Visiting Pearl Harbor is a bucket-list Oahu activity.
For many Americans, a first trip to Oahu wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Pearl Harbor.
A site of tremendous historical significance to the USA, Pearl Harbor is where the country was abruptly drawn into World War II in 1941, and also houses the site where World War II officially ended.
Today, Pearl Harbor is still an active US military base, but it also home to four sites of interest to visitors.
In this article we tell you about all the things to do in Pearl Harbor, plus everything you need to know to visit.
Ready? Let’s get started with our complete guide to visiting Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii!
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Why Visit Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, brought the US into the Second World War.
At 7.48 a.m. local time on that Sunday, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service launched the surprise attack, with more than 350 aircraft.
There were eight US Navy battleships in the harbor at the time. All were damaged, and four were sunk.
A total of 2,403 Americans were killed in the attack, and 1,178 more were wounded. It was the most deadly event that ever occurred in Hawaii.
On the next day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan.
Of the eight battleships that were damaged on that fateful day, six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war.
The USS Arizona and the USS Utah remain where they sank in Pearl Harbor.
World War II officially ended on September 2, 1945, when Japan formally surrendered on the deck of the US Battleship Missouri, then anchored in Tokyo Bay.
Today you can experience both bookends of World War II at Pearl Harbor, which is now home to the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
Pearl Harbor is one of the top places to visit in Hawaii!
While military history buffs and World War II history enthusiasts have a lot to see and do at the Pearl Harbor historic sites, Pearl Harbor is also an emotional look back for many Americans that want to offer respects.
BEST PEARL HARBOR TOURS
Want to visit Pearl Harbor from Honolulu but with someone else taking care of all the logistics? These are our top two Pearl Harbor tour picks:
1. If you have just half a day to visit, but want to make sure you get to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, consider this very popular tour: it includes round-trip transport from Honolulu and insightful commentary by a guide.
>> Check price and availability for this half-day Pearl Harbor tour now!
2. Have more time and more interest in WWII history? This highly-rated tour includes both the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri Memorial. Round-trip transport from Waikiki, and commentary by your guide, are included.
>> Check price and availability for this full-day Pearl Harbor tour now!
Things to Do in Pearl Harbor
There are four main sites to visit in Pearl Harbor: the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum.
In order to plan your visit to Pearl Harbor, you’ll first need to zoom in on the sites that interest you!
1. Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is the main draw for most visitors.
This Pearl Harbor site is managed by the National Park Service and includes the USS Arizona Memorial, by far the most-visited site in Pearl Harbor.
Step Inside the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center
Start your visit to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial at the Visitor Center.
Here you can view two exhibit galleries: Road to War and Attack.
The galleries are fascinating and include photos, artifacts from the battle, personal items, and other exhibits that take you back to the time of the attack and the events before and after.
You’ll find interpretive exhibits scattered about the facility, and if you have the time, they bring to life the events of that fateful day in 1941.
In the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater, you can watch a 23-minute documentary on the Pearl Harbor attack. Aside from the USS Arizona Memorial, the movie was at the top of our Pearl Harbor experience.
There’s also a bookstore, if you wish to bring back a souvenir from your visit to Pearl Harbor.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is open daily (other than Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day) from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, including the two exhibit galleries, is free to visit.
There are restrooms and drinking water fountains in the visitor center, and a small snack shop with sandwiches and drinks.
Planning your Oahu itinerary? Read our guide to the best Oahu tours and excursions, from shark cage diving to snorkeling with turtles and kayaking to the Mokes!
Pay Your Respects at the USS Arizona Memorial
The USS Arizona Memorial, with its graceful lines and pristine white facade, stands in the ocean, right over the spot where the battleship lies sunken in the water.
It was completed in 1962, and stands across the hull of the sunken battleship. The remains of the battleship are a National Historic Landmark.
Thousands of visitors take the boat ride to the memorial each day to spend a few minutes paying their respects to those that perished.
Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor is one of the best things to do in Oahu.
On the USS Arizona Memorial, the devastation that war wreaks feels very close, and the minutes of somber reflection here were incredibly moving for me.
