Before 2020, the USS Arizona Memorial received an average of 4,500 visitors per day. “How to visit Pearl Harbor” is a highly searched topic and worthy of research and planning. It is a hugely popular tourist destination, and rightly so. It is run by the National Park Service, and very affordable.
- Visiting the visitor center – free, no ticket required
- Visit the USS Arizona Memorial – free, but a ticket is required Make reservations here.
Pearl Harbor itself is pretty removed from Honolulu and the conveniences of Waikiki. Its on the water and surrounded by highways and thoroughfares between Honolulu and the leeward side of Oahu.
There is not much convenience around Pearl Harbor visitor center at all. This post will outline how to visit Pearl Harbor and everything else you must see around it.
Table of Contents
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack took place early in the morning and lasted for about two hours. The Japanese launched a wave of over 350 aircraft, including torpedo bombers, dive bombers, and fighter planes. The attack resulted in significant damage to the US Pacific Fleet, with eight battleships being damaged or destroyed, as well as many other ships and aircraft.
The striations of machine gun fire are still visible today, in the concrete of what was a boat ramp on Ford Island.
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Pearl Harbor Today
How to visit Pearl Harbor
Today Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam is an active Naval & Air Force Base. Ford island is part of that command and continues to be a functioning part of active military service.
Do you need a military ID to see Pearl Harbor Visitor Center?
No, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial are not part of the active duty Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. It is completely detached from base and you do not need a military ID.
Is Pearl Harbor still an active military base?
Yes, Joint Base Pearl Harbor- Hickam is still a functioning asset of the US military for both the Navy & Air Force with active ships and aircraft.
How do you get to Pearl Harbor?
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is not easily walkable from anywhere in Honolulu. Vehicle transportation to the visitor center is strongly recommended.
There is a public bus stop at the entrance to Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
- Public bus
- Car Rentals
- Permitted transportation companies
The National Park Service has directions and permitted companies.
No bags permitted at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is still an active base. For security reasons no bags are allowed on busses to Ford Island or at the Memorial. There is on site storage at the visitor center for $7/bag $10/luggage.
What is there to see at Pearl Harbor now?
The Arizona Memorial is the most widely known and popular memorial of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. But there are several other memorials on Ford Island that are accessible by bus and free to see as well as the Battleship Missouri which has several hundred visitors a day.
Most recently the Aviation Museum reopen the original air traffic control tower from WWII on Ford Island. You can walk to the top of the tower!
All of them are accessible by bus from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. How to visit Pearl Harbor includes:
- USS Arizona
- USS Utah
- USS Oklahoma Memorial
- Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
- Battleship Missouri
- Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
The Arizona Memorial
The entire ship of the USS Arizona is visible from Google earth. The white memorial hovering above the water is the memorial.
How to Visit Pearl Harbor Visitor Center
The visitor center is more like a museum with exhibits, artifacts and films that replay the events that led up to the attack and the aftermath.
Ford Island is the island in the middle of the geographical Pearl Harbor that was, and still is, an active military base. Military ID is required for entry to Ford Island, unless you’re on permitted bus tour. Ford Island is home to:
- Battleship Missouri Museum
- USS Oklahoma Memorial
- USS Utah Memorial
- Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
How to Visit Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
Just like the Battleship Missouri, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is operated independently from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center & Memorial. Tickets are required to get in and it is not cheap.
Located on Ford Island, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is housed in an original hangar from WWII next to the original air traffic control tower.
- Adults $25.99
- Children 4-12 $14.99
- Under 3 Free
- Top of the Tower 19.99 add on, or $34.99 stand alone
- Hours 9-5p HST, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Day
- Free shuttle every 15 minutes from the Pearl Harbor Visitor’s Center from 8am – 4pm
Battleship Missouri Museum
Also on Ford Island, the Battleship Missouri Museum is another nonprofit association preserving history, operating independently. Tickets are required. Proceeds from ticket sales support the preservation and restoration of the Battleship Memorial
- Adults $34.99
- Children 4-12 17.49
- Under 3 free
- Tour upgrades $30 additional
- Hours 8a-4p, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Day
- Last admission 3p
USS Oklahoma Memorial
Located just outside the gangway to the Battleship Missouri, the Oklahoma memorial is a stunning representation of the naval tradition manning the rails.
USS Utah Memorial
On the opposite side of Ford Island is sits the USS Utah, still in the water as it was on December 7, and partially above water. No changes, no preservation, just destruction visible from the dock.
Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is home to the USS Bowfin which was built shortly after the Attack on Pearl Harbor and completed in 1942. She sank 34 large vessels in service during WWII. The USS Bowfin served during the Korean Conflict, and as Naval Reserve training in Seattle before becoming a museum in 1979.
- Adults $21.99
- Children 4-12 $12.99
- Military & locals $15 adult, $7.99 child
- Open 7a-5p, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Passport to Pearl Harbor Ticket – all in one ticket
*Passports do not include reservations or tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial.
- Passport to Pearl Harbor Tours includes:
- Visitor Center Audio Tour (1 hour)
- Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality Center (15-20 minutes)
- Battleship Missouri Memorial Admission (1.5-2 hours)
- Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum Admission & Self-guided Narrated Tour (1.5-2 hours) Last entries to museum building is 4:30pm.
- Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum & Self-guided Narrated Tour (1-1.5 hours)
- Adults 89.99
- Children ages 4-12 $49.99
Best Place to Eat at Pearl Harbor
After all of this – arriving early, walking in the sun, shuttling from place to place, where are you going to eat?! There are food courts in most of these places but where you NEED to eat is Restaurant 604.
- Opens at 10:30 daily
- Daily drink specials
- Sit down service
- Kid friendly
- On the water
How to Visit Pearl Harbor: Conclusion
Visiting Pearl Harbor is pretty straight forward once you get there. Its affordable, educational, and there’s something for every age. No military ID is required, btu there are strict limitations on baggage when accessing Ford Island via the free shuttle. Remember, its a lot of walking and not within walking to distance to anything. Take public transportation or a Uber so you don’t have to navigate Honolulu traffic or park!
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I'm a USMC spouse, South Carolina native, recovering homeschool mama of a 4 boy circus. They've taught me the most important facet of family photography: KEEP IT FUN!