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: The National Park Service implemented a reserved ticket process. A controlled number of tickets will be made available for reservation up to 60 days in advance. Sometimes a separate batch of tickets are released at 7am Hawaii time for the following day. The cost for a reserved ticket is $1.00 per ticket. Ticket reservations can be made at this website or by calling 1-877-444-6777. See more about this new process here. They process has changed several times since it’s been implemented, so check Reservation.gov for the current procedures and rules. Note that reserved tickets are completely optional as free “walk-in” tickets are issued every day.
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?