One of the first pieces of information about visiting Pearl Harbor you’re likely to come across is that tickets for the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, including the USS Arizona Memorial program, are free. Which brings up the very reasonable question, “Why pay for a Pearl Harbor tour?”
Actually, there are several good reasons. Let’s take a look at why we think it’s worth spending a little money for a tour of Pearl Harbor.
Why Pay for a Pearl Harbor Tour?
What’s included in that free admission? First, you have access to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center with its exhibits and displays. Assuming you arrive early enough, you can also get tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial program that includes a 23-minute documentary film about the attack on Pearl Harbor and a ride on a US Navy shuttle boat to the USS Arizona Memorial, located in the harbor above the wreckage of the battleship. That might sound like everything is covered, but is it?
What Else Does a Tour Get Me?
A Pearl Harbor tour is about more than just providing you access to the National Memorial. Have you considered how you’re going to get to Pearl Harbor? Taxis and rideshares can be expensive, and even if you rent a car, Honolulu traffic is no picnic. All official Pearl Harbor tours include comfortable round-trip transportation from the Waikiki-area hotels or other locations depending on the specific tour.
Tours also include a knowledgeable guide who can help you navigate the various sites at Pearl Harbor and provide lots of information about the attack, island history, and more. They’re also happy to take pictures for you and provide lots of other little services as needed.
Something else to bear in mind: tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial program, while free, are limited and can run out early in the day. With a tour, this isn’t a concern. Pearl Harbor tours all include USS Arizona Memorial tickets.
Beyond the USS Arizona Memorial
There is a lot more to see and experience at Pearl Harbor than just the Visitor Center and USS Arizona Memorial. Most people choose to visit some of the other attractions of Pearl Harbor, such as the Battleship Missouri, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, and the Bowfin submarine. Trying to do all of that on your own can get tricky if you don’t know your way around. You need to get separate tickets for each, and figure out how to navigate between them all. With a guided tour, someone else has already taken care of all these details for you, so you can relax and take in all of the history and emotions that unfolded here.
Bottom line, Pearl Harbor is too important an experience to just stick with the free option. It deserves an in-depth look, and an official tour gives you that and more.