A Day at The Pearl Harbor Historic Sites

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While many know the USS Arizona Memorial just as “Pearl Harbor,” the sites that make up World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument are the most popular travel destination in Hawai’i.  More than 1.5 million visitors travel to the site each year. Many don’t know that the monument is made up of a dozen surrounding museums and sites each telling an important part of the Pearl Harbor story.

Between the visitor traffic and the number of things to see and do, the best way to enjoy your visit is to have a plan before you arrive.   Best to avoid long lines and not allowing enough time to see everything the monument has to offer. Today we’re posting an itinerary to help you make the most of your visit to the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.

Pearl Harbor – The Sites

A visit can include a tour of all or some of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites:

  • USS Arizona Memorial (museum on the grounds of the monument, Memorial located via ferry)
  • USS Utah & USS Oklahoma Memorial (on Ford Island via bus)
  • Battleship Missouri Memorial (on Ford Island via bus ride)
  • USS Bowfin Museum (on the grounds of the monument)
  • The Pacific Aviation Museum (on Ford Island via bus)
Docking at the USS Arizona Memorial – Pearl Harbor Historic Sites

Pearl Harbor – Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial

The ferry ride to visit the USS Arizona Memorial is the most popular attraction at WWII Valor in the Pacific.  There are two ways to get tickets, free through the National Park Service or through a paid private tour company.  It’s important that you decide up before you go which route you plan to take.  Private tour companies can charge large amounts for tour add-ons and can take up extra time that your group may not want to spend. In some cases private tours may not even include the ferry ride to the USS Arizona Memorial.

It’s best to get the free tickets directly from the NPS at recreation.gov If you are not able to reserve a date, you can also pick up one of the 1,300 same-day, first-come-first-serve tickets at the ranger desk.  These tickets are also free.  Programs run every 15 minutes starting at 7:30 am. We highly recommend pre-arranging tickets through the National Park Service and getting to the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites as early in the day as possible to limit wait time.

Pearl Harbor – Visiting the partner sites

Partner sites at the monument include the Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Museum and Pacific Aviation Museum.  These are not operated by the National Park Service, but are located on the same grounds as the National Monument.  All three sites have interesting exhibits and can be a terrific add-on to any visit.  We recommend selecting two of the three that seem most interesting to your group.

Also, for those #parkchasing a visit to all the units in the National Park Service, WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument is considered as one unit towards the #417 total.  Although the USS Arizona, USS Utah, and USS Oklahoma all have their own Memorial designation they are all part of the same park unit. One other tip, a visit to the USS Utah on Ford Island requires military clearance from a current service member. The military prohibits the public from this secure area of the island.

Outside the Battleship Missouri Memorial

Pearl Harbor Historic Sites – A One Day Itinerary

Arrive at Pearl Harbor as early as possible (around 8 AM to help with crowds).  Check in at the ranger station to confirm your ferry shuttle time.  Collect your Passport to the National Parks stamps at the gift shop. Visit the exhibits in the “Road to War” and “Attack” exhibit halls before your departure on the ferry to the USS Arizona Memorial.  As a reminder, the Memorial is home to the remains of more than 1100 sailors and Marines killed on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941.  Visitors should spend time reflecting on this sacrifice and be respectful of the significance of this historic resting place.

Upon the return to mainland, book the shuttle tickets to Ford Island for a visit to the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pacific Aviation Museum. We recommend the “Heart of the Missouri” guided tour which takes you deeper into the ship in a smaller group.  Total time on the USS Battleship Missouri was about 2 hours.  Then spend another 1-1.5 hours strolling through the airplanes and flight gear at the Pacific Aviation Museum. Our favorite part of the Pacific Aviation Museum was the inside of an original military hangars on Ford Island. The bullet holes from approaching Japanese planes can still be seen through the glass windows of the building.

Bullet Holes in a Hangar at the Pacific Aviation Museum

Hawaii’s other National Parks

While the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites certainly draw the most visitors, Hawaii has many other National Park Service units worth visiting.  For a recap of some of our favorites, check out the links below:
Visit all the National Park Service Sites in Hawaii
Hiking Hawaii Volcanoes: The Kilauea Iki Trail
Great National Park Drives: Chain of Craters Road
Pu’uhonau O Honaunau National Historical Park in Pictures

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