For many, a trip to Hawaii isn’t complete without visiting Pearl Harbor. The Hawaii naval base was attacked on December 7, 1941 and became the immediate cause of the United States’ entry into World War II. Now, 77 years later, the site is home to relics of the last world war, and includes the USS Arizona Memorial which sees thousands of visitors daily. Unfortunately, the memorial is currently closed due to structural damage, but fret not, as there’s still a wide array of activities, museums and exhibits to check out.
WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center has so much history on display, it’s hard to choose what to see first. There’s the Remembrance Circle, which is straight ahead from the entrance. Dedicated to those who were lost in the December 7th attack, this area is a serene place to pay your respects. Also nearby is the Waterfront Memorial, which commemorates the 52 American submarines that sank during World War 2 and honors the 3,500 crew members who were lost during the war.
On the opposite end of the center is the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theatre, which serves as a well of information about the attack. Visitors can watch a 23-minute long documentary about the bombing, and afterward check out two different museums, one focused on the lead up to the strike and the other on the aftermath of the assault, with both being filled to the brim with historic photos, maps and artifacts.
Another major attraction, the USS Arizona Memorial sees 4,000 to 5,000 visitors daily and is operated by the National Park Service. Built to honor those who perished aboard the USS Arizona during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the memorial was constructed above the sunken battleship, and the remnants of its hulking rusted exterior can easily be seen just below the water’s surface. Unfortunately, the memorial is currently closed indefinitely, due to structural damage. Those set on seeing the structure, however, will be happy to know that they can be taken out on a 15-minute boat tour of Battleship Row and the area surrounding the USS Arizona Memorial. Admission to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free. General admission to the USS Arizona Memorial is free; however, ticket availability is limited, with online reservations and same-day walk-ins being an option. For more information, visit nps.gov/valr.
Pacific Aviation Museum
Located on Ford Island, this museum is a must-see for fans of World War II-era planes and aviation. A ticket, which can be bought from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, will give access to exhibit areas such as Hangar 37, a 42,000-square-foot seaplane hangar that survived the December 7 attack. In the hangar is an authentic Japanese Zero, as well as P-40 fighter and other planes from the era. Also in the museum is the Laniakea Café, combat flight simulators and a gift shop that will be a danger to any aviation fan’s wallet. General admission is $20 for adults, $10 for children. For more information, visit pacificaviationmuseum.org.
Battleship Missouri Memorial
Resting in the heart of Pearl Harbor, the USS Missouri was launched in 1944 and, after receiving numerous awards and serving a total of 16 years in active duty, was finally decommissioned in 1992. Now, visitors can explore the USS Missouri, also known as Mighty Mo, through both guided and self-guided tours, with an audio tour option also being available. A few features you should see are the ship’s massive, 50-caliber guns, the crew quarters and mess hall, where sailors and Marines once bustled around, and the bridge, where visitors can take a seat on the captain’s chair. General admission is $29 for adults, $13 for children. For more information, visit ussmissouri.org.
USS Bowfin Submarine
With its interior as small as it looks, this sub has been dubbed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger” after sinking 44 enemy ships in the course of its nine patrols. If you can get over the tight spaces, it’s a fascinating tour to learn how sailors and Marines lived their everyday lives in these corridors. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., tickets to the sub come with a complimentary audio tour, allowing visitors to work through the vessel at their own pace. General admission is $15 for adults, $7 for children. For more information, visit bowfin.org.