Pearl Harbor National Memorial

March 2021

Pearl Harbor Harbor National Memorial – Oahu, Hawaii

If you have followed us for any length of time, you know Kevin is a big history buff so as soon as we add Oahu to our trip, a stop at Pearl Harbor National Memorial was essential. For those that may not be aware, Pearl Harbor holds significance in US History as the turning point in World War II as the first attack on US soil which propelled the US into a more active part of the war. The museum outlines the events leading up to the war and this attack, as well as the environment of the world at that time. There are several areas to visit, including the USS Arizona Memorial – a boat that remains untouched after the attach, submerged in the ocean as a grave for those that served it.

From a COVID perspective, there is currently no reservations required to visit the Pearl Harbor itself. Many of the exhibits are outdoors and can be explored socially distanced and safely. There are ticketed activities that vary in price that can be purchased to see other historic sites such has the Battleship Missouri (fully restored post attack), The USS Bowfin Submarine (which you can board), and the Aviation Museum.

The item that is most popular is vising the USS Arizona Memorial – this requires reservations ahead of time through recreation.gov. While visiting the site is free, there is a $1 for an online processing fee. Ways to secure your reservation:

  • As of this post, the tickets are released 7 days in advance of the desired visit day and there are 50 tickets for every half hour time – so plenty available for the current demand and definitely not as hard as the battle for reservations at Haleakala. Updated: now releasing tickets 60 days in advance!
  • If you forget or make a more last minute decision to visit, there are a handful of tickets (in our experience it was 20 tickets per half hour time slot) released the day before you want to visit. Do not what I did – every person needs a ticket – at Haleakala, you just need one reservation per vehicle – more on this later.
  • If those options do not work, there is also a wait list that you can join when you arrive – you basically put your group on the stand by and each half hour interval, the ranger evaluates how many extra people can fit on the boat and then they work down this standby this – again, more on this later in the post. 

After finishing our Helena’s lunch, we found our way to the parking lot at Pearl Harbor. Beware that no bags are allowed on the property – zero. The number of people (primarily men) running back bags (primarily purses) to vehicles was hilarious. It is not a secret, they warn you at multiple points – both online and in the lot – not to bring a bag. What I did was wear my rain jacket (not taking any chances today) and put my phone and wallet in the pocket. It is important not to leave valuables int he car because car break-ins are a common occurrence in Hawaii, especially around tourist sites such as this.

Once we were through security, there was not an obvious thing to do first and we didn’t see a map. We did see a line at the ticket counter so we decided to go there to figure out if we needed or wanted to purchase anything. Here is where we learned 1) being on site is free 2) there are a handful of areas that require tickets including Battleship Missouri, The USS Bowfin Submarine, and the Aviation Museum. 3) I only made one reservation for the USS Arizona Memorial.

I was baffled! I must have been so focused that I only needed one ticket for Haleakala that it did not even cross my mind that I needed two tickets for this. And that is how we discovered the stand by option. We made our way over to where you would go to check in for the boat ride to the Memorial and spoke with the range who showed us how long the stand by list was today – it was extremely long. We decided to send Kevin on the 1230PM reservation we made and he would tell me all about it. Once everyone had checked in for the 1230PM reservation time, there were only a handful of people – there should have been 70 people! The range knocked out a large portion of the standby list so once he was done, I added myself to the list. I was able to make it onto the 1PM boat tour so that ended up being a bright side to the mishap. Newsflash – also began to pour again – cannot escape the rain today!

Typically before visiting the Memorial there is twenty minute video that everyone watches beforehand. Due to COVID, the video was moved to an outdoor area and was not shown at this time in the tour. We went directly to boarding a ferry that transported everyone a short distance to the Memorial site.

It is incredible to witness the USS Arizona. There is a map in the middle of the Memorial that shows the boat and the parts that are visible above water. Oil still leaks from the vessel to this day. It is definitely something you should experience while you are visiting Oahu, even if you only have a short amount of time.

While one of us was visiting the Memorial, the other went through the exhibits. We both thought these were very well done and had a lot of mixed media to absorb the material from writings, to videos, to artifacts and memorials. It felt ironic seeing the pictures of people wearing gas masks as we all stood there in our cloth masks.

Before we left, we sat and watched the video that typically plays before visiting the USS Arizona. If you have the time, I would recommend the extra twenty minutes to watch the video.

We really enjoyed our time at Pearl Harbor – it was a very relaxed environment to go at your own pace and did not feel rushed. You could spend as little or as much time as you want here so it is easy to fit in anyone’s Oahu itinerary. While I cannot speak to any of the ticketed options, I would say if you are able to make your way to the USS Arizona Memorial – it really is to witness something that was so pivotal in our history. Be sure to check the website for any changes that may be impacted by COVID as information is constantly changing. 

Continue reading about our Oahu trip – here!

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