Your first trip to O’ahu is not complete until you visit Pearl Harbor National Historic Site. The main attraction is the USS Arizona Memorial, but there’s a lot more to see. Here are my best tips for visiting Pearl Harbor on your next trip to Hawaii.
Get Tickets in Advance via Recreation.gov
You can visit the Pearl Harbor National Historic Site for free, without a ticket. There is a lot to see there, and a lot to learn. However, if you want a guaranteed opportunity to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, you will want to reserve your ticket in advance. You’ll need to create an account with Recreation.gov (as with any other National Park where reservations are recommended or required), and reserved tickets are $1 each. For more, take a look at the Pearl Harbor National Park Historic Site website.
*Please note that the U.S. Navy or National Park Service can suspend boat trips to the Memorial at any time due to weather conditions or other factors. Don’t be discouraged! Tours will resume when conditions are safe again.
More here: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Pearl Harbor
Standby Tickets are Available
While you should definitely reserve tickets online (find out how here), standby tickets are often also available. Standby tickets are not guaranteed, but the Historic Park itself is free to the public, so you can still see everything else that’s there, even if you miss the boat. You’ll go to the check-in station to the left as you walk into the Historic Park, and sit in the “Standby” area. As soon as there is room on one of the boats, they’ll let you know.
No Bags—Unless They’re Clear
I know, right? What’s a girl to do without a purse?! Well, you can go without it for a couple of hours. Plan to wear something with pockets! But just in case you can’t, you can bring in a clear bag! This could also come in handy at the beach (keeps the sand out better than any fabric bag can do!), concerts, sports venues, etc. Click here for yours, and support my small business at the same time!
And in case you’re wondering, yes, they do enforce the bag rules! There is storage onsite for $6 per purse-sized bag, or $10 for luggage or large bags.
Pro tip from a local: Do not leave valuables in your car. The parking lot is not guarded, and Pearl Harbor is a well-known tourist destination, so it’s an easy place for thieves to scope for rental cars (and valuables like luggage that may be inside.)
More here: What to Know Before You Visit O’ahu
Arrive at Least an Hour Early
Pearl Harbor National Historic Site opens at 7:00am, so the earlier you get there, the more likely you are to beat the heat and sun! The instructions you’ll receive in an e-mail a few days before your reservation will recommend coming an hour early to check in, but really you’ll want that time to walk around and see everything else at the site. There is a lot of information to take in, and your visit to the USS Arizona Memorial will be more meaningful if you take some time to read a few of the details first, and see more of where the attack took place.
Where to Sit for Photos
You’ll have to take a boat to the USS Arizona Memorial, and the first thing you’ll want to know upon boarding is “What side do I need to sit on for the best pictures?” Well, I have your answer! Sit on the right, or starboard, side on the way to the Memorial. Sit on the left, or port, side for photos as you leave the site. As your guide will tell you, do not stand on the boat at any time to take photos or videos, but photos and videos are definitely encouraged.
Read next: The Ultimate O’ahu Bucket List
Take Uber from Waikiki
Not planning on renting a car while you’re on the island? No worries! Pearl Harbor National Historic Site is a 20- to 25-minute ride from Waikiki. If you’re staying there and not renting a car (there’s a rental car shortage, after all!), a rideshare will cost about $25 each way. By comparison, a taxi will run you closer to $40-50 each way.
Wear Sunscreen and Drink Water
It’s bright out there! There’s not a lot of shade to be had, so make sure you wear a good sunscreen. A hat and water bottle (clear water permitted only) are also not a bad idea!
Also helpful: The Traveler’s Guide to Sunscreen
Have you visited Pearl Harbor? Comment below with your best tip! Want more? Take a look around my Hawaiian Islands Page to answer all your questions and then some!
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