No Visit to Oahu Would Be Complete Without Visiting Pearl Harbor. To Help You Navigate These Memorials, Museums and Monuments, Here Are Some Vital Things to Know Before Visiting Pearl Harbor.
Article Updated September 2018
We were very much looking forward to visiting Pearl Harbor and we had dedicated a few hours in our itinerary. Little did I know however the amount of planning and research that was required before making this visit! I found the whole process a little confusing. So, to assist with your visit and to help make sure it’s an easy process for you and your family, here are some essential things to know before visiting Pearl Harbor.
USEFUL TRAVEL TIPS
- #01 – HOW TO GET TO PEARL HARBOR.
- #02 – CAN I BRING MY BAG TO PEARL HARBOR?
- #03 – CAN I BRING MY CAMERA TO PEARL HARBOR?
- #04 – CAN I BRING MY STROLLER/PRAM TO PEARL HARBOR?
- #05 – PEARL HARBOR DRESS CODE
- #06 – SLIP SLOP SLAP WHEN VISITING PEARL HARBOR.
- #07 – THINGS TO DO IN PEARL HARBOR.
- #08 – CAN I VISIT PEARL HARBOR FOR FREE?
- #09 – TIPS FOR USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL TOUR.
- #10 – PASSPORT TO PEARL HARBOR – ALL ACCESS PASS.
- #11 – PEARL HARBOR TOURS.
- #12 – USS BOWFIN SUBMARINE MUSEUM & PARK.
- #13 – USS MISSOURI BATTLESHIP.
- #14 – PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM.
- BONUS TIP #1 – RELATED ARTICLES
- BONUS TIP #2 – WHERE TO STAY IN OAHU
#01 – HOW TO GET TO PEARL HARBOR.
How to Get to Pearl Harbor by Car.
We decided to rent a car for the day as there were other places we wanted to get to in the southern parts of Oahu. If you’d like to know what else we did you can check out our long list of things to do in Oahu with kids.
If you’re coming from Waikiki, get on the H-1 West Freeway and take exit 15A, Arizona Memorial.
Cost: Parking is free at Pearl Harbor.
Top tip: When we arrived at 09.00am, there were quite a few car parks left so there was no issue in finding one. We left around 11.30am and the parking by that time was full.
How to Get to Pearl Harbor by Bus.
The cheapest way to Pearl Harbor is by public transport.
Cost: A daily ticket will only cost you USD$5.50 for an adult and USD$2.75 for a child.
Bus route: Buses #20 or #42 from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor will take you about an hour.
Top tip: Please note that the buses have less routes on the weekend so do check the timetable so you’re not waiting for long periods of time.
How to Get to Pearl Harbor by Taxi/Uber.
This will cost about USD$40 each way and the journey takes about 25 minutes each way.
#02 – CAN I BRING MY BAG TO PEARL HARBOR?
Pearl Harbor is an active Navy base therefore no bags are permitted. No backpacks, purses, fanny packs, camera bags, luggage, shopping bags or even diaper bags. I was permitted to enter with a small pouch the size of my hand. Otherwise wear clothing with a ton of pockets!
What if I need a bag for later?
Bag storage is available on site at a cost of USD$4.00 per bag. The Pearl Harbor storage facility is in operation daily from 6:30am to 5:30pm.
#03 – CAN I BRING MY CAMERA TO PEARL HARBOR?
No camera bags are permitted inside Pearl Harbour.
But I want to bring my camera!
Not to worry. You still can. We had our Canon DLSR and we just carried it around our neck and were allowed to do so. We also had to hand carry our second lens.
Good to know: Selfie sticks are currently still also permitted.
#04 – CAN I BRING MY STROLLER/PRAM TO PEARL HARBOR?
Strollers and prams are allowed inside the visitor centre but it is not permitted in the theatre or the shuttle boat, which is essentially your tour of the USS Arizona Memorial. The stroller may be left outside the start of the tour with the Park Rangers. That means for the tour you will have to carry your baby or toddler for at least 75 minutes.
Can I put my diaper bag in the stroller?
Nope! The storage compartment of your pram cannot house your diaper or nappy bags. You can however place your diapers or nappies in that space along with your baby food and wipes.
#05 – PEARL HARBOR DRESS CODE
Pearl Harbor is a place of honour and has deep historical meaning. Whilst there is no strict dress code, bathing suits, clothing revealing too much skin (very short shorts) or clothing with profanity in its design is deemed inappropriate.
Top tip: Make sure you wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking to be done.
#06 – SLIP SLOP SLAP WHEN VISITING PEARL HARBOR.
The visitor centre is essentially an open-air museum and there are very few shaded areas. It was a really hot day when we visited so its essential you have on some sunscreen, bring a hat and some sunglasses.
#07 – THINGS TO DO IN PEARL HARBOR.
I had no idea how big Pearl Harbor was and I have to admit I found it all very confusing to start with. So, let me break it down for you.
Pearl Harbor has 4 sections of which they are all independent of each other. What they have in common is that they are in one area. I will delve into more specifics in the other points below.
- Area One: USS Arizona Memorial. This is the main tour that people take and is completely free. This is the tour where you get on a shuttle boat and that takes you out to see the memorial of the USS Arizona.
- Area Two: USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. After you finish the tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, the next closest attraction is the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. If you are into submarines and have never been on one, this is your chance.
- Area Three: Battleship Missouri Memorial. This is the one opportunity to get on a real-life battleship and it comes with an audio tour as well.
- Area Four: Pacific Aviation Museum. Access to the hangers to check out over 50 aircrafts.
So, it has been said that if you wanted to do everything and learn everything about the history of Pearl Harbor, you need to set aside 8 hours.
See below for information on an all access pass if you intend on visiting all the sites and museums. If you’re only interested in some of the parks and museums, keep reading below to find out information and costs for the individual sights.
#08 – CAN I VISIT PEARL HARBOR FOR FREE?
As mentioned above, the main tour that people take when visiting Pearl Harbor is the USS Arizona Memorial program. This involves a 23-minute feature film that explains everything you need to know about what happened on this dreaded day followed by a shuttle boat tour to the USS Arizona Memorial.
Cost: This USS Arizona Memorial tour is free.
If you have been doing some research (we didn’t, we just rocked up!), you would have heard that people sometimes line up for 7+ hours to get a ticket and some people arrive as early as 6am. We got there around 8.45am, got our tickets with no queuing and hopped on the 09.15am tour. It must have been our lucky day! There are 1300 Pearl Harbor walk in tickets available each day with the first tour at 7am.
Can I book my tickets in advance?
You can now book your tickets online to avoid the queues and to also secure your share for the day.
#09 – TIPS FOR USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL TOUR.
Get to the start of the tour at the appointed time. You will be greeted by a park ranger that will explain the tour to you and what to expect. As mentioned above, strollers are to be left outside and phones are not to be used, not even for texting. This 75-minute tour is about paying quiet respect to those who have lost their lives.
About the film and top tip:
We were then ushered into the theatre for a 23-minute feature film that shows you everything you need to know about what happened at Pearl Harbor. The film includes real footage of the day and is incredibly moving. If you know nothing about the Battle of Pearl Harbor, this is the best place to start. After the film concludes, you are ushered onto the shuttle boat for the rest of the tour. The doors are located on the left of the theatre so if you want to grab a good seat, sit that side if possible so you exit first.
Tips about the shuttle boat:
When you get on the boat, try to get a seat right on the edges so you can get an unobstructed view for photos. It doesn’t matter whether you sit on the left or the right as the boats turn at all angles for everyone to get a good shot. The shuttle boat is narrated the entire time as you head out onto the water. Please be advised that the shuttle boat tour did not allow us on the memorial itself. We were only permitted to pay our respects from a distance.
There are no restrooms in the theater or the shuttle boat so be sure to go before starting your free tour.
#10 – PASSPORT TO PEARL HARBOR – ALL ACCESS PASS.
If you are a true history buff and which to visit everything available in Pearl Harbor, it would be advisable to get the Passport to Pearl Harbor.
Cost: It costs USD$99.99 per adult and USD$56.99 for children between the ages of 4-12 years.
Your Passport to Pearl Harbor includes:
- Audio tour of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and Museum
- Audio guide to the USS Arizona Memorial
- Admission and Acoustiguide tour of the Battleship Missouri Memorial
- Admission to the Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality Center
- Transportation to and from Ford Island from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center
- Tickets to the Pacific Aviation Museum including WWII Hangars 37 and 79
- Audio tour of the Pacific Aviation Museum
- Admission and audio tour of the Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park
- Oklahoma Memorial
Please note: If you purchase the Passport to Pearl Harbor at the visitor centre, it DOES NOT include the timed USS Arizona Memorial Tour. You will have to arrange that separately as it is free.
Top tip: However, if you get your Passport to Pearl from the recreation.gov website, it includes the USS Arizona Memorial tour. So, this would be your best bet, so you don’t miss out.
Another top tip: If you can’t finish the tour in one day and you’re able to return within the 7 days from the date of purchase, you can extend the Passport to Pearl Harbor for $10.00 at the Visitor Centre.Looking for an all access pass to Pearl Harbor? Check out the ONLY website you can buy this deal from. #pearlharbor #thingstodooahu #familytravel Click To Tweet
#11 – PEARL HARBOR TOURS.
Google Pearl Harbor tours and you will be inundated with choices. As we didn’t get on one, I don’t have any to recommend but you will have no trouble finding one that will suit you. Although I have heard many mention the Pearl Harbor Deluxe Tour which includes transfers and some also offer lunch.
#12 – USS BOWFIN SUBMARINE MUSEUM & PARK.
The USS Bowfin Submarine is also located at Pearl Harbor and can be done independently of all the other available museums or tours. Admission to the USS Bowfin includes admission to the museum as well as a free self-guided audio tour. The park area includes a Waterfront Submarine Memorial, a Japanese suicide torpedo and other free outdoor exhibits.
Cost: Admission is USD$15.00 for adults and USD$7.00 for children (4-12 years of age).
#13 – USS MISSOURI BATTLESHIP.
If you’re not interested in getting the Passport to Pearl Harbor but would like to also visit the USS Missouri, you can just purchase those tickets.
Cost: The cost is USD$29.00 for adults and USD$13.00 for children (4-12 years of age). Other options are also available if you wish for a more in-depth tour.
#14 – PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM.
Again, if you would like to only visit the museum instead of buying the Passport to Pearl Harbor, you can do so at a separate admission price. You will be provided with a self-guided audio tour of hangers 37 & 39. Here you will be able to get access to over 50+ aircrafts and all of the exhibits.
Cost: USD$20.00 for adults and USD$10.00 for children (4-12 years of age).
Phew! And there you have it. So many things to know before visiting Pearl Harbor! But as I have always said, best to do all the hard work before you go to avoid disappointment as this is one of the top things to do in Oahu.
The best day to visit Pearl Harbor would be any weekday. Try and avoid the weekends if possible.
Many people wonder if Pearl Harbor is worth visiting and my verdict is a definite yes. You don’t have to be a history buff or be interested in anything to do with war. It is still a highly educational and moving place to visit.
The key takeaways before visiting Pearl Harbor are:
- Pearl Harbor is an active Navy Base so dress appropriately and security is paramount hence the inability to bring anything in.
- Pearl Harbor is a memorial and therefore suitable behavior in paying respect to those who lost their lives is required. This is not a theme park.
- If you wish to see everything it has to offer, get the Passport to Pearl Harbor from the recreation.gov website as it includes the free USS Arizona Memorial tour and is the only website you can get this from. Allow about 8 hours.
- If you don’t wish to see everything, you can buy tickets separately for the individual museums that may interest you.
BONUS TIP #1 – RELATED ARTICLES
BONUS TIP #2 – WHERE TO STAY IN OAHU
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If you’d like to stay away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu, check out these 1 or 2-bedroom bungalows in Laie in the North Shore. The bungalow is cosy, comes with a full equipped kitchen and has a sitting area. It is part of a larger home and Martha the owner rents it out for holiday makers, so she can afford to live in Oahu. She is known to be friendly and helpful and you’ll find it’s a home away from home!
Book Now Pay Later – Check Prices Here
West Coast Luxury: Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
The west coast of Oahu is less of a popular spot compared to Honolulu and the north Shore. It does however boasts some beautiful beaches, especially in Ko Olina. And if you’re after a bit of luxury, look no further than the Four Season Resort. With a pool, spa, tennis court and a golf course, its definitely a property for everyone in the family. Rooms offer ocean views, the service is excellent and the rooms are luxurious.
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Budget: Backpackers Vacation Inn and Plantation Village
If you’re on a budget, this spacious accommodation in Haleiwa in Oahu’s north just may be the answer for you. Rooms are comfortable, has a small kitchen area and plenty of room. Great for families, has free parking if you’re renting a car and you’ll have access to laundry facilities. Best of all you are only a 5-minute walk from Shark’s Cove and the gorgeous Waimea Bay.
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