How To Visit Pearl Harbor – Tickets, Tours & Tips

The day after my hike up Diamond Head I decided to visit Pearl Harbor.

History was never my favourite subject at school. My teenage thoughts were more focused on finding the next acid rave (hey, it was the 90s). But I did remember Pearl Harbor. How could I not? The surprise Japanese attack on the pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor Hawaii naval base on 7 December 1941 that dragged the USA into World War II?

Over 2,000 people died during the attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii including 1,177 men aboard USS Arizona. The crew had an average age of 19 and their fate was sealed in under 9 minutes – the time it took the boat to sink after it received a direct hit. Nearly 350 planes were annihilated and 20 Pearl Harbor ships were sunk within a mere two hours during the attack.

To quote United States President Franklin D Roosevelt, it really was “a day which will live in infamy,”

Pearl Harbor remains an active military base but you are able to visit a number of sights at the base, including a memorial dedicated to USS Arizona. Despite not being a history buff, visiting Pearl Harbor was one of the most memorable things I did in Hawaii.

It’s also one of the more complicated things to so since the attractions are managed by four different organisations and there is no single ticket to all the sights. Don’t worry, in this post I’ll give you all the info you need for how to visit Pearl Harbor, together with links to the official tickets.

Contents:

  • Quick links for booking tickets and tours
  • Guide to the best Pearl Harbor tours
  • How to buy Pearl Harbour tickets
  • How to get to Pearl Harbor (including by bus from Waikiki)
  • FAQs and tips for visiting Pearl Harbor

Related Post: Things to do in Pearl Harbor


Quick Links For Pearl Harbor Tours & Tickets

Up to your eyeballs in trip research and would rather pour a glass of wine? Me too, so here’s my quick guide.

Best tourPearl Harbor Tour With USS Arizona Memorial. This is one of the few tours where your USS Arizona ticket is included. Price, $55.

Best ticket for the main attraction – USS Arizona Memorial. Ideal if you want a quick, half day visit to Pearl Harbor. The Pearl Harbor memorial tickets are free but you must book online in advance. Booking fee $1.

Best combination ticketPassport to Pearl Harbor. Access to the 3 ‘other’ main attractions. This does NOT include access to USS Arizona. You only save $1.99 versus separate tickets so all you gain is simplicity. Price, $79.99.


The Best Pearl Harbor Tours

If you want to book a guided visit, here are two of the best Pearl Harbor tours from Waikiki. They’re the ones I’d book myself if I was taking a tour or if my friends and family wanted a suggestion. I’ve chosen these specifically because they include USS Arizona memorial tickets – not all of Pearl Harbor tours do.

Pearl Harbor Tour with USS Arizona

If you want a simple tour that focuses on the main attraction, USS Arizona, this is the tour for you. Your tour guide will show you round the sights and you even get skip-the-line access. On the way back, there’s a quick show of the sights of Honolulu from your tour bus. Waikiki hotel pick-up and drop off included. Price: $55 per person, 4 hours.

Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona & City Highlights

This tour also includes USS Arizona tickets followed by a more extensive historic city tour of the Honolulu sights where you get off the bus and explore with your guide. Expect to see icons like the Ionlani Palace (Hawaii 5-0 HQ), the statue of King Kamehameha and the Punchbowl Cemetery of the Pacific. Waikiki hotel pick up and drop off included. Price: $60 per person, 6 hours.

This tour also includes USS Arizona tickets followed by a more extensive historic city tour of the Honolulu sights where you get off the bus and explore with your guide. Expect to see icons like the Ionlani Palace (Hawaii 5-0 HQ), the statue of King Kamehameha and the Punchbowl Cemetery of the Pacific. Waikiki hotel pick up and drop off included. Price: $60 per person, 6 hours.

Do you need to take a Pearl Harbor tour?

No, you don’t need to take a Pearl Harbor tour. However, you might be weighing your options so here are the pros and cons.

Benefits of taking a Pearl Harbor tour

  • You get a guide – they will talk you through the history of Pearl Harbor and what the various sights are. 
  • Skip the line – some tours have priority access meaning no queuing in peak season.
  • Last minute ticket availability – if tickets are sold out, you may still be able to get a reservations by booking a Pearl Harbor tour. 
  • It’s a lot easier – you don’t need to figure out tickets and timings.
  • You can add on a broader tour through Oahu – many tours include other sights like downtown Honolulu.
  • You’ll save time – planning, working out Pearl Harbor directions and getting yourself around takes time. A tour will cover this for you.

Benefits of visiting Pearl Harbor without a tour

  • It’s cheaper – if you just see USS Arizona, the cost is just the $1 booking fee.
  • Avoid big groups – big group travel at a memorial can feel disrespectful if the group is noisy.
  • Set your own schedule – You can take your own time to reflect or leave on a whim without following someone else’s schedule.
  • Just see Pearl Harbor – You don’t need to see other places that might not be on your list of things to do in Oahu.

