Pearl Harbor, located in Oahu, Hawaii, is a site of immense historical significance. It stands as an enduring memorial to those who lost their lives during the tragic events of WWII. Visitors can explore museums dedicated to preserving this history and visit sites such as Battleship Row – where many ships were sunk during the attack – or USS Arizona Memorial – which honors those killed aboard the battleship USS Arizona. Through these monuments and exhibits, we can learn about the heroic actions of individuals involved on both sides of the conflict. We will also gain insight into how this fateful day changed the nation forever.

Let’s tackle more about Pearl Harbor in this article. As we take a tour of its historical sites, we shall remember the heroes from that fateful day and all those impacted by its events.


  • Learn about WWII history as you visit USS Arizona Memorial
  • Immerse in the historic site of the Battleship Missouri
  • Tour the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum
  • Learn about the military airplanes’ history at Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum


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On December 7th, 1941 at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian time, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It resulted in the death of many people and damage to several American naval vessels. The 353 Japanese aircraft attacks were intended as a pre-emptive strike against the United States’ growing involvement in World War II in the Pacific region. It came as a shock to Americans due to their neutrality before the event. President Franklin Roosevelt went on to call it “a date which will live in infamy”. In response, Congress declared war on Japan and officially entered World War II almost immediately. Less than two hours elapsed between attacks, resulting in 2403 Americans being killed and nearly 1,100 injured. The USS Arizona’s explosion and sinking were to blame for the bulk of the fatalities.

All 8 of the US warships in Pearl Harbor were damaged, and 4 of them were sunk. The raid damaged a total of 21 ships, but because the water was so shallow, many of them could be repaired. Therefore, all but 3 of them were put back into service. World War II officially came to an end on September 2 aboard the Battleship Missouri. The USS Missouri is one of four historical sites that you can visit in Pearl Harbor.

Things To Do in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

The story of Pearl Harbor has been told countless times since then. Each iteration reminds us of the sacrifices made by both service members and civilians alike at such a pivotal moment in history. Pearl Harbor National Memorial is one of the most memorial destinations located on Oahu Island. People take solace in knowing that it inspired courage and solidarity throughout our nation during its darkest hour. Pearl Harbor National Memorial draws almost 2 million visitors every year, making it one of Hawaii’s most popular tourist and historical attractions. Let’s run down the top things to do in Pearl Harbor.

Take a Ferry Boat and Visit the USS Arizona Memorial

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Imagine being able to tour the modest structure built over the submerged ship of the Battleship USS Arizona’s. A site reflecting the historical event of December 7, 1941, the day an armor-piercing bomb sank it. The USS Arizona Memorial is where your Pearl Harbor adventure begins. The ship’s sinking led to 1,177 sailors and Marines dying in the line of duty. Until now, the ship is still lying on the harbor’s bottom. Those who perished on the warship are laid to rest at this historical site. There is a tribute wall with all the names of those who died during the attack. It is important for you to pay respect as you visit.

The only way to get to the Arizona Memorial is via ferry boat. The National Park Service (NPS) in collaboration with Pacific Historic Parks conducts daily programs that include a video about the attack and a boat excursion to the USS Arizona Memorial. Daily boat cruises begin at 8:00 am and end at 4:00 pm. From the time you board your boat until the end of the tour, it takes about 45 minutes.

Explore USS Battleship Missouri

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Exploring the historic site of the USS Battleship Missouri is a powerful and emotional experience. The USS Missouri, known as “Mighty Mo,” was the final American battleship to be constructed and decommissioned. The USS Missouri served as the official location of the end of World War II. Once a formidable opponent, it now stands silent guard above Pearl Harbor.

Visitors to the USS Missouri can take a 35-minute guided tour of the ship’s decks and explore its many artifacts. Here, they can learn about life aboard a battleship during wartime, and get an up-close look at some of the ship’s most iconic features, such as its nine 16-inch guns and battle mast. Tour companies also sell special tickets for self-guided tours for those who wish to see the off-limits part of the battleship. In addition to exploring these memorials and documentary films, there are food trucks and food stores, like the Battleshop and Slider’s Grill,  where you can fuel up your energy.

