Pearl Harbor Tours: Tickets and Tips for Visiting

Visit the historic Hawaiian memorial with ease.

U.S. News & World Report

Pearl Harbor Tours: Tips for Visiting

Best Pearl Harbor Tours

Visiting Pearl Harbor is a must-do activity for any Honolulu tourist. (Getty Images)

As the site of the surprise attack that spurred America's entrance into World War II, Pearl Harbor is one of the most significant places in U.S. history. On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese fighter planes destroyed or damaged more than a dozen ships (including eight battleships) and hundreds of aircraft in an effort to demolish the Pacific fleet. More than 2,400 American soldiers and civilians died. The majority of those who perished were aboard the USS Arizona, which remains where it sank beneath 40 feet of water. The following day, on President Franklin D. Roosevelt's request, the U.S. Congress declared war on Japan.

Today, more than 1.7 million people visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial each year to engage with the nation's history and pay their respects to the fallen. To make the most of your visit, consider these helpful tips.

What island is Pearl Harbor on? Pearl Harbor is located on Oahu, Hawaii's third-largest island.

Where is Pearl Harbor located? Pearl Harbor is located in central Oahu and is just northwest of Honolulu, the state's capital and largest city.

Know Before You Go

  • What: Pearl Harbor tours
  • When: The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day when it is closed).
  • Cost: Free. There are no tickets necessary to enter the memorial's visitor center or its two museums. Free tickets are needed to visit the USS Arizona. Tickets reserved in advance through Recreation.gov are charged a $1 fee.
  • Must-know tip: While there is no cost to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, a timed ticket is required.
  • Website: https://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm

Despite its military history, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, operated by the National Park Service, is not located on a military base, so no ID is required to enter. For security reasons, bags are not permitted on-site and must be stored, for $5 per bag, at the visitor center. Bathrooms are located throughout the visitor center, but there are none at the USS Arizona Memorial. Food is available for purchase, but it generally does not win rave reviews. Restaurants are located nearby. Photography is permitted. While cell phone photography is allowed, you will be asked to silence all cell phones while visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, which preserves the solemnity of the space.

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial's visitor center, its two galleries, bookstore, wayside exhibits and Remembrance Circle are all free to visit and do not require tickets. For its main attraction, the USS Arizona Memorial, you must obtain a free, timed ticket.

The USS Arizona Memorial honors the 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives on the battleship during the attack. More than 900 bodies are still entombed in the ship's hull. The memorial sits overtop the wreckage and visitors can view the sunken ship.

Every day, the park service hands out approximately 1,300 free tickets to the memorial on a first-come, first-served basis. Expect long ticket lines and know that tickets may run out, especially during peak seasons, such as summer, spring break and the winter holidays. If you're visiting during peak times, arrive well before 7 a.m. Alternatively, you can reserve tickets up to 60 days in advance of your visit through Recreation.gov. These tickets are available to reserve starting at 7 a.m. HST. The earliest time slot you'll be able to book for advance tickets is 11 a.m.; early morning tickets cannot be reserved. If you're unable to reserve tickets 60 days in advance, you can also try to snag tickets online the day before your visit starting at 7 a.m. HST. No more than 12 tickets per person can be reserved in advance. Any tickets reserved in advance will be charged a nonrefundable $1 convenience fee per ticket. The park service recommends travelers with reserved tickets arrive one hour before their scheduled visit.

How to Tour Pearl Harbor

The park service operates free tours of the USS Arizona. Tours last approximately 75 minutes and include a short film about the attack and rides to and from the memorial on a boat operated by the U.S. Navy. Tours begin at the visitor center in 15-minute intervals between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily. Visitors consistently describe touring the memorial as an emotional, highly educational and thought-provoking experience. Both the film and the various informational exhibits are widely regarded as exceptionally well-done.

Travelers who want to enhance their experience at the USS Arizona have a few options. The first is a two-hour, self-guided audio tour. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis narrates the recording and guest speakers include historians and survivors of the attack. Multiple patrons recommend opting for the audio tour and say it is worth the $7.50 fee. Tech-savvy visitors may want to heed the advice of past travelers and upgrade to the deluxe tour of the facility, which includes the audio tour and access to the Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality Center. At the center, tourists can use virtual reality equipment to simulate walking aboard the USS Arizona prior to the attack, viewing the attack itself and visiting the memorial. Tickets for this tour start at $12.50. Both tours also charge a $1 convenience fee for advanced booking. Tours can be booked on Recreation.gov.

Visitors who wish to see all of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and its nearby sister sites, including the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, should purchase the Passport to Pearl Harbor. The package includes admission to all sites, plus tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial and its narrated tour. Tickets for the package cost approximately $72 for adults and $35 for children (plus the $1 fee per ticket) and include transportation by bus to and from Ford Island, which houses the USS Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Visitors may be asked to show ID before boarding the USS Missouri. Purchase tickets at Recreation.gov.

The park service provides a list of authorized tour companies that operate visits to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. If you select a tour not operated by the park service, be sure to read the company's tour description carefully to see what the tour includes in its fees. Some reviewers recommend visiting the site with a professional tour company simply for ease in the booking process, while others advise booking tickets yourself to tour at your own pace.

Getting There

You can drive to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and there is ample free parking at the visitor center. If you drive, use highway exits to Arizona Memorial Place and not Pearl Harbor, as the latter remains an active military base. Drivers should also steer clear of the Ford Island Bridge, which is near the visitor center, because access to the island is restricted to government and military personnel.

TheBus, Oahu's public transportation system, has several routes that stop just outside the visitor center, including No. 20 and No. 42. Several commercial tour companies incorporate visits to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial into their various tours, and multiple private transportation providers, such as limousine services, are available as well.

Additional tour options:

Looking for more information on Oahu? Check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

John Rodwan, Contributor

John G. Rodwan Jr. has written about arts and entertainment, food and beverages, hospitality ...  Read more

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