How To Structure Your Pearl Harbor Visit


USS Arizona Memorial

A lot of people post questions on the Oahu Tripadvisor forums asking about timing their Pearl Harbor visit.

While this seems like an easy and simple thing to do, there is a lot more to Pearl Harbor than just the USS Arizona Memorial – there is so much to see here. So how do you lay it out to try and fit as much in as possible?

I think if and when we visit again, I would actually like to schedule in two days for Pearl Harbor and do it properly, and see everything there is to see there.

If I had to squeeze most things there into one day, I would schedule it like this –

book ahead of time online for the USS Arizona Memorial and book for an 8:30am tour

– make sure you get a good breakfast before you head off – whether that be cereal in your hotel room or going somewhere to get it, but bear in mind this will be super early and you will want to be in your taxi or rental car by 6:30am to get to Pearl Harbor for 7am. I would go with cereal if you can.

– get there for the 7am opening – you will probably have to get a taxi (around $50-60US from Waikiki) or rent a car to get there this early but this place is so incredibly beautiful first thing in the morning and much cooler, it is worth budgeting for it in my opinion.

– Put your cellphone to silent – vibrate only – for your entire visit here.

– pick up the tickets for your USS Arizona Memorial tour first thing when you arrive – you must collect them at least one hour before your scheduled tour but it can be earlier than one hour.


USS Bowfin

– visit the USS Bowfin keeping an eye on the time and remembering you have to be at the theatre for your USS Arizona Memorial tour 10 minutes beforehand – set a silent/vibrate alarm on your phone for this – the sub tour will take about an hour.

– On your way back to the theatre for USS Arizona, if you have time visit the waterfront memorial near the USS Bowfin with all the submarine stories, this really puts what you just saw on the USS Bowfin into perspective. Bear in mind though, we spent a good 50 minutes here just reading these plaques.

– Take your tour out to USS Arizona. Make sure to ask the Navy staff if they did not clearly announce it – which they likely did as you arrive at the memorial – what time they want you back on the boat and set a *silent* e.g. vibrate only cell phone alarm for this so you do not miss your boat back. They do not make announcements on the memorial that your boat is leaving. It is up to you to make sure you do not miss it.

– When you return you will likely visit the Circle of Contemplation and sit and think for a little bit. There are also some things to read and see there.


Plaque at the Contemplation Circle

– If you now decide you want to visit the USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum, grab your tickets for that and then head over to the shuttle to Ford Island

– Depending on the time of day and the weather, I would suggest visiting the Missouri first – the Pacific Aviation Museum has one large air-conditioned area and an air-conditioned place you can get a good lunch if you want, plus a walk to a non-airconditioned hangar.

– Be aware that the Pacific Aviation Museum has an excellent gift shop, as does the USS Bowfin as well as the visitors centre gift shops. These are three entirely separate stores run by different people and the merchandise in each is slightly different. If you see a book or something you want in one store, it is not necessarily safe to assume the other two stores will have it, so get what you want when you see it. 🙂

– When you return back from Ford Island, drop into the USS Bowfin gift store – this one is air-conditioned beautifully and you will enjoy that at this time of the day. You might also want to visit the Submarine Museum if you did not have time for it earlier, this is also air-conditioned I believe.

– There are shuttle buses back to Waikiki – VIP Trans and Reliable Shuttle are two companies I know of that run these, cost is around $6 or so. You can call them ahead of time and book your pickup time if you are willing to decide what time to leave ahead of time – alternatively you can let them know you will want to return at some point that afternoon and you will call to book in the time when you are ready. These generally run on the hour e.g. 2pm, 3pm.. they will tell you all that when you call.

– Alternatively you can catch TheBus back – keeping in mind this will take about an hour maybe more depending on traffic and by that time you might be a bit exhausted and over it. Additionally, in order to reach the Waikiki-bound busses, you will need to walk up to the Kamehameha Highway stop, as they do not enter the park on eastbound trips.

If I could do it in two days, I would make the USS Arizona Memorial tour for a little later, around 10-10:30am, and visit the USS Bowfin first, taking my time with that. I might then head over to the Pacific Aviation Museum and do the guided tour which costs a little more but these people are very interesting to listen to, it is worth it.

The second day I would reserve purely for the USS Missouri. While it might not take super long, I would be a lot more comfortable touring this in the early morning while it is still cooler, and being able to take my time with it.


USS Missouri

Anyway those are just my thoughts after our last visit there. I felt like I wanted to know more, and I wanted to read more, and see more. Especially about the submarines after reading the plaques.

I did buy 4 books but I could have bought a *lot* more – I was being careful because I knew we had limited space for books in our luggage. I have since bought some e-books on this topic, and will probably pick up a few of the other books I most wanted for the e-reader once I have finished those. If you can budget some space for books in your luggage I think you will not regret doing that.