Join the USS Missouri tour and walk across Mighty Mo’s deck to get a better look at Missouri’s 75 years of history. Sneak down below for a surprise inspection of the crew’s quarters. Finally, take a seat on Missouri’s bridge and take in the view from the Captain’s Chair to discover more about Mighty Mo’s role in World War II. So hop on board and discover the turbulent past of the entire nation.

Tour the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum

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One of the most powerful reminders of the tragic events of Pearl Harbor is the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum. The submarine went on to serve for 31 years, sinking 44 enemy ships during its time in service. This site is near the USS Arizona Memorial so it is accessible by foot. Bowfin submarine museum offers an immersive experience into the history of World War II. Here, you will learn how submarines were used in combat operations. You can explore exhibits, interactive displays, and visit all the places inside where the heroes used to sleep and eat. It also includes access to a variety of artifacts from WWII, including models, uniforms, weapons, and photographs. You will be given headphones for you to listen to all the historical facts while doing the tour.

This somber site is a permanent reminder of the heroes who gave their lives for freedom and justice throughout history. You have the opportunity to take part in memorable self-guided tours or organized group tours honoring and preserving history for generations to come. To get to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum  from the Visitor Center, only authorized vehicles are permitted. It is beneficial to book a Pearl Harbor tour for easy access to this site.

Learn Military Airplanes History at Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

© Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

Take a journey back in time at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. It features an extensive collection of documents and artifacts that provide insight into life during wartime.  Signs of attacks are evident when you see the bullet holes on some of the fighter planes. You’ll also be able to explore photographs from that fateful day as well as uniforms worn by those who fought for the nation’s freedom.

Booking a tour covers over 75 years of Pacific aviation history and includes full access to 50+ aircraft and all exhibits. Experience a chronological retelling of the day of the attack and beyond, starting in Hangar 37 with an orientation in a 200-seat theater. The 15-story, 168-foot-tall Ford Island Control Tower, which served as a silent witness to the attack is also now accessible to the general public for the first time in decades. Visitors will take part in a first-class guided tour that includes the restored elevator, upper cab, and 360-degree  view from the observation deck. Additionally, The Raytheon Pavilion between hangars provides 3D experience and hands-on simulation for children of all ages. They’ll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with aviation technology used in wartime operations.

Just like the Bowfin Submarine, the Aviation Museum is only accessible by authorized vehicle from the Visitor Center. If you book tours and tickets via, you will be picked up from Waikiki or other resort areas and brought to the historical site. 

Planning Your Visit

Planning a visit to Pearl Harbor is an exciting experience. With four must-see attractions, it can take up a whole day to explore them all. However, if you are pressed for time, it’s possible to do the most popular combination of attractions in half a day – Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri. But don’t miss out on USS Bowfin – we consider it a hidden gem and highly recommend it!

To make your visit more efficient, consider joining a tour. We offer both self-guided as well as guided tours that provide more in-depth information about the historical significance of Pearl Harbor and its various sites. Guided tours are especially helpful for those who want to learn more about this important part of American history or who need assistance navigating around the area’s many attractions.

If you plan on visiting the Arizona Memorial, be aware that tickets can be difficult to acquire and may require booking ahead for later times in order to get entry passes. To avoid disappointment when planning your trip, book tickets online early.

Tips for First-Time Visitors

  • Pearl Harbor is a terrific day trip from Honolulu. Here are some travel tips that may help if you decide to include them on your Hawaii itinerary.
  • Be sure to pack sunscreen, a hat, and other necessary items as temperatures tend to be quite high, especially during the summer months.
  • Wear comfortable shoes so you can explore all of the memorials and museums without getting too tired.
  • Any kind of bag is not permitted to pass. You can opt to leave some of your stuff in their lockers.
  • A wallet, camera, and water bottle are authorized, but you must carry them all by hand.
  • Arrive early to ensure that you have ample time to explore all of the historical sites.
  • Book tours ahead of time to guarantee access to some of Pearl Harbor’s restricted areas.
  • Be aware of safety protocols such as avoiding touching any artifacts on display.
  • If you’re looking for a restaurant with a World War II motif that serves gourmet burgers, along with cold beer and wine, we suggest The Hangar Café at Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
  • You can finally access Ford Island Control Tower. Listen to the tales of our heroes and pay tribute to those who have offered the greatest sacrifice.
  • Spend at least 1-2 hours at each attraction to get the most out of it.
  • Don’t forget to pay respect to all the heroes of WWII on the memorial.

