Our first trip to Hawaii would not have been complete without a visit to Pearl Harbor.
Sandra & I finally got to take our first trip to Hawaii. There were so many things that we wanted to do. It was a very busy, absolutely fantastic 10 day trip.
Visiting Pearl Harbor was #1 on our list of Things to Do in Hawaii.
Both of our fathers served in the military shortly after WWII. Both were born in 1932, 4 years outside “The Greatest Generation” dates. But they grew up during some of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history.
As youngsters, we heard first hand about some of the terrible hardships that our families and their friends endured during World War II. They knew soldiers who died defending our nation & the free world against Germany & Japan.
Paying our respects to the 2,403 Americans who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on December 7, 1941 was important to us.
While the USS Arizona Memorial is the focal point of a visit to Pearl Harbor, there’s much more. There are are also exhibit galleries, outdoor markers, an audio tour (which we were thankful to have), a bookstore and a Virtual Reality experience of the attack.
There are several other historic sites at Pearl Harbor like the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Pearl Harbor Tickets
It’s free to enter the Pearl Harbor National Memorial including the Visitor Center, the museums and to walk the grounds. You don’t even need a ticket for any of these.
However, you must have a reservation to take the ferry out to the USS Arizona Memorial. And there is a $1 “reservation fee” to get this free ticket.
Make Sure You Reserve a Ticket to the USS Arizona Memorial
Don’t miss this tip: MAKE SURE that you reserve a ticket to the USS Arizona Memorial or you may not be able to get a seat on the ferry.
The National Park Service releases some free tickets 8 weeks in advance & the rest are released 24 hours in advance.
Sound like I’m beating a dead horse? Yep. Somehow, I missed this important tip when planning our trip. Fortunately, we were still able to get tickets but I don’t want you to make the same mistake that we made.
While it’s free to visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, we paid $8 each for an audio tour and $10 each for a Virtual Reality simulation of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Both were absolutely worth what we paid but there were hardware issues with the audio tour players.
We went to swap 1 player early & then the 2nd failed. Instead of making the 100 yard hike back to the counter again, we just shared earbuds for the final part of the audio tour.
Best Day & Time to Visit
It’s best if you can pick your visit date and a back up date as close to 8 week out as possible. We saw alot of people in a waiting area without ferry tickets hoping for no-shows. I’m not sure if they all got to visit the Arizona Memorial or not.
From our experience, it looks like the best day of the week to visit Pearl Harbor is Friday, Saturday or Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday seem to be the most popular days to visit.
My research says that Wednesdays are popular for schools to take field trips to Pearl Harbor.
Morning reservations for the USS Arizona memorial are most popular. Our plan was to sleep in a little and get to Pearl Harbor around 10am but those times were already gone. We ended up with a noon reservation.
We visited on Monday, February 5. It wasn’t that busy but tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial were sold out soon after we got ours.
If you want the best selection, try to reserve your tickets 8 weeks before your Pearl Harbor visit.
When to Not Visit
To avoid the largest crowds, don’t visit Pearl Harbor on these holidays:
- Memorial Day
- Labor Day
- Veterans Day
- Pearl Harbor Day, December 7
- Spring Break
Pearl Harbor Closed
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is closed on:
- New Years Day
How Much Time to Visit?
When we were planning our February trip to Hawaii, we had to decide how much time to allocate to visiting Pearl Harbor. 3 different options for how much time to spend at Pearl Harbor:
- Quick visit: 1-1.5 hours
- Medium Visit: 3-4 hours
- Full Visit: 4-6 hours.
Just visiting the USS Arizona Memorial takes 45 minutes. The includes taking the ferry out, time on the memorial, and the ferry ride back.
If that’s all that is really important to you, you could quickly visit Pearl Harbor in about 1-1.5 hours at an absolute minimum
For our visit, we spent about 3 hours at Pearl Harbor. That’s the minimum time that makes sense to me. We did not visit the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
To get the full experience, plan on spending 4-6 hours to visit Pearl Harbor.
Our visit was powerful but I’m sad to say that we lost 95% of the pictures that we took.
As I talk about in my full Hawaii trip report, I lost my iPhone a few hours after leaving Pearl Harbor. None of my pictures had uploaded to the cloud yet so we only have a few pictures from Sandra’s iPhone and the strong memories of our visit.
I’m thankful we have these last 2 pictures because they’re what I’ll remember most.
I could watch this flag for an hour. Flapping in the wind, flying over the Arizona against that blue sky. Here’s what the NPS says:
“As a special tribute to the ship and her lost crew, the United States flag flies from the flagpole, which is attached to the severed mainmast of the sunken battleship.”
One of the last things we saw on the Arizona was this wall of names of the servicemen lost. This was the most moving moment of our visit to me.
Some of my lost pictures were of our family names. I have no idea if the 13 Jones, 1 Gill and 2 Cox Sailors and Marines are related to us, but I said a little prayer and gave thanks for their sacrifice.
“To the Memory of the Gallant Men Here Entombed and their shipmates who gave their lives in action on December 7, 1941, on the U.S.S. Arizona”
— inscription in marble with the names of Arizona’s honored dead
Is Visiting Pearl Harbor Worth It?
Obviously, Pearl Harbor was a must for us. If you’re a patriotic American or are just interested in one of the most pivotal events in history, a visit to Pearl harbor is worth the time.
More from our Hawaii Trip
Read more about our once-in-a-lifetime Hawaii Trip: