Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Pearl Harbor Travel Guide

Spencer Lowe

About Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Pearl Harbor is one of Oahu’s most popular sites - in fact, it ranks among the top three most trafficked attractions in the state. Since Pearl Harbor gets pretty busy, park coordinators have several procedures in place to keep the Memorial operating efficiently. If you’re looking for help navigating these park-specific procedures, you’re in the right place!

Here, we’ll give you everything you might need to plan your trip to Pearl Harbor National Memorial. And, if you’re looking for a good time to schedule a visit to the Memorial, Shaka Guide’s Circle Island Driving Tour finishes at Pearl Harbor, so you might consider planning these two events for the same day.

History of Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor’s history began long before the December 7, 1941 tragedy that plunged America headfirst into World War II. Before it was the headquarters for the United States Navy Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor was known as Wai Momi or Pu?uloa, “Waters of Pearl” and “Long Hill,” respectively. In native Hawaiian culture, this bay was respected as the home of the shark goddess, Ka?ahupahau. 

During this period, Keaunui-a-Maweke, a renowned and powerful Ewa High-Chief of the Nanaulu line, cut the channel now known as Pearl River Estuary, a tremendous feat, which made the bay ideal and navigable as a port. 

Pearl Harbor And The U.S.

From there, the bay remained relatively unchanged until the ratification of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875, which allowed the United States to claim this land. This treaty came to fruition after several failed attempts to pass a trade agreement with the Nation of Hawaii. Many citizens and leaders of Hawaii believed the treaty might lead to annexation - a fear confirmed by history. 

In the end, however, the struggle to afford United States sugar cane tariffs led Hawaiian leaders to agree to the treaty. Given the opportunity of the free trade agreement, many Americans invested in these sugar cane markets, which led to the proliferation of terrible conditions for Native Hawaiian farmers. As part of the reciprocity agreement, this first piece of Hawaii was handed over to the United States. The newly acquired bay was quickly converted into Pearl Harbor. 

Sixty-six years later, this relatively small piece of land on the south shore of Oahu was a bustling staging point for the United States Pacific Navy fleet. On December 7th, 1941 it became the focal point of an entire World War. 

The memorial park itself features oral histories and exhibits that incorporate the site of the attack which can educate you on the build-up to, events of, and aftermath from the attack on Pearl Harbor. And, for an interesting perspective on the story of Pearl Harbor, check out Shaka Guide’s Circle Island Driving Tour.

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Planning Your Visit

Pearl Harbor Memorial was, of course, a built-in remembrance of the attack on the United States, and the attractions surrounding the memorial focus on that pivotal moment in history. The site contains a host of things to see and learn from including museums, tours, programs, and historical parks. In this section, we’ll give you all the information you need to ensure your visit runs smoothly. 


The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, excluding Thanksgiving day, December 25th, and January 1st. Programs to the USS Arizona Memorial end at 3:00 p.m. 

Note that boat trips to the USS Arizona Memorial, a central attraction, might be suspended or canceled abruptly if conditions are poor. You can check for up-to-date information on the memorial’s Facebook page here.

Tickets, Reservations, and Costs

The Visitor Center, two on-site museums, and the USS Arizona Memorial Program are all free to visitors. However, there are limited spots daily, and free reservations are only available online. Booking online charges a $1 processing fee. 

You can make reservations here

Reservations are available in two windows: 8-week and 24-hour. If you make your reservation two or more days in advance, you’ll be in the 8 week window. These reservations sell-out quickly, so book ASAP if you know when you’ll be visiting. 

If you receive the “tickets not yet available” message, this refers to the 24-hour window and means that the 8-week window tickets have sold out. The 24-hour window tickets will become available at 3 pm HST the day before your planned visit to the memorial. 

Children do not need to acquire tickets or reservations if they will be small enough to sit in a ticketed individual’s lap for the entirety of the documentary and boat ride. 

Keep in mind that only one ticket can be claimed per person, so everyone going into the memorial park needs to be present at the ticketing booth. One individual may purchase up to 12 reservations, however, each reservation must be claimed by an individual at the counter, as well. 

The parks ask that you claim your tickets an hour before you are scheduled to enter. For the USS Arizona Memorial Program, also remember to report five to ten minutes early to claim your theater seats for the documentary portion that begins the program. 

Other Costs

The memorial program also offers audio tours, which will pick up right about where our Circle Island Driving Tour leaves off. The memorial’s tour costs $7.99 per headset plus the $1 processing fee.

There is also a USS Arizona Deluxe Tour available including virtual reality experience exhibits. The deluxe USS Arizona is $12.50, plus the $1 processing fee.

Admission to the USS Missouri costs $30 for adults or $14 for children, including the processing fee. Keep in mind that it closes at 4 pm.

General admission to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum costs $25 for adults, and $12 for kids aged 4-12. General Admission to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park costs $20 for adults or $12 for children ages 4-12

The all-inclusive Pearl Harbor Passport costs $79.99 for adults or $39.99 for children including processing. The passport option gives you access to all facilities including the aviation museum, submarine museum, and the USS Arizona Memorial Program.

Bags large enough to conceal anything are not allowed inside the memorial. Bag checking is $5. 

For children, Pearl Harbor offers a Jr. Ranger Scavenger Hunt booklet for $3. 

There is also a bookstore on-site that sells a range of books and souvenirs. There are no concessions inside the Memorial. 

Things to See at Pearl Harbor

There is plenty to see at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. If you choose to see everything available, you might spend eight hours making your way through all the attractions and exhibits. The sites to see include:

  • The Visitor Center
  • Two Pearl Harbor Museums On-Site
  • USS Arizona Memorial and Program
  • USS Oklahoma Memorial
  • Bowfin Submarine and Park
  • Battleship Missouri
  • Virtual Reality Exhibits
  • “Road to War” and “Attack on Pearl Harbor” Exhibits
  • Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater and Documentary
  • Interpretive Wayside Exhibits
  • Remembrance Circle Monument 


What should I bring?

Pearl Harbor coordinators suggest bringing sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water. You might also want a raincoat since Oahu’s rain can come quickly and sporadically.

What should I not bring?

  • Bags such as purses or backpacks, unless checking them in.
  • Glass containers
  • Recreation or sports equipment such as frisbees
  • Aerosol containers
  • Any type of weapon or blade

What should I wear?

Light clothing and sun protection. Please keep in mind that Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a cemetery and some visitors who come here do come to pay their respects to their family members who died in the attack. Slippers (flip-flops), t-shirts and shorts are entirely acceptable, but please be considerate and mindful about your clothing.

How long should I plan to spend at Pearl Harbor?

The basic free USS Arizona Tour takes around an hour and a half to complete. You’ll want to arrive an hour before your reservation and allow plenty of time for ticketing. There are other free exhibits and attractions to see as well, so you'll want to plan extra time for those.

If you are planning to see everything available at the park, expect your day to last 6 - 8 hours. 

Is there parking around Pearl Harbor?

The parking at Pearl Harbor National Memorial is currently free (although there have been talks recently that this will change). You can also reach Pearl Harbor via rideshare, Biki Bike and a Pearl Harbor tour (which often includes a hotel pickup and dropoff).

Want to see what Peal Harbor has to offer?

Check out our Grand Circle Island Tour!

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