There’s an opening in the floor, through which you can toss flowers onto the decks of the sunken ship. A marble wall bears the names of those that died in the attack, and a small plaque the names of the few that survived.
Oil still leaks from the ship, 80 years after it sank, and you can see it on the surface of the water.
The USS Arizona Memorial Program takes about 45 minutes, inclusive of check in.
You’ll ride a US Navy vessel to the memorial — the boat ride takes about 10 minutes — and you get 15 minutes at the memorial before taking the boat back to the visitor center.
Because the program is hugely popular, the USS Arizona Memorial Program requires advance reservation, which can be made online at Recreation.gov. There is a reservation fee of $1.00 per ticket.
Slots are released daily at 3 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time in two swathes: eight weeks in advance, and 24 hours in advance.
If a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial is high on your Oahu itinerary, we suggest reserving your desired time slot as soon as your date is open.
The program begins at 8 a.m. each morning, and runs every 15 minutes, with the last program at 3.30 p.m.
Note that the boat service to the USS Arizona Memorial can sometimes be suspended or canceled due to high winds.
Be sure to check in (with a printed or digital version of your reservation ticket) at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater at the visitor center, 10 minutes before your program start time. You do not want to miss the boat!
Good to know: Proper attire is expected, since you will be visiting a memorial site.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
Take the Ford Island Bus Tour
Want to visit a couple of less visited sites at Pearl Harbor? Take the Ford Island bus tour (run by the park service) to see the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials!
The USS Oklahoma and the USS Utah were two of the eight battleships in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Both ships sank in the attack.
The USS Utah was never recovered and remains in the waters where it sank. 58 service members aboard the ship perished.
The USS Oklahoma capsized and sank after it was hit by a torpedo. 429 service members aboard the ship died. It was later brought up, but deemed unfit for further service and sold for scrap.
Today you can visit the USS Utah Memorial and the USS Oklahoma Memorial, both of which are on Ford Island, an active duty military base.
You can also see six historic officer bungalows from the WWII time.
Visitors without an active-duty military ID have to join a bus tour, with advance reservations made at Recreation.gov. The tour is escorted by National Park Service rangers, who provide commentary.
There is one bus tour on any given day, and it runs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The program time is 3.15 p.m. to 5 p.m. and there are only 25 seats per bus tour.
Tickets are snapped up as soon as they become available, so make sure to reserve your spots as soon as your date opens up. Slots are released two weeks prior, and there is a reservation fee of $1.00 per ticket.
There is no fee for the Ford Island bus tour.
Commercial tour companies aren’t allowed, so the only way to do this tour is to reserve ahead and arrive independently at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, from where the tour departs.
Good to know: Bring ID, like a driver’s license or a passport — it’s required for check in. Also have a digital or printed copy of your reservation ticket available when you arrive for check-in, at 2.30 p.m.
2. Tour the Battleship Missouri Memorial
World War II ended on the Battleship Missouri, when General MacArthur accepted Japan’s formal surrender on “the surrender deck” on September 2, 1945.
The USS Missouri was commissioned in June 1944. In January 1945 it left for the Pacific Theater from Pearl Harbor, whereafter it participated in many attacks and battles in WWII.
In August 1945, it was decided that the USS Missouri would be the “surrender ship.” The ceremony, which lasted just 23 minutes, brought World War II to a formal end.
The USS Missouri went on to fight in the Korean War and the Gulf War before being decommissioned in 1992.
The last battleship ever built was then transported to Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii, where it became a floating museum, managed by the USS Missouri Memorial Association.
Today you can visit the Battleship Missouri Memorial on your trip to Pearl Harbor. The Mighty Mo is one of the most popular sites in Pearl Harbor!
The ship is very impressive, and it’s cool to stand on the surrender deck and see the area where the historic event occurred (it’s cordoned off).
The Battleship Missouri Memorial is open daily from 8 a.m.to 4 p.m., with last entry at 3 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
There is an entrance fee, $34.99 per adult and $17.49 per child (4-12) at the time of writing. A guided tour is included with ticket purchase, and other tours are available for additional charges.