How to get Pearl Harbor tickets

There are four main Pearl Harbor attractions: USS Arizona (main memorial), USS Bowfin (submarine), USS Missouri (battleship) and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (aircraft). Together, USS Arizona, Bowfin and Missouri are considered to mark the beginning, middle and end of the war. I’ve got full details of what to see at each sight in my guide to things to do in Pearl Harbor. In this section I’ll explain the ticket options for visiting each of the main sights individually – the ticket links are to the official booking websites.

Passport to Pearl Harbor

Before I jump into the individual sights, a quick word on this combo ticket. The Passport to Pearl Harbor is a single ticket that includes admissions to three out of the four main Pearl Harbor sights: USS Bowfin, Battleship Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. However, it does not include access to USS Arizona. You must book that tickets separately. The Passport to Pearl Harbor costs $79.99 for adults and $39.99 for kids aged 4-12

Is the Passport to Pearl Harbor worth it? That depends on how much you want to see at Pearl Harbor. For many people USS Arizona, the main memorial, is enough. And that isn’t included in the Passport to Pearl Harbor. Also, you only save $1.99 buying the passport versus individual admission tickets. So, unless you want one simple ticket, the passport isn’t going to offer a huge benefit. However, I’ve included it in this guide so you can see the full range of ticket options.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial – USS Arizona Memorial Tickets

This it the main sight and memorial to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s an offshore memorial that is reached by boat. If you only have time for one sight at Pearl Harbor, visit USS Arizona Memorial. If you’re looking for Pearl Harbor free tickets, this is the what you’re searching for. As the only sight run by the US National Parks Service, it’s the only Pearl Harbor sight with free admission.

USS Arizona Memorial Ticket Types

There are 3 ticket options.

USS Arizona Memorial. Includes return boat to the memorial and time at the memorial. The official name of this ticket is the USS Arizona Memorial Programs. The ticket is FREE. But you must reserve online in advance. Booking fee $1.

USS Arizona Memorial with narrated headset. Same access to the USS Arizona Memorial Program but with an audio headset. The narration is by Jamie Lee Curtis and includes audio from survivors. $7.99 plus $1 booking fee.

USS Arizona Memorial Deluxe Tour. As well as the USS Arizona Memorial Program you get access to the Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality centre. In the VR centre you get three virtual experiences: Walk the Deck of the USS Arizona Before the Attack, Witness the Attack on Battleship Row, and Experience the USS Arizona Memorial. $12.50 plus $1 booking fee.

Booking a more expensive ticket doesn’t give you better access to USS Arizonza tickets – when the memorial tickets are gone, they’re gone.

How far ahead can I reserve USS Arizona tickets?

There are two release dates – the first batch are put online 8 weeks in advance. A second batch of tickets is released the day before, which is great if you’re a Last-Minute-Larry like me. I’ve got more info in the FAQs below about how the Pearl Harbor reservations times work and how long you need to visit Pearl Harbor.

What if I can’t get a reservation for USS Arizona?

If you’re in Oahu and can’t get USS Arizona tickets, you have 4 options:

Book a tour. Tour companies usually pre-book tickets and can often be booked last minute. Try searching on Get Your Guide.

Try to get a stand-by ticket on the day. If people don’t turn up on the day, those tickets are given to people in the stand-by queue. It’s not ideal but you might get lucky. Go before 9 a.m. to join the queue and be prepared to wait.

See the free sights. If you can’t get a stand by ticket, you can still visit Pearl Harbor, you just won’t get to see the memorial. In and around the Pearl Harbor Visitor Centre there are lots of exhibits as well as a free documentary.

Visit the other sights. USS Bowfin, USS Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are all run by different companies and they’re more likely to have tickets available on the day. In short, your visit to Pearl Harbor won’t be wasted if you turn up and can’t get tickets.

I’ll add a 5th option – go drink Mai Tais and resolve to come back to Hawaii and visit Pearl Harbor some other time. I’m on my 3rd attempt to see Alcatraz in San Francisco and it took me 4 goes to visit the Statue of Liberty. So, don’t worry – it happens to the best of us.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park Tickets

USS Bowfin is a World War II Submarine that you can go inside. It was launched after Pearl Harbor and is known as the Pearl Harbor Avenger.

Thankfully ticketing and visiting is very simple. The general admission ticket is called the Submarine and Museum Tour and includes admission to USS Bowfin and the museum. Although it’s a self-guided tour, you get a free audio guide.

Price: $21.99 for adults; $12.99 for kids aged 4 to 12. You can buy tickets direct from the USS Bowfin official website.

