Known the world over as a “date which will live in infamy,” the devastating events of December 7, 1941, changed the course of history. It was here that a surprise air attack by the Japanese plunged the United States into World War II, claiming thousands of lives. At Pearl Harbor, that tragic history is never too far in the past. Hear first-hand stories from survivors describing the chaotic scene on Battleship Row. Walk through an airplane hangar that still bears the scars from that fateful morning. And peer into the shallow harbor where the sunken hulk of the USS Arizona rests, still leaking oil that pools on the water’s surface like black tears, as they’ve been described.
The Hawaiian name for Pearl Harbor is Puʻuloa (long hill). Later named Pearl Harbor for the pearl oysters that were once harvested from the waters, the natural harbor is the largest in Hawaiʻi.
Attractions at Pearl Harbor
Immerse yourself for a part or more of the day in five historic sites that compose Pearl Harbor today. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is a free attraction at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, a unit of the US National Park Service (NPS). It is also the gateway to the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites: Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial, home of the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Oklahoma Memorial, and USS Utah Memorial.
A place where you can learn and connect to your World War II story, reflecting on the conflict and recognizing the peace. Today, the USS Arizona Memorial is a place of somber beauty and quiet reflection, the final resting place of over 900 sailors and Marines. Budget for about 2-hours of time, begin at the visitor center, where you can visit two world-class museums, watch a film about the attack and view plaques honoring lives lost on that fateful day. You’ll then take a US Navy vessel to the memorial built overtop the USS Arizona, where a large marble wall holds the names of the men who lost their lives. Poignant and powerful, this is a place where you’ll come face to face with the devastating effects of war, honor the dead, and remember the world-changing events borne of war and peace. It is a place of learning and inspiration, reflection, and contemplation. Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial is free, but you must reserve a time slot on the Recreation.gov website for the boat tour in advance. The walk-in first-come first-served ticket distribution program is no longer available.
Equally important, the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials are located on an active military base and are open to those with military base access. The USS Oklahoma Memorial tells the incredible story of rescue and survival against all odds and acknowledges the sacrifice of 429 men. On the opposite side of Ford Island, the USS Utah Memorial commemorates the only other remaining ship from the attack. Partially visible above the waterline the USS Utah is the final resting place for 58 men and is an inspiration for visitors to enrich their understanding about Pearl Harbor, beyond the traditional stories.
More Details: To reserve official tickets for the NPS-facilitated USS Arizona Memorial Program visit: www.recreation.gov.
Hours (Pearl Harbor Visitor Center): Daily 7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1
Please visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial website for more information: www.nps.gov/perl.
Pacific Historic Parks
As an official cooperating association of the National Park Service, Pacific Historic Parks operates the popular museum store on the grounds of Pearl Harbor National Memorial. The non-profit also offers self-guided audio tours narrated by renowned actress Jamie Lee Curtis. She will walk you through 29 stops, including the two museums, the USS Arizona Memorial and the Walk of Remembrance. Total cost is $7.99.
PHP also offers a Virtual Reality Experience including two newly released VRs that retrace the events leading up to and including December 7, 1941. “Air Raid Pearl Harbor” and “Skies Over Pearl” are available for rent at $7.99 each. Air Raid Pearl Harbor provides the timeline of the attack and places you on the deck of the USS Utah, one of the battleships destroyed on the day of the attack. Skies Over Pearl puts you in the cockpit of a Japanese fighter plane as it departs the aircraft carrier Akagi 230 miles northeast of Oʻahu and heads for military airfields and Pearl Harbor.
Visitors who have viewed the two new narrated VRs say it is an experience that should be seen before touring the USS Arizona Memorial and the two World War II museums on the grounds of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
In addition to the new VRs, there are earlier generation VRs also available to rent at the VR Center.
You can also walk the deck of the USS Arizona on the day it was attacked and sunk December 7, 1941, with a 360-degree perspective to view the entire battleship. Another VR takes you underwater to explore the sunken battleship, including a look at the mammoth guns never fired in battle. See the place that USS Arizona survivors have their remains interred to join their fellow shipmates in eternity. This is a rare experience as diving is strictly controlled in this revered war grave.
And a reminder: these programs DO NOT include the boat tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial. To book those $1 tickets go to recreation.gov
Battleship Missouri Memorial
The Battleship Missouri Memorial, located a mere ship’s length from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, completes a historical visitor experience that begins with the “day of infamy” that saw the sinking of the USS Arizona and other battleships in Pearl Harbor and ends with Imperial Japan’s formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.
America’s last battleship, the USS Missouri (BB-63), had an astounding career spanning five decades and three wars – World War II, Korea, and Operation Desert Storm. The historic Mighty Mo spans 887-feet and weighs 45,000-tons. She is open for visitors as the Battleship Missouri Memorial, operated as a private, nonprofit organization on historic Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.
More Details: For visitor information or to reserve a tour, call (808) 455-1600 or visit www.ussmissouri.org
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Duration: Plan between 2-3 hours
Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum campus recently underwent an extensive renovation to better honor the history of the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Force. The campus is also the home of USS Bowfin (SS-287), a fleet submarine that was launched on December 7, 1942 and nicknamed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger.” Bowfin made nine war patrols in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. She opened to the public at Pearl Harbor in 1981, and proudly represents the 288 U.S. submarines that served in the Pacific during WWII. Tour Bowfin to learn what it was like for her crew of 80 men to serve onboard. Visit the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum to learn and be inspired by the proud past and bright future of the U.S. Navy’s “Silent Service” – from WWII, the Cold War, today and into the future.
More Details: For visitor information visit www.bowfin.org and Purchase Tickets: Call 808-423-1341 or Book Online at www.bowfin.org/plan-your-visit
Hours: Daily 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Duration: Plan between 1-2 hours
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
Experience the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor from the place where bombs first fell on the fateful day. Beginning with the attack and covering the major battels of World War II, followed by 75+ years of aviation history, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum shows the innovation and values of the Greatest Generation rose from the ashes of despair to shape the 20th century.
At the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum you can stand on America’s World War II Battlefield. The hangars and surrounding tarmac still bear the scars of the attack in the form of bullet holes, strafe marks, and bomb craters.
As you step into the hangars, you cross the threshold of time and walk into the pages of history. Vintage aircraft, personal effects and artifacts from history’s greatest men and women, and a hulking piece of the USS Arizona superstructure offer an unexplored piece of American history. In summer 2021, visitors will be able to purchase tickets to the Ford Island Control Tower to view the Pearl Harbor battlefield from above and explore a 360 degree view of how the attack that changed the course of history unfolded.
More Details: For visitor information and tour options, visit www.pearlharboraviationmuseum.org and Purchase Tickets: Call 808-423-1341 or Book Online at www.pearlharboraviationmuseum.org
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Duration: Plan between 1-2 hours
Pearl Harbor is still an active U.S. naval base. Due to increased security, the following items are prohibited: purses, backpacks, fanny packs, diaper bags, camera bags, luggage and any other items that provide concealment. Bag storage is available for an extra fee.