Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial

Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial is an exceptionally moving experience. We’ve visited Pearl Harbor four times and each time it conjures up so many emotions.

As I reflect back on my many trips to Hawaii, no single place has generated as many emotions as my visits to the USS Arizona Memorial. The overwhelming emotion I feel is sadness. In fact, as hard as I may try, I cannot fight back tears. In addition to feeling sorrow, I also feel angry about the attack, injury for my country, gratitude for the extreme debt of lives that were paid, and pride for the valiant effort of the few servicemen who were able to fight. How’s that for a vast range of emotions?

I highly recommend a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial on your Oahu vacation. In fact, a visit here tops my list of the best things to see and do on Oahu. Even if you are vacationing on one of the other islands, you can take a day trip to visit the USS Arizona Memorial either by organized tour or independently.

Here’s what you should know and expect when you visit the USS Arizona Memorial:

1.  The USS Arizona Memorial is located in the Pearl Harbor area of Honolulu. The physical address is 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, Hawaii. Of course you can drive there in your rental car, but you also have an option of public transportation or using the services of an organized tour operator. See this link for directions and public transportation options.

2.  It’s free to visit this national park. Even parking is free. For $7.50, you can rent headsets that provide interesting commentary at numbered-listening stations. I think it’s definitely worth the price to rent the headsets.

3.  The memorial is open every day of the week from 7am until 5pm. It is only closed three days of the year — Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day. I read and hear a lot of misinformation about when you should arrive. So, I asked a park ranger for his advice.

  • If you are seeking same day tickets during the off season (September – May, except for holidays) – the only time there is a wait to enter this national park is first thing in the morning  and the line is usually gone sometime around 9am.
  • If you are seeking same day tickets during high Season (Memorial Day – Labor Day, plus holidays) – it’s best to arrive early in the morning for your best chance to be admitted. The ticket office opens at 7am. The visitors center can accommodate approximately 4,500 visitors per day, and during the “on season” sometimes 6,000 or more people come to the memorial. That means that about 1,500 people aren’t admitted on peak days. The park ranger advises to arrive well before 1pm to secure your visit during the “on season”.
  • Advance Ticket Reservations (Updated Spring 2015): The National Park Service has revised their advance ticketing process. A controlled number of tickets will be made available for reservation up to two months in advance. A separate quantity of tickets can be reserved the day prior to your visit for a 24 hour period.  Up to 1,300 “walk-in” tickets for “same day” visits will be made available daily. All “same day” tickets are free. The cost for a reserved ticket is $1.50 per ticket. Up to six tickets can be reserved. Ticket reservations can be made at this website or by calling 1-877-444-6777.  See more about this new process here.

4.  Absolutely no bags of any kind are allowed. I’ve observed many people who are carrying purses, camera bags, etc read the sign that bags aren’t allowed and then proceed on as if it does not apply to them. Every single one of them are turned away. So, you do need to think about the logistics of securing your valuables. See this link for more information on the security measures and planning your visit.

You can carry in cameras, wallets, cell phones, etc. You just can’t bring them in a bag. A Go Visit Hawaii reader, Dave, commented that if you need a bag, you can ask for a bag from the bookstore once you are inside the facilities.

A private vendor operates a storage facility for visitors to all the attractions at Pearl Harbor. There is a nominal storage fee. At last check in December 2014, the fee was $3 per bag and paid by cash only. It’s open daily 6:30am to 5:30pm.

Do not leave your bags in plain sight in your rental car. If you want to leave your bags in the trunk, you should very discreetly place them in the trunk prior to arriving at the memorial parking lot. I should note that it is still risky to do that.

5.  Your ticket will include an assigned time for the memorial tour that includes watching an excellent 23-minute documentary film depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor, taking a short boat ride to the actual USS Arizona Memorial, and touring the memorial. You will need to queue up at the theater approximately 10 minutes before your assigned time. Tour times start at 7:45am and the last program of the day starts at 3:00pm.

6.  Most likely, you will have a bit of a wait before your assigned tour program. While you wait for your assigned time, there’s plenty to see and do. If you’ve rented the headset, this is a perfect time to use it. Otherwise, you can do your own self-guided tour of the museum, walk around the harbor grounds, and peruse the bookstore. It’s a good idea to be prepared to repel mosquitoes as I have been mosquito bitten in the museum.

7.  Please be respectful when you visit the memorial as it is the underwater tomb of 1,177 service members.

8.  For a great view of the USS Arizona Memorial, sit in the back of the boat on the return trip back to the shore.

Have you visited the USS Arizona Memorial? What did you think of your visit?


