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

    1. 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

    2. 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

    3. 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?

    4. 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

    5. 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!

Planning Your Visit

  • 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?
    Open daily, 7:00 AM-5:00 PM
    Holiday hours may vary
  • 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

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 373 reviews

Highly advise to reserve the boat ride to uss Arizona as we waited on a stand by list for 2-3 hours. You can get a pass for everything once you get there for $72. Memorable trip, but bring your narrator and headphones because there’s no guide or explanation of what you are looking at other than some maps.

It was informative and self directed - slow or fast your pace. One thing though is that we were not alerted to the fact that one should have booked a time slot for the boat to the memorial. The rangers fit all in if slots were available and there were on every boat going out. Not an issue.

Make sure you schedule the boat trip separately. This one did not include the boat ride to the Arizona. The site says there was an option to add it to this trip but it is nowhere to be found. We had to try to get on the standby list while at the park.

Liked that they sanitized between stops. Microphone was awful- cut out every other word. Driver was nice enough and apologized got it fixed eventually but was impossible to understand 1/3 of trip.

Pearl Harbor is amazing, and being able to go on the anniversary was something else. Absolutely an amazing place to visit and feel the power of history.