Pearl Harbor Memorial USS Arizona: Things to do on Oahu, Hawaii

December 7, 1941: A Day that will Live in Infamy

When we visited Oahu, Hawaii in January 2013, I finally got to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. This has been on my "bucket list" for years.

Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. My mother's father served in the South Pacific, and my father's dad flew planes on the European front. My husband's grandfather was stationed in Pearl Harbor, but not until after the December 7, 1941 attack that brought the United States into WWII. His grandmother grew up on Oahu on the plantation that became the famous Dole Pineapple Plantation. She was a secretary to a Navy Admiral, and had been scheduled to go on a date with a naval officer the evening of December 6, 1941. When she canceled the date, the officer stayed on base. Unfortunately, he was one of the thousands of casualties on the Day that will live in Infamy.

This article is not about the Pearl Harbor attack itself. But some background is necessary to put the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the USS Arizona into perspective. Over 70 years ago, the event was the "September 11" of the day. Japanese air forces decimated military bases across the island of Oahu on a Sunday morning - totally by surprise. The aim was to debilitate American military so that they would be unable to arrest Japanese advancement into territories across the South Pacific. And, it occurred during peace negotiations in Washington, D.C. between U.S. and Japanese diplomats.

As most people know, the events at Pearl Harbor were the tipping point that brought the United States into WWII. If you visit Hawaii, you should definitely set aside a day to see Pearl Harbor. The site is of major historical significance.

A boat takes you to and from the USS Arizona from the Pearl Harbor Memorial
A boat takes you to and from the USS Arizona from the Pearl Harbor Memorial | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
On the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor MemorialVisiting the Pearl Harbor MemorialFriendly boat captain at the Pearl Harbor MemorialEntrance to the Pearl Harbor Memorial in OahuHelpful images and information to guide you around Pearl Harbor
On the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial
On the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial | Source
Visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial
Visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial | Source
Friendly boat captain at the Pearl Harbor Memorial
Friendly boat captain at the Pearl Harbor Memorial | Source
Entrance to the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Oahu
Entrance to the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Oahu | Source
Helpful images and information to guide you around Pearl Harbor
Helpful images and information to guide you around Pearl Harbor | Source

Pearl Harbor Memorial USS Arizona Information

Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Road, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Honolulu, HI 96818

Hours: Open every day of the year for tours, except Pearl Harbor Day (December 7), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. The park is open from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets for the boat shuttle to the USS Arizona are on a first come, first served basis.* Timed programs to the memorial begin at 8:00 a.m. and run through 3:00 p.m.

*TIP: Crowds get larger throughout the day. We arrived at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday in January and had to wait until 10:15 for an open boat shuttle. Many people arrive at 6:30 a.m. to obtain shuttle tickets.

Cost: Admission to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (the USS Arizona Memorial) is free. However, if you chose to make a reservation in advance at www.Recreation.gov (recommended during busy seasons - see above), there is a $1.50 per ticket convenience fee

Attractions: There are several museums that include photographs, displays and instructions regarding the build-up to the Pacific War and attack on Pearl Harbor. A self-guided tour with headphones is available for a fee. For those visiting the USS Arizona, there is a 15-minute pre-boarding movie. In addition, visit the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and the Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island.

Amenities: Gift shop, snacks, drinking fountains, restrooms

Travel Time: Approximately 20-30 minutes from Honolulu

Parking: Available and free

USS Arizona Memorial

Learn More About the Pearl Harbor Attack

A Brief History of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial

Many ships were damaged or destroyed on the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941 when Japanese air fighters surprised the Pearl Harbor base. The United States was unable to bring the USS Oklahoma, USS Utah and the USS Arizona back into commission after the attack. Other ships were repaired and recommissioned.

All of the 2,390 military and civilian deaths that day were tragic. However, the USS Arizona sustained the greatest damage and loss of life. In all, 1,177 crew members died due to the missiles that hit the ship and its sinking thereafter. These heroes are buried within the remains of the sunken vessel and remain there to this day. The USS Arizona remains where it fell: off Ford Island on the "Battleship Row" of Pearl Harbor.

Amazingly, the ship continues to slowly leak oil from its watery grave. The so-called "black tears" continuously and slowly bubble up from the sunken remains.

In 1950, the USS Arizona Memorial was originally a flagpole attached to the broken mainmast of the ship (pictured below). The present iconic structure was completed in 1961, built over the wreckage of the battleship. When you arrive at the memorial via shuttle boat, you are asked to quietly and directly enter the structure, without stopping to take photographs outdoors. The memorial is comprised by three primary sections: an entry and assembly room, a central area for ceremonies and observation, and the shrine room. There, the names of all deceased heroes that were on the USS Arizona are engraved in marble. It is truly overwhelming to witness the scope of the tragedy. In addition, on either side of the marble wall are additional memorials dedicated to those that have passed away since Pearl Harbor Day, up to the present.

I can speak from personal experience when I say that, as moving as the memory of December 7, 1941 is, there is nothing like visiting the actual site where sailors and other brave heroes met their demise on that tragic Sunday morning. Anyone with loved ones that fought in the war will be moved by the Pear Harbor Memorial. It is definitely worth the visit!

