100% Like It
1 Arizona Memorial Pl
, HI 96818
A must-do experience for anyone visiting or moving to Hawaii.
General: Cost: Free
General: Cost: Paid
General: Has Gift Shop
General: National Park
General: Photo Opportunity
Sightseeing: Great Views
Cultural & Historical: Historic / Landmarks
Cultural & Historical: Memorials / Statues
Cultural & Historical: Museum / Art Center
"Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States
We've all heard that quote, right? Pearl Harbor is one of those must do activities if you are visiting the islands or just moved here. It's a pretty amazing site to see and you can learn a ton about the attack and WWII in general here.
First, let's talk about Pearl Harbor "the place". It's located on the south shore of O'ahu, a bit west of Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), is the largest natural harbor in Hawaii, and was named "Pearl Harbor" because they used to harvest pearl oysters here.
Pearl Harbor is now mainly known for the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 and the current day World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
The first thing to know before coming here is that this is more than just one memorial. The one most people seem to associate with Pearl Harbor is the USS Arizona Memorial. The USS Arizona was hit by a Japanese armor piercing bomb right in the forward ammunition magazine which set off a massive explosion, sinking the ship, and killing 1,177 crewmen.
The USS Arizona Memorial is the large, white memorial you see "floating" out in the harbor and that you can actually go to and walk in after watching a 23 minute movie on the attack of Pearl Harbor. This memorial one of the Free Things To Do In Hawaii! Yes, free! Note that small children might freak out due to the loud explosions in the movie (archival footage enhanced with modern day audio) and / or some of the semi-graphic footage (there is an overturned dead body floating in the water during one scene for example). Once you enter the movie theater you won't have any chance to use a bathroom for at least one hour.
You then hop on a boat to go to the actual memorial which floats over the sunken USS Arizona battleship. Inside it has the names of the men who lost their lives on the Arizona, many who are still trapped inside the ship to this day. It is a tomb. The ship still leaks diesel fuel and oil which you'll see floating to the surface. They call the leaking oil the "black tears". It's strange, it's interesting, it's worth seeing.
Once you're done with the USS Arizona Memorial you may want to check out the Battleship Missouri Memorial. This is the ship that General MacArthur accepted the unconditional surrender from the Japanese on September 2, 1945 that ended WWII. You can explore the decks of the "Mighty Mo" which is three football fields long and twenty stories tall. You can stand on the Surrender Deck and see the documents that ended the war. Tours are available that will give you special access to otherwise restricted areas. Grab a picture next to the massive 16 inch guns that could shoot a 2,700 pound shell over 23 miles.
Moving along on your tour, you can check out the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. The Bowfin was one of the 288 submarines involved in the war. You can go inside it's claustrophobic interior to see the torpedo room, engine room, and sleeping quarters and gain a new appreciation for those who serve on subs!
The USS Oklahoma Memorial honors the 429 crewmen who lost their lives during the Pearl Harbor attack. Several torpedoes hit The Okie which capsized it in twelve minutes and trapped some of the crewmen below deck while, amazingly, thirty-two of them were rescued two days later! The only way to see this memorial is when you're on the shuttle bus to Ford Island and it's driving between the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. The bus will stop and you can see it from the window but can't leave the bus.
Still want more? Then you'll also want to check out the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor which is located inside former WWII hangers on Ford Island.
Some Important Notes
You cannot take any bags into Pearl Harbor with you, which means anything that can conceal a weapon. Leave your bags, backpacks, purses, etc in your hotel or home and not in your car in the parking lot. Or, if you must bring them they have lockers you can store your bags in for a few dollars. You can bring cell phones and cameras.
While the USS Arizona Memorial is free, the other items will cost you and they offer various options to let you buy a la cart or as complete packages.
Pearl Harbor is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Programs begin at 8:00 a.m. and run throughout the day until the last program at 1:00 p.m. The visitor center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.
Is It For Kids?
We get this question a lot, "Should I bring my kids to Pearl Harbor?" There is no one answer for that question. If you have more mature kids and / or kids who love history and military history then they're likely to get more out of experiences here.
For most kids, especially younger kids, it's a really boring place. I see the same things every time I am here, kids wanting to go, the usual "are we done yet" echoing throughout every corner of the property, and so on.
You could always bring kids and do the free Arizona Memorial and see how it goes before buying tickets for the other experiences. One suggestion is to keep them hydrated and fed. In the main visitor center area you'll find hot dogs and nachos at Pearl Harbor Concession Stand. If you want them to go on the Battleship Missouri Memorial then maybe mention that shave ice is available near there at Wai Momi Shave Ice for kids who are good! For the most part, if you can go without kids that's what I would suggest.
This is a pretty awesome site to see if you have any interest in WWII or had any family who served in WWII. The memorials are very well done, the movie presentation is excellent, the various displays they have are very educational. WWII buffs will love this place, most others will find it interesting at least.
For me, it's an interesting place to visit but I can't help but feel like more should be told about the Japanese side of things. It would be nice if more was told about why the attach was such a surprise with all of the intelligence the US had leading up to this event. Why wasn't more explained about the radar operators who detected the attack before it happened (it's mentioned only briefly). Not saying they need to answer every question the tinfoil-hat-wearing-crowd has but it just feels like a lot of important facts and details are left out or, dare I say, avoided. Most would never notice or care, but I do.
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