Pearl Harbor tours are a convenient way to explore the history of December 7, 1941. That’s part of what makes them so popular. Most tours of Pearl Harbor also include a driving tour through historic downtown Honolulu, where you can see Iolani Palace and the Hawaii State Capitol, as well as make a stop at the iconic King Kamehameha statue for a photo opportunity. Another important site you see on your return from Pearl Harbor is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater. A question that comes up frequently regards why tours don’t stop at Punchbowl Cemetery.
What Is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific?
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is the final resting place for thousands of veterans of the American armed forces, from the First World War to more modern conflicts. Located inside an ancient volcanic crater, the cemetery was dedicated on September 2, 1949, four years to the day after the signing of the surrender documents that brought World War II to an end. It also features dedications and memorials to the fallen, including the Courts of the Missing, where names of thousands of missing personnel from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts are inscribed.
If you drive to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on your own, you can park and explore the graves and memorials, but this isn’t the case with guided tours. Being an important part of American history, it may seem strange that tours don’t stop there. However, if you look a little closer there are actually very good reasons for this policy.
So Why Is It That Tours Don’t Stop at Punchbowl Cemetery?
The US Department of Veterans Affairs, which administers the site, doesn’t allow tour buses to stop and unload out of respect for the thousands of service members interred there. Considering the scores of Pearl Harbor tours that take place every day, it’s not hard to understand this policy and its importance in maintaining the serenity of such a hallowed place. Even if every tour participant showed the appropriate respect, the cemetery would still be chaotic.
As previously mentioned, individuals with their own transportation wishing to spend time at Punchbowl are welcome to do so every day between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM.
Pearl Harbor Tours that Drive Through the Cemetery
The following tours all drive through the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific so you can experience the beauty and serenity of the place, while paying your respects to the fallen men and women of the United States armed forces.
This brief tour visits the Pearl Harbor National Memorial before continuing to historic downtown Honolulu for the second leg of the tour. Explore the exhibits and museums of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center before taking part in the 75-minute USS Arizona Memorial program, which includes a documentary film about the attack and its aftermath, followed by a US Navy shuttle boat ride to the iconic USS Arizona Memorial.
Focusing on what are called the “Bookends of the War in the Pacific,” the Remember Pearl Harbor tour starts with at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.Guests then board the USS Arizona Memorial as part of the 75-minute program. Next, the tour takes guests to the Battleship Missouri, the iconic World War II battleship that served as the site of Japan’s official surrender.
From experiencing the tragedy of the sinking of USS Arizona to the triumph symbolized by the Mighty Mo to the drive through the National Memorial Cemetery, visitors can pay their respects to the fallen men and women of the United States military
As its name infers, this is the most complete tour of Pearl Harbor. It includes access to all of the sites there, including the USS Arizona and Oklahoma Memorials, the USS Bowfin Submarine and Park, the Battleship Missouri, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, followed by a driving tour of downtown Honolulu and Punchbowl Cemetery. It’s a robust tour that takes up much of your day, but every part of it is an eye-opening experience.