Best Time to Visit

The ideal time to start your Pearl Harbor tour is in the morning. The complete tour, including all four famous sites, starts at 8 AM and ends at around 4 PM.

Additionally, Pearl Harbor holds various ceremonies and celebrations to commemorate the attack, as well as honor those who lost their lives during this fateful chapter of American history, such as the annual Fourth of July Celebration or Memorial Day Weekend each May.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A visit to the area offers a unique opportunity to explore the history of this pivotal moment in World War II. You’ll have the chance to explore sunken ships, wartime aircrafts, and submarines that still lie beneath its waters.

Pearl Harbor is situated on the island of Oahu, halfway between Japan and the mainland United States.

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free to enter. You can either make a reservation for the USS Arizona Memorial program or wait in line on a first-come, first-served basis. We recommend booking a guided tour as reservation tickets aren’t always guaranteed.

Japan planned the attack as a preventative measure. Its goal was to stop the US Pacific Fleet from interfering with its planned military operations in Southeast Asia against the US, the UK, and the Netherlands’ overseas possessions.

2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians, were killed in the attack, 19 U.S. facilities were damaged or destroyed, and 8 battleships are among the navy’s ships.

Depending on the attractions included, guided tours can last anywhere from half a day up to a full day. Tours that cover multiple attractions typically last around six hours or more.  If you want to spend more time exploring one particular attraction over another, your guide will be able to tailor your tour accordingly. Additionally, some guided tours offer half-day options which usually extend until 3 PM in order to accommodate tickets for certain attractions such as Aviation Museums.

How To Get To Pearl Harbor Hawaii

From Waikiki and Downtown Honolulu

It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Waikiki to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Take H-1 West or Ala Moana Boulevard/Nimitz Highway to get started. Look for exit #15a, the USS Arizona/Stadium, off of H-1.  Continue on HI-99 (Kamehameha Highway) after exiting at 15A, then turn left onto Arizona Memorial Place at the fourth traffic light.

From West Oahu – Ewa, Kapolei, Waianae

Start by taking H-1 East. Stay in the far right lane and take the “Stadium/Aiea” exit by taking exit 13A toward Aiea. Continue on Moanalua Road and turn left onto HI-99 East (Kamehameha Highway) at the first traffic light. Drive on HI-99 (Kamehameha Highway) until you reach Arizona Memorial Place.

From East Oahu – Kaneohe, Kailua

Go west on H-3. Turn left onto Kahuapaani Street after exiting at 1C, heading toward Halawa, Camp Smith, Aiea, and the stadium. Enter the Stadium/Honolulu exit. Take a right onto Salt Lake Blvd. Continue to follow the Stadium signage. Turn left onto Kamehameha Highway (HI-99 East). Continue on HI-99 (Kamehameha Highway) until you reach Arizona Memorial Place.

From North Oahu – North Shore, Haleiwa

Begin with HI-99 and work your way down to HI-80. Proceed south on HI-99. Toward Honolulu, take H-2 South. Exit 1A onto H-1 East and proceed in the direction of Honolulu. Stay in the far right lane and take the “Stadium/Aiea” exit by taking exit 13A toward Aiea. Continue on Moanalua Road and turn left onto HI-99 East (Kamehameha Highway) at the first traffic light. Continue traveling along HI-99 (Kamehameha Highway) until you reach right onto Arizona Memorial Place.

Traveler’s Note:

Google Maps searches for “Pearl Harbor” will direct you to the operational military facility rather than the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. If you are driving by car and using a GPS, the physical address should be Pearl Harbor National Memorial, 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, HI 96818.

The tourist center is situated very close to the Ford Island bridge turn. Please be careful not to attempt to cross the Ford Island bridge. Only military personnel and government officials have access to Ford Island.

Ready for Your Pearl Harbor Hawaii Trip?

A large number of landmarks and museums honoring the heroes who sacrificed their lives in the attack may be explored at Pearl Harbor. Grab the opportunity to take part in memorable self-guided tours or organized group tours at this powerful site dedicated to honoring the nation’s heroes and preserving history for generations to come. Through these tours, you can learn and acquire an understanding of how such a pivotal day altered the country irrevocably. Book your tour ahead of time for a hassle-free experience.