Pearl Harbor Tour - Review of USS Arizona Memorial:
I was lucky enough to be in Oahu near the 70th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack on the United States by Japan (back on December 7, 1941). I was vacationing with my family and wanted to let my kids see the memorial site and tour the grounds. Pearl Harbor is the historic military site that essentially brought the United States into World War II. Pearl Harbor is much more than just the USS Arizona that lies at the bottom of the harbor with 1000+ crew members entombed forever. The entire site features galleries, exhibits, movies, and a great souvenir store. My children are 6 and 10, so the day trip to Pearl Harbor from our cushy resort was not the best idea they had heard, but after watching the movie in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater and taking the boat across the harbor to the remnants of the USS Arizona and seeing all the names of those lost that tragic day they realized how important this event was. The biggest hassle for us turned out to be getting tickets to see the memorial. Unfortunately, during big anniversary years like this one (December 2011), tickets which are free, get handed out early and it's all done on a first come first serve basis. We went the first day and arrived at about 8:30AM but all the tickets had been dished out by 7AM that day. We decided to try again the next day but only earlier. We were able to secure 11:45AM tour times by getting to the site at 7:15AM. Worth it? Not sure, but I will discuss those details down below.
Pearl Harbor Location - Pearl Harbor Map:
As we mentioned above, there is much more to do at Pearl Harbor than just see the USS Arizona Memorial. In fact, if you don't get the best tour times (or maybe don't even do it) you can still learn a lot and have a good time. How do you get to Pearl Harbor?
It's about 10 minutes from the Honolulu International Airport and maybe 30 minutes from Waikiki. There are tour operators that will pick you up at your hotel in Waikiki and take you to the site. Signs are posted on the H1 as you get near Pearl Harbor. Parking is free and there are several large lots. When we arrived in the morning both days there were still spots available and when we left there were still plenty of spaces. An excellent map of the actual grounds can be found online at http://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm
. Just click "view map" and a small window will pop up displaying the entrance, theater, USS Arizona, etc. so you can get a quick overview of the site.
Pearl Harbor Memorial Tour:
One of the main reasons that most tourists visit Pearl Harbor is to go out on the boat and visit the USS Arizona Memorial. Yes, it's a great experience if you can get tickets. Remember, they only hand out a pre-set amount each day, so if you arrive too late, the tour will not happen for you. Keep in mind that you can still see the Exhibit Galleries for the Attack and Road to War. Everything else on site is still doable and worth the time. If you do get tickets for the Pearl Harbor Memorial, you may have to pass the time before taking the tour. We arrived at 7:15AM and were handed tickets for the 11:45AM tour. That is way too long to entertain kids, so we got in the car and headed back to our resort for a few hours before driving back over to Pearl Harbor. Hopefully you can get better times, but be prepared to wait. The official tour (if you have the ticket) starts in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater and then after a 15 to 20 minutes film you are escorted over to the boat that takes you out to the actual memorial over the water. The USS Arizona still sits submerged after all these years with all the crew men inside. It's a little bizarre to think you are standing on top of the boat and many of the original crew, but that's the way they did it. The boat goes out across the water for about 5 minutes to the platform where you get off and then enter the memorial. We spent about 15 minutes at the memorial before we took the next boat back. You get a glimpse of the USS Arizona down below while at the memorial and the names are up on a wall for all to see (see photos below). Try to get tickets for the memorial, but certainly don't consider it a total loss if you don't get them as there is plenty to see at the site. Some attractions do cost money. The Battleship Missouri Memorial is $20/adult and $10/child, the USS Bowfin is $10/adult and $4/child, and lastly the Pacific Aviation Museum is $20/adult and $10/child.