Center and Arizona Memorial will take more than one hour. If you need a snack during this time you may buy one at the Museum or the Souvenir shop. Even though entrance to the Memorial is free, you should bring a little money or a credit card for snacks and souvenirs. For $7.50 you may purchase the audio guide for the whole tour around the sights of Pearl Harbor. The audio guide is available in English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, German or Spanish and includes a translation of the introductory movie.
Please make sure you are fully dressed. Pearl Harbor is not just another tourist attraction, but it is also the resting place of more than a thousand men who lost their lives on the USS Arizona. Bathing suits and shirtless visitors will not be admitted. Comfortable sandals or walking shoes are the best choice for your footwear, especially if you plan to do the whole tour around the Memorial and Ford Island.
Enjoy your trip back in time as you learn about one of the most important events in US history!