How long do you need to visit USS Bowfin? The official recommendation is 1.5 to 2 hours.

Battleship Missouri Memorial – USS Missouri Tickets

USS Missouri is a World War II battleship and is the place where General Douglas McArthur accepted Japan’s surrender. USS Missouri is known as Mighty Mo.

Price: The general admission ticket costs $34.99 for adults; $17.49 for kids aged 4-12. You can buy tickets on the USS Missouri official website.

How long do you need to visit USS Missouri? Again, 1-5 to 2hrs is recommended.

How to get to USS Missouri? USS Missouri is located on Ford Island. The island is an active military base so you must take the free shuttle. It leaves from the Visitor Centre every 15 minutes.

Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

This is a popular museum that covers World War II but also extends into the Vietnam War. There are two hangars to explore as well as a couple of flight simulators to try out. You can buy tickets direct from the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum official website.

Price: General admission tickets cost $25 for adults; $12 for kids aged 4 -12.

How long do you need at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum? The museum takes about one hour to visit.

How to get to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum? As with USS Missouri, you have to take the free shuttle to Ford Island from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Centre.


How to Visit Pearl Harbor Hawaii

USS Missouri

How to visit Pearl Harbor by car

The simplest way to get to Pearl Harbor without a tour is to drive yourself. This is ideal if you already have a rental car, or you could rent one for the day. Pearl Harbor is a 20 to 40 minute drive from Waikiki Beach area, depending on traffic, and parking is free. Put ‘Pearl Harbor Visitor Centre’ into your GPS or you might be directed into the water. Spalsh! Alternatively, you can take a taxi, Uber or Lyft.

Taking the bus from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor

If you don’t have a car and want the budget option, you can also easily visit Pearl Harbor by bus.

In fact, there is not one but two public buses that will drop you at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The Number 42 (‘Ewa Beach) travels direct from Waikiki and Number 20 (Airport-Pearlridge) also visits the memorial via the airport. The journey takes around one to one and a quarter hours.

The wonderful company that provides this service is called The Bus and you can find details and timetables here. Even more wonderfully, the cost of getting from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor is only $2.75 each way, making for a $5.50 round-trip.

Things have improved since I took the bus so you’re more likely to see the tourist words Waikiki and Pearl Harbor on the bus schedules. If you can’t see them, look for Kalakaua/Montsarrat (Waikiki) and Arizona Memorial for Pearl Harbor. This route map should clear things up.

Although the buses are cheap and direct, they’re not exactly frequent –  about every half hour. Hey, I’m used to London buses that arrive every few minutes. Best to check the Honolulu bus schedule and do some planning. Google maps is great for transport planning but it will have you changing bus six times to shave 2 minutes off your trip (that’s robots for you). As a human who is prone to error, I prefer one bus because you’ve got less chance of messing up. I’ll leave that up to you.

It’s also important to note that the buses stop after 3pm. So, even if you’re not a morning person (I’m certainly not), it pays to prise yourself out of bed for this particular visit. Also, don’t get sucked into the PH buses on the bus schedule. They say Pearl Harbor Express but they don’t leave from Waikiki. I know, I checked all of them!

FAQs and tips for visiting Pearl Harbor

In this section I’ll answer the many frequently asked questions about how to visit Pearl Harbor. If I’ve missed anything, leave a comment and I’ll update this post.

What island is Pearl Harbor on?

If you’re at the beginning of your trip planning, you might be wondering what island Pearl Harbor is on. The answer: Oahu. If you want an overview of the Hawaii Islands and what to see on each, I have written a guide to the Hawaii Islands here.

Where is Pearl Harbor located?

Pearl Harbor is located 13 miles north west of Waikiki beach on Oahu. It’s accessed by Highway 1 coming from Waikiki beach. The address of Pearl Harbor is: 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, HI 96818. Otherwise, just type Pearl Harbor Visitor Centre it into your GPS.

Parking at Pearl Harbor

Free parking is available if you choose to drive but the earlier you go, the easier you’ll find it to park. Wait until the hotel buffet breakfasts are digested and you might struggle. 

Pearl Harbor Hours

Pearl Harbor is open seven days a week from 7 am to 5 pm. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. You can find full details of the Pearl Harbor hours on the National Park Service Website. The other sights: USS Bowfin, Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum have similar but slightly different opening hours. Check their websites for details.

How long do you need to visit Pearl Harbor?

That depends on how many of the Pearl Harbor sites you visit. The USS Arizona Memorial Program officially takes 45 minutes which includes taking the boat and visiting USS Arizona Memorial. There are other free things to do at Pearl Harbor as well as a great 23-minute documentary about the attacks. You could squeeze your visit into a couple of hours if you see USS Arizona, but half a day will be more comfortable. You’ll need a full day, about 6 hours, if you want to visit the other sights.