After the guided tour you can continue to explore the ship on your own if you have the time and the interest.
You can buy tickets and tours online.
Good to know: The Battleship Missouri Memorial is located on an active military base, so to arrive here, you have to take the free shuttle bus from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
The shuttle runs every 15 minutes, with first departure at 8 a.m. and last departure at 3 p.m. The last return shuttle leaves the Battleship Missouri Memorial at 4.05 p.m.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
3. Visit the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
Located on Ford Island, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is housed in historic hangars from the World War II era.
For aviation and WWII buffs, the museum makes for a great stop on a visit to Pearl Harbor.
Exhibits in Hangar 37 are mainly focused on US involvement in the war, starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor to other events like the Battle of Midway from 1942 and beyond.
The museum’s collection includes several dozen restored historical aircraft, both from the American side and the Japanese side.
Hangar 37 also houses a couple of 360-degree flight simulators, and for an additional charge you can take the controls for a dogfight over the Pacific!
Hangar 79, which actually withstood the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, documents the history beyond WWII, and includes an aircraft restoration “shop.”
You can also browse the museum’s outdoor collection of helicopters, both historic and modern, and watch a film in the museum theater.
For a memorable experience, you can also ascend to the top of the Ford Island Control Tower, for views over the WWII aviation battlefield at Pearl Harbor.
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., other than on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
General admission at the time of writing is $25.99 for an adult and $14.99 for kids 4-12. You can buy tickets here.
Good to know: The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is located on Ford Island, so take the free shuttle bus from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to arrive.
The shuttle runs every 15 minutes, with first departure at 8 a.m. and last departure at 4 p.m. The last return shuttle leaves the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum at 5 p.m.
4. Tour the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is home to the USS Bowfin, a submarine from the World war II fleet.
The USS Bowfin went on multiple war patrols during WWII, and sank numerous ships, both large and small.
The museum also offers many other outdoor exhibits, including the Waterfront Memorial, which honors the more than 3,500 personnel lost during WWII.
There’s a conning tower, where you can view the cramped space inside a WWII-era submarine, a rescue chamber used to transport survivors to the surface of the ocean, a rare Japanese manned torpedo, and many other missiles and other artifacts.
The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is open daily from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., but closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
General admission at the time of writing is $21.99 per adult and $12.99 for children aged 4-12. You can buy tickets online.
Good to know: To arrive at the museum, you can drive and park in one of several free parking lots outside.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
Getting to Pearl Harbor
If you have a rental car, you can drive to Pearl Harbor. Pop in “Pearl Harbor National Memorial” in your GPS, else you may arrive at the military base instead.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial is located at 1 Arizona Place in Honolulu, and it is about a 45-minute drive from Waikiki (see map).
Traffic can be heavy, especially at peak times, so you’ll want to allow plenty of time.
If you do not plan to rent a car but will be based in Waikiki, you can take the public bus to Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
Take bus #20 or #42 from Waikiki (Kuhio Ave) or the Ala Moana Shopping Center.
The journey takes a little more than an hour and the ride currently costs $2.50 each way.
Note that buses can be packed at peak times and allow plenty of time.
By Shuttle or Rideshare
There are many shuttle services that take travelers from Waikiki hotels to various popular attractions on Oahu, including Pearl Harbor. Your hotel will be able to recommend options.
Taxi, Uber, or Lyft are also options, although they will be more expensive and may not be available exactly when you need your ride.
Guided Tours of Pearl Harbor
Prefer to leave the planning to someone else?
Especially if you do not plan to rent a car, or you are time-constrained, or you just want to visit the USS Arizona Memorial (or the USS Arizona and the Battleship Missouri), a guided tour is a great option.
Here are some popular Pearl Harbor tours to consider:
Getting Around in Pearl Harbor
Once you’ve arrived at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, it is easy to get to the different sites in Pearl Harbor.
The USS Arizona Memorial can only be accessed by boat. Make advance reservations for a day and time at Recreation.gov.
