A trip to Pearl Harbor is on the top ten list of things to do when visiting Hawaii. Here are some tips and tricks to make this part of your vacation memorable and worthwhile. My family visited this historic landmark with another family and between us we had six children ranging in age between 11 and 21. This is an historic place that has something of interest for everyone.
Pearl Harbor is the site where 1,177 men, women and children lost their lives when the Japanese made a surprise attack on December 7, 1941. Historically Pearl Harbor is one of the most important and tragic sites in our American history. And it happens to be the one location on earth that memorializes the beginning and end of war with two national monuments within sight of each other.
Here are the top tips for planning a trip to Pearl Harbor:
- Order online: If you know in advance about your trip to Hawaii you can order your USS Arizona tickets online. Tickets are free but hard to get at the last minute and especially during the busy summer months. When we tried to get tickets two weeks in advance they were gone. You can order tickets online up to 6 months in advance with a non-refundable service fee per person for about $1.50.
- At the gate: If you missed getting your tickets online don’t fret. Instead plan to arrive at the gate by 6:30 a.m. Yes, you heard right. If you plan to visit the USS Arizona there are a limited number of tickets that are dispensed daily and they go fast. Many tour buses pull up between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. to be sure they get the number of tickets they need. Doors open at 7:00 am so there will be a long line leading up to the gate when you arrive. By 7:30 a.m. am the lines are mostly gone and so are the tickets. Tickets are free, and one person in your party can get up to 10 tickets.
- How to get there: If you’re driving (versus going with a tour group by bus) be sure to set your navigator to the USS Arizona and not Pearl Harbor as we I did (yes, my husband wants it noted that I made that mistake). When we got to the security gate at Pearl Harbor the nice cadet told us that we were not the only ones to have made that mistake. By the way we also recommend the Google Maps App which has been very reliable to us on our trips throughout the US.
- Other tours: When you get your USS Arizona tickets they will be issued for a specific time. We got our tickets by 7:30 a.m. but our tour wasn’t until 9:30 a.m. So during the next two hours you could leave and come back or you can see dozens of other exhibits including the USS Missouri, USS Bowfin Submarine and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Many have audio tours that you can purchase either ahead of time or on site. The USS Missouri has free docent-led tours which are very worthwhile. We had a Navy veteran lead our tour and he was incredible and full of facts.
- Don’t bring your bags: Because of the security of these national monuments you cannot bring your bags at any of the historic sites. For a $3 fee you can leave your bag at a storage area near the USS Bowfin Park. However they do not lock them so it is best to leave all of your valuables and belongings other than what’s essential (wallet, credits cards, IDs). You’ll see lots of people carrying just their wallet because the obviously didn’t know.
- Cameras are permitted: Although you cannot bring your bulky backpacks, handbags and diaper bags you can bring your camera loosely around your neck. It needs to be out of the case and ready. I did not have any problem with my DSLR.
- Dress right: Even during the hot summer months it can get windy at Pearl Harbor. So you may want to wear a lightweight windbreaker.
- Wear Sunscreen: Definitely wear sunscreen and a hat because many of the sites are outdoors and it can get very sunny. Even when it is cloudy the UV rays are intense in Hawaii.
- Check out the apps and movies: Study up on the history by checking out both free and paid apps for your smartphone. By pass the war games. A visit to Pearl Harbor will also increase your curiosity to view movies such as “Pearl Harbor” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!”
- Read the story: Check out this non-fiction list of the top books about the attack and Pearl Harbor as well as this list of historical fiction books on the examiner.
If you plan right your day at Pearl Harbor will be full of activities and memorable sights.
Tina Case is a photographer out of the San Francisco Bay area. She provides lifestyle, corporate and product photography and enjoys creating slideshows and video showreels for clients. Check out her work at Tina Case Photography or on Facebook. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.