How do the USS Arizona reservation times work?

When you book your ticket, you select a time slot. The National Parks Service recommends you arrive 1 hour before your time slot. I don’t think this is necessary unless you’re visiting on a peak day like Memorial Day. What you absolutely must do is check in at the theatre 10 minutes before your reservation time. That is so you’re in the right place at the right time for the boat to the memorial. Miss your time and you’ll be making someone in the standby queue very happy.

Last visiting time at Pearl Harbor

The last visit time for the memorial is 3pm. Visiting times for the other sights vary.

Best day of the week to visit Pearl Harbor

There isn’t any specific guidance on the best day to visit Pearl Harbor. Mainly, you’re best avoiding the sights on major holidays like Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day, Spring Break and, of course, 7 December – the anniversary of the attack. Probably skipping the days Pearl Harbor it closed is a good idea too (sorry, that was cheeky). Other than that, you’re looking to avoid times when Oahu is generally busy. I would suggest avoiding weekends as well as Mondays and Fridays when people tend to extend their weekends. I also believe that school groups tend to visit on Wednesdays. By process of elimination, that would make Tuesday and Thursday the best day of the week to visit Pearl Harbor.

Best time to visit Pearl Harbor

Dealing with time of year first, if you are in Hawaii in December, keep the date of the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in mind. Not only does it draw extra visitors, it also falls during the peak winter season, and the Honolulu marathon occurs around the same time. All of that means low availability of tickets. No need to avoid the dates, just book in advance.

If you want to know what time of day to visit Pearl Harbor, I’d suggest you get there before 10 a.m. That will give you enough time to explore before the full swell of the crowds turn up. Alternatively, go late when the tour groups have gone and people have wandered back to their hotels. You will have limited time as the sights close at 5 p.m., and last Pearl Harbor admission to USS Arizona is 3 p.m. but that could be fine if you only want to see the main memorial.

Bags and security at Pearl Harbor

You are not permitted to take in any items that allow concealment so keep that in mind when you pack for the day. You are allowed to take a camera, phone, wallet and water, but it must be carried by hand or put in your pocket. Backpacks, purses and even camera bags must be stored at the cost of $5 per bag, regardless of size. Otherwise, leave them in your car or hotel.

It’s worth knowing that the harbor is still home to an active US Military base, so take your best behaviours with you…or face the consequences.

Pearl Harbor Dress Code

It seems sad that there needs to be a dress-code reminder, but the National Park Service website says sandals are ok but bathing suits and profane t-shirts are not. I think that should be a rule for life, but that might just be me.


That was my guide to how to visit Pearl Harbor. Got any questions about planning your visit? Let me know in the comments below.


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50 thoughts on “How To Visit Pearl Harbor – Tickets, Tours & Tips”

  1. Thank you so much for the advice! I’m travelling alone to Oahu in April and I want to visit Pearl Harbor and I’m glad that I stumbled upon this post.

    Reply
  2. Just want to thank you for such an informative and entertaining platform you’ve presented this information on. Really well done, detailed (enough), and now I’m inspired to read all your other postings! Thanks for doing the recon and saving me a ton of time!

    Reply
  3. After reading and rereading and studying I think I am going to purchase the Passport to Pearl Harbor. Is there a 1 stop shop you recommend to make this purchase in advance? I didnt see a link or recommendation.

    Reply
    • Hi Karen, sorry for the slow reply. Check out the National Park website for how to book the Passport to Pearl Harbor. Have a great trip:

      Reply
  4. Hi Jo

    Yes, your way of site seeing is my way. We have learned from past cruises that doing your own thing is usually the best. The forced time tables or visits to the tour guides favorite friend selling souvenirs, the $5.00 tip for the bus driver and so on with those paid excursions, that in our experience leave you feeling you just been fleeced.

    We are visiting Hawaii for the first time January 2020, we will be on Kona and taking a day trip with my adult daughter for the 2 out of 4 of us that want to visit Pearl Harbor. We found you after many attempts to get information on a walking/bus day on our own and read your page. Its wonderful, so yes we are going to prepay the Arizona passes at the government web site , bus it from the airport just for the fun of doing that, could be a hoot.

    Arriving at 9am,take the Arizona tour and then down town on a mission to find the mom and pop restaurant to have some local foods, site seeing then to the airport for the flight back to Kona at 6pm.Thanks for the tips.

    We will write again after our visit the 3rd week of January.

    Sparky,
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

    Reply
    • Hey Sparky, yes – we definitely have a similar style of travelling. Do come back and let me know how you got on and also any suggestions on good places to eat! I need to return to Hawaii…sooner rather than later. Have a great trip and enjoy the warm weather!

      Reply

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