The USS Oklahoma Memorial and the USS Utah Memorial are located on Ford Island, an active military base. Reserve your spots (at Recreation.gov) on the 90-minute bus tour that will take you to these two memorials from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
The Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are located on Ford Island, an active military base. You can take the complimentary shuttle from and back to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
If you brought your car, you can drive to the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum. If you do not have a car, the museum is a short walk from Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
Visiting Pearl Harbor: What Does It Cost?
Here is the cost to visit the various sites at Pearl Harbor:
Pearl Harbor Visitor Center: Free
USS Arizona Memorial: Free (other than reservation fee of $1 per ticket)
Battleship Missouri Memorial: Adult $34. 99, Child 4-12 $17.49
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum: Adult $25. 99, Child 4-12 $14.99
Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum: Adult $21. 99, Child 4-12 $12.99
Total (if you visit all the sites): Adult $82.97, Child 4-12 $45.47
Passport to Pearl Harbor Combined Ticket
If you plan to visit several of the Pearl Harbor sites in one day, you may want to consider the Passport to Pearl Harbor, a combined admission ticket.
The passport does not provide cost savings but it is convenient if you do not want to worry about purchasing individual tickets.
We got our admission tickets to the Battleship Missouri and the two museums in person on the day of our visit. This gave us flexibility in the event we had to change our plans for the day, and we did not encounter long lines anywhere.
The Passport to Pearl Harbor includes admission to the fee museums at Pearl Harbor: the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum.
It also includes a one-hour self-guided narrated tour of the USS Arizona Memorial (but not the actual tickets, which have to be obtained at Recreation.gov), and admission to the USS Arizona Virtual Reality Center in the courtyard of the visitor center at Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
At the time of writing, the Passport to Pearl Harbor costs $89.99 for an adult and $44.99 for a child aged 4 to 12. There are discounts for military personnel and Hawaii residents: $67.99 per adult and $34.99 per child.
Where to Eat in Pearl Harbor
Food and Drink at Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The small snack shop in the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center offers sandwiches and drinks.
Dining Options at Battleship Missouri Memorial
Among the Pearl Harbor sites, the Battleship Missouri Memorial offers the best food options.
Battleshop offers snacks and drinks, and ice cream for warm afternoons.
Sliders Grill, a truck on the pier just outside, offers a decent menu, with Hawaiian plate lunch options, sandwiches and burgers, family meals, and salads.
There is seating by the water, where you can lunch with views of the water and the USS Arizona Memorial.
Sliders Grill is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. everyday other than on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
Nearby is Wai Momi Shave Ice, which offers pizza and churros in addition to shave ice.
The stand is open 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. everyday, other than on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
Food + Drink at Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
Hangar Cafe is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (the grill closes at 3 p.m.) and the menu features burgers, wraps, sandwiches, and rice bowls.
Food and Drink at the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
Jake’s Food Truck is open from 10 a.m. until 2.30 p.m. The menu includes Hawaiian plated lunches, tacos, nachos, burgers, and garlic fries.
How Long To Spend in Pearl Harbor
If you have just half a day to spend in Pearl Harbor, you should be able to visit the most iconic sites.
Tour the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and watch the film, take the boat tour to the USS Arizona Memorial (with prior reservation) and tour the Battleship Missouri Memorial. This will take you about 4 hours, exclusive of travel time.
We suggest choosing a morning option for the USS Arizona Memorial. This will free you up to decide which other sites to visit.
Plus, the wind usually kicks up in the afternoon, making it more likely that the boat tours will be suspended or canceled.
If you have a full day to spend in Pearl Harbor, you can do the above, plus do the Ford Island Bus Tour or visit the aviation museum and/or the submarine museum, depending on your interests.
Best Oahu Tours
Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?
Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!
The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.
Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!
Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.
A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu advennture for your bucket list.
We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.
Renting a Car in Oahu
If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.
Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).
While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.
We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle
If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!
This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!
Where to Stay in Oahu
Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.
While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.
Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!
On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.
More Oahu Travel Inspiration
Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!
Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.
Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!
More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.
Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.
We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!
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