Pearl Harbor
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Remembering Pearl Harbor in 5 facts

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was the 9/11 of its day, remembered as a defining moment of the Second World War. But Pearl Harbor is about much more than its most tragic moment. Here's a brief history to prepare you for your tour!

It was once a sacred site

The large bay was originally called Wai Momi, or "Waters of Pearl." According to Hawaiian legend, it's home to the shark goddess, Kaʻahupahau.

It's been expanded twice

First by the Ewa chief, Keaunui, who reshaped the estuary to make it accessible. Then, in 1869, the US deepened the waters leading into the harbor while Hawaii was still a kingdom.

Hawaii wasn't part of the US when it was attacked

The kingdom made way for the Republic of Hawaii in 1893, which let the US establish a naval base at the harbor six years later. It didn't become the 50th state until 1959!

A surprising excuse for incompetence?

US intelligence is rumored to have expected the "surprise" attack, but either way, the naval base was woefully unequipped to defend against any kind of air-raid.

It's still an operational naval base

The Pearl Harbor attacks killed 2,403 Americans and Hawaiians, and sunk much of the US' naval might. Defiantly, it's still home to the bigger-than-ever US Pacific Fleet!

Our insider tips

What are the opening times?

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is open daily from 7:00AM to 5:00PM, except for Thanksgiving Day, December 25th, and January 1st. Expect it to be busy at any time! If travelling on a budget then arrive early to snap up one of the free walk-in tickets, otherwise it's recommended that you book in advance!

How to get there?

Pearl Harbor can be accessed by City Bus and taxi, but the former is slow (up to 2 hours) and the latter expensive. Many cheap, quick transportation services don't have clearance to the tourist site itself, so the best way to reach Pearl Harbor is undoubtedly with a certified tour company.

Good to know

  • When should I visit?
    7:00AM - 5:00PM
  • Is it expensive?
    Walk-in tickets are free, but best to guarantee access by purchasing an all-inclusive tour package.
  • Will I need a guide?
    It will definitely help.
  • How to get there
    Best to go in a private van with a tour company.
  • Additional information
    Get out your fanny pack! Backpacks and other large bags must be checked at the storage area.

What people are saying about Pearl Harbor

Great Arizona presentation but Missouri should be promoted more.

We were very pleased with the tour on the Missouri. The guide was extremely knowledgeable.

Pearl Harbor a wonderful experience and Nice Small Group Tour!!

The company that provided this service did an excellent job. Kevin our driver was prompt on pickup, great communicator / guide as he drove us to pick up other passengers and on quick tour following Pearl Harbor. Using this Tour allowed us to do the activity at PH we wanted and saved us a lot of time by NOT having to: arrive really early, wait and hope to get a ticket and if we got one, when it would be! Kevin quickly got our tickets when we arrived. Plenty of time to visit the PH Visitor Center prior to movie and shuttle to Arizona. Very sobering experience and educational. The shuttle promptly left after movie, humbling being on the Memorial, seeing the names, and looking down to see the remnants of the Arizona.

Hawaii: Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Small Group Tour Reviewed by a GetYourGuide Customer, 04/24/2018

The perfect tour for what we were looking for.

This 3.5/4 hour tour was just the right amount of time and space for our family and the day was seemless. The pick up from our hotel by the very friendly and extremely knowledgeable Mike G, transport w/points of interest pointed out along the way, clear instructions of how the morning will play out, plenty of time to wander about on our own + the simplicity of the trip to the USS Arizona made this tour just enough for us. Mike was great, was able to answer any question and shared stories as he toured us around to a few hilights on our way back to our hotels. So hospitable! I will be recommending this tour to friends who will be headed to O’ahu in June and in November.

Well organised. Excellent value. Great details about Dec 7', 1941.

Staff very helpful & knowledgeable. Terrific history lesson particularly for the young people.

Hawaii: Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Small Group Tour Reviewed by a GetYourGuide Customer, 04/04/2018

Unfortunately, the threat of lightning caused the tour to cancel.

It would have been helpful to know the tour was at risk due only to rain BEFORE online registration and payment.

Things to do near Pearl Harbor