No matter your nationality, age or heredity, visiting the USS Arizona is a serious, sad experience. The contemplation of the innocent loss of so many lives on that day, will give pause to anyone.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Submerged remains of the USS Arizona at the Pearl Harbor MemorialApproaching the USS ArizonaThe USS Missouri
Submerged remains of the USS Arizona at the Pearl Harbor Memorial
Submerged remains of the USS Arizona at the Pearl Harbor Memorial | Source
Approaching the USS Arizona
Approaching the USS Arizona | Source
The USS Missouri
The USS Missouri | Source

Before your Visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial

There are several, very important considerations to keep in mind before you visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Having just visited, I highly recommend that you review these tips to minimize potential frustration and help plan in advance:

  1. Plan ahead during busy months. Even in January, the tours to the USS Arizona Memorial fill up quickly. Many visitors line up as early as 6:30 a.m. for the first 8:00 a.m. boat departure. The later in the day you arrive, the longer you will wait.
  2. Leave all bags behind at the hotel. Put a credit card and perhaps a bit of cash in your pocket. You can bring a camera (but not a camera bag) and a cell phone. Nothing else. Because Pearl Harbor is still an active military base, security measures prohibit any carry-in items. You will be asked to pay $3 per bag for storage during your visit, available at the USS Bowfin Submarine Park.
  3. Wheelchair Accessible. The facilities and amenities are fully wheelchair accessible. However, note that there are not wheelchairs for rent at the site.
  4. Strollers. Traveling with young children? Note that strollers are only allowed in the visitor's center. You cannot bring them on the navy boats, to the USS Arizona Memorial, or into the theater. Storage is available.
  5. Dress code. There is no prescribed dress code at the Memorial, however, keep in mind that, out of honor and respect, modest clothing and shoes are recommended. Bathing suits and other inappropriate attire are discouraged.
  6. Military. Navy regulations relating to military dress are enforced. Battle dress uniform is not allowed on the USS Arizona Memorial. Visitors should wear dress whites or better. Battle dress uniform is allowed throughout the visitor center and at sites on Ford Island.
  7. Pets. Not permitted. Service animals, however, are allowed.

Pearl Harbor 70 Years after the Attack

Have you Visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Oahu, Hawaii

  • Yes - you must go to Pearl Harbor when you visit Hawaii
  • Not yet - but I have been wanting to visit the memorial
  • No - I am not interested in visiting, or it is too difficult for me to go to the USS Arizona
See results without voting

Underwater Tour of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial, Oahu Hawaii

A markerPearl Harbor Visitor Center -
1 Arizona Memorial Road, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Honolulu, HI 96818, US
[get directions]

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Submerged portions of the USS Arizona"Black tears" of the USS ArizonaFlagpole at the USS Arizona Memorial
Submerged portions of the USS Arizona
Submerged portions of the USS Arizona | Source
"Black tears" of the USS Arizona
"Black tears" of the USS Arizona | Source
Flagpole at the USS Arizona Memorial
Flagpole at the USS Arizona Memorial | Source

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Comments 16 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

My stepfather, who is dead now, was serving in Pearl Harbor on that day; the stories were unbelievable. I envy you! :)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Wow, Bill! I bet it was amazing to talk to a Pearl Harbor survivor!

We had an incredible visit to the memorial. I could have spent hours in the museums. All the best, Steph


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Steph,

What a terrific trip you had to not only Hawaii but to get to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Oahu. My husband and I have only visited the Big Island of Hawaii but I remember my parents telling us about the wartime memorial that so touched them when they got to visit it. You have given some great tips here as to visiting hours and what to take, etc. Up, useful and interesting votes and definitely sharing. Thanks for writing this!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Peggy! Thank you. My husband and I visited the Big Island 5 years ago, and really enjoyed many of the sights there. But I have always wanted to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Oahu. Once we had a chance to go to that island, it was the first place we visited!

Cheers to you, Steph


Hawaiian Scribe profile image

Hawaiian Scribe 3 years ago from Hawai'i

Mahalo for such a wonderful hub on the USS Arizona and the Pearl Harbor Memorial. I'm so glad you finally got to visit it. Your hub and information is so complete. Voted up, useful, beautiful, interesting. Tweeting out and sharing on Pinterest. Aloha, another Stephanie :)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Aloha Hawaiian Scribe (Stephanie)! Thank you so much for your kind comments - they mean a lot coming from you!

Mahalo and all the best, Steph


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Standing on that memorial looking down at the Arizona is a sobering experience, especially when a drop of the still seeping oil surfaces.

Excellent Hub.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

I agree, Will. Brought tears to my eyes.


Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 3 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

The underwater video is haunting, but I'm glad you were able to visit the memorial especially with all the history attached to your family. Someday I would like to go there and pay my respects!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

If you get a chance to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial, I'm sure you would enjoy it, Fossillady. Thank you for the read and comment! Best, Steph


always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

Oh how i would love to visit Pearl Harbor! Your presentation is wonderful. Thank you..


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you so much always - it was just an amazing visit. Hope you get to visit Pearl Harbor someday too. Best, Steph


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Great hub Steph. We visited 20 years ago and are in the process of planning a return trip for later this year. It is quite a moving experience to visit the memorial. Great job, wonderful photos, very well done.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks! My parents had visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial about 10 years ago and they said that it was nicely updated and expanded since their original trip. You'll have to let me know what you think after your visit later this year. Cheers, Steph


epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Perfect hub. I had the opportunity to go here 4 years ago and was so touched and impressed. I couldn't believe how the oil still leaked all these years later. This is definitely a must see. It was nice reading your perspective on it as well. Voted up.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you so much! I have always wanted to visit Pearl Harbor, so it was a very special visit. Best to you, Steph

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