About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.

33 comments

  1. Thanks for the great post Sheila. I’ve visited the Arizona Memorial twice. The signage along H-1 isn’t always the best so the first time I was there I actually drove to the base at Pearl Harbor thinking that was it, but the security guard redirected me.

    Going out to the Arizona Memorial was both a sobering and inspiring experience when you think about all those boys (and most of them were just boys not older than 20) that gave their lives.

    Both times I’ve been there I was fortunate enough to meet a survivor of the attack. Because it’s now been 68 years since the attack, those opportunities are shrinking. Some day I’m going to take my kids there so they can see it first hand and gain a better appreciation of the sacrifices that were made on that day.

    • Thanks, Adam, for the warning that the H-1 signage could be more helpful. Andy and I used a GPS navigation system the last couple of visits, so that probably kept us from getting lost.

      Thank you for reminding us that most of the servicemen were boys. You are exactly right, they were very young.

      I hope that you’ll be able to bring your kids to see this memorial some day soon.

      Thanks again for your comment!

    • Oh, and one more thing, Adam. I’ve never been brave enough to approach one of the surviving servicemen. I’m afraid I’d burst into tears. I get misty-eyed just imagining saying a simple thank you to them.

      I’ve been “blessed” with an abundance of sensitivity. Darn it! 😉

      • I hear ya there. As someone who was born in the 70’s, it’s hard to imagine what life must have been like. I’m sure even the stories don’t do it justice.

        When we were there for the first time, we also went to see the Missouri and stood in the spot where MacArthur signed the formal surrender document. When I thought about the fact I was standing on the ship where the war officially ended combined with the fact we were in the harbor where it began for the US, I could feel the chills even on a sunny 85 degree day.

  2. Sheila, a great post. I, too, know those emotions that well in my soul upon visiting the USS Arizona Memorial. It is so important to never forget. It is so important to remember those who lost their lives, mostly young men mowed down in their prime. It saddens me that we are still in a warring world. I wish it were not so. It must be the hardest thing to lose a family member to war. It is never enough to know one’s husband, son or father died a hero.

    • Mahalo, Paula for your first time comment and kind words!

      I agree with you, it is very important that we never forget the brave men and women who lost their lives that day.

      When I reflect back on the images from my visits to the USS Arizona Memorial, one photograph comes to mind. It’s an image of a couple of very young seamen wearing only their underwear, who were manning a gun on one of the battleship decks. Gosh, what heros!

  3. Sheila:
    Oh, you MUST tell them! I’ve written stories about survivors. They relish such encounters. They listen to you, but you listen to THEM. They never tire of hearing the appreciation. And they shouldn’t. They deserve to know every bit of gratitude! Go for it!

  4. Pearl Harbor original footage set against Harper John’s song of the story of a still alive survivor ….performed by the American /British duo INDIEKLINE see Youtube “USS ARIZONA SINKING.

  5. Get there early.

    I’ve been several times. We had to wait almost 3-hours one time and got one of the last boats of the day because we got there late in the afternoon. However – Just like you said. There was plenty of other things to see & do do so we didn’t mind that much.

    A long wait might be difficult if you have small kids with you or are elderly.

    You can get some Great pictures if you sit in the very back of the boat on your way back to shore.

  6. If you are lucky enough to travel with someone in the military you can get in early (7:00am i believe) they must be wearing their dress uniform (out of respect). On most days there is a re-enlistment ceremony available to military and their guest only. The story of the kamikaze pilot and the Captain of the Mo is my favorite story so I really suggest ppl tour the Mo too. As for Adam driving onto the ford island bridge honestly it happens twenty times a day. The guards are use to it.

  7. Are there “special events” occurring on this year’s 71st anniversary? I’m wondering if I should visit Oahu to coincide with December 7th, or are there far more tourists then and it is more difficult to visit the memorial? Thanks.

    • Events in Hawaii usually aren’t announced much more than a couple of weeks to a couple of months beforehand.

      If I had to guess, I would say that there would be something special for the 71st anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Normally, they have a survivor on hand, which, as you can imagine, are becoming more rare as time goes on.

  8. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance now for the $1.50 service fee. It is six months in calendar day. For example, if you want to go on December 15, you can make reservations on June 15.

    There are 150 visitors on each tour. The reservation system will allow 30 of them on the reservation system. Do make your reservations as close to the six months as you can as they fill up fast.

    Commercial tours also get advanced tickets.

    The rest are first come first served.

    The last tour is usually at 3:00pm. However, during the sequestration, the last tour is temporarily at 1:00pm now.

    They do have a ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center every December 7. During the about 2 hour ceremony, there won’t be any tours. Tours will resume after the ceremony.

    There is an annual Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Waikiki now on December 7th. Started in 2011.

  9. Update on the sequester affecting USS Arizona Memorial tours.

    Three tours have been added in the afternoon.

    Reservations for these tours can be made through the online reservation system.

    Tours available at 1:30, 2:00 and 2:30 starting June 28th for July 1- December 31.

  10. I was wondering if I could arrive early in my uniform, get a ticket, and ask for a later tour and come back at around 230pm? I have read you can’t do the tour in battle uniform but could you just go for the tickets early around 7 am in uniform?

  11. Note in the main article, July 2014 Update, these advanced reservations are for 150 seats each on 1:15pm and 1:45pm tours.

    Also advanced reservations can again be made through January 11 for the rest of the 35 tickets available for each tour. Most tickets have already been reserved.

    Advanced reservations after January 11 are suspended.

  12. I was just wondering if you can tell me your opinion on visiting this special site with young children. We are thinking about a trip to O’ahu but have 6 kids between 2-11. My husband is active duty AF, so the older kids have somewhat of an appreciation of these kind of things. Your thoughts would be appreciated!

  13. Kim – Take the kids. I’ve been on USS Arizona Memorial tour with kids of all ages.

    Of the four Pearl Harbor museums, the only one that has an age restriction is USS Bowfin (submarine). See the note on this link for those under 4:

    http://bowfin.org/visit/admission-a-tours

    You might find some useful info for your trip on this link:

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g29222-c183135/Oahu:Hawaii:Vacation.Information.For.U.S.Military.html

  14. Sheila- thanks for the helpful hints! One question- you mention that suitcases in your trunk can be risky. We will be flying out to Maui in the afternoon after visiting PH in the morning. Do you recommend checking luggage at the hotel and going back for it as opposed to keeping it in the car? Since it’s a National Park, we were hopeful the parking lot was relatively safe, but I saw your warning, so I thought I’d ask you to elaborate! Thanks for you help!

    • Kelly – as Dave just mentioned, there’s a baggage check building in Pearl Harbor. It’s pretty easy to find/access from the parking lots. I was just there in December. I don’t recall there being any restrictions on bag size. The fee is $3 per bag paid by cash only.

      Another idea to consider is to check with your airline and see when you could check your luggage for your flight to Maui. If the timing works for you and the airline, you could swing by the airport to check your luggage on the way to Pearl Harbor.

      • Thanks so much Sheila! We’ll look into it with Hawaiian airlines and see if we can check our bags on the way to PH, but we’ll be doing the 8am tour, so it might be best to check them. I’m glad we have both options! Thanks for letting us know!

  15. Kelly there is a manned baggage storage area there near USS Bowfin. $3/bag. It is like a coat check. You’ll get a receipt that you use later to pick up your bags.

  16. Updated info for advanced reservations:
    Reservations can be made up to two months in advance.
    Reservations can also be made for the next day. These are available at 7am Hawaii Standard Time.
    Maximum # of tickets per reservation is six.

  17. Sheila

    If you take TheBus to Pearl Harbor are the 4 attractions (Arizona, Missouri, Aviation Museum and Bowfin) within walking distance of each other?

    Thanks

    • We’ve only visited them one at a time. They may be walkable, but verify by looking at a map, like google maps where it allows you to determine walking distances.

  18. “If you take TheBus to Pearl Harbor are the 4 attractions (Arizona, Missouri, Aviation Museum and Bowfin) within walking distance of each other?”

    Yes! USS Arizona Memorial tour originates at the Visitors Center. USS Bowfin is at the Visitors Center. Shuttle for USS Missouri & Pacific Aviation Museum originates at the Visitors Center.

    Lots of info on this page including a link to a map of the park:

    https://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g29222-c194103/Oahu:Hawaii:Pearl.Harbor.Museums.html

  19. A friend & I are going to Oahu in December for some of the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor events.

    We plan to visit USS Arizona Memorial and maybe the other museums.

    I am a Vietnam Veteran! Yet, I will be so humbled seeing & greeting the Pearl Harbor survivors.

    Schedule of events:

    http://pearlharbor75thanniversary.com/full-schedule-of-events/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please do not use keywords in your name. Please keep your comment on the topic of the article as we will not approve or address off-topic comments. Required fields are marked *

*

Scroll To Top