Travelling to Hawaii? Don't Miss Out On Pearl Harbour
As well as beautiful stretches of sand, awesome surf spots and endless sunny days at the beach, Honolulu has a lot more to offer. You can visit the Dole Plantation, shop til you drop at Ala Moana or the Waikele Outlets, take a scenic flight, hike, swim with turtles and more. If you only have a few days in Honolulu pre or post cruise, you want to be sure you make the most of your time. One of the most popular, and indeed most enlightening, sites to visit is that of Pearl Harbor.
A turning point not only in World War II (which lead to the US joining the war), it was also the beginning of the aviation era of warfare. Pearl Harbor saw a meticulously planned attack utilising both air and sea battles. A significant day in US history, the Japanese attack caught the US off-guard resulting in a tragic loss of life. At Pearl Harbor you’ll learn the significance of this attack, hear the stories of the survivors and gain a real understanding of the importance of this day in history.
For such a popular tourist site, information on how Pearl Harbor works is surprisingly difficult to obtain. There are several websites, and tour companies, but getting your head around each part is kind of difficult. So we’ve got a run down of how it works so you can get the most out of your visit.
Firstly, it is worth the visit. The actual area may be smaller than you’d expect, but there’s a lot of information and plenty to look at. It’s a great learning opportunity for kids and super interesting for adults with an interest in WWII history.
The complex comprises several small museums, each with a different theme, a theatre, the Arizona Memorial, Bowfin submarine and MS Missouri ship.
To Tour or To Turn Up? That is the question
Some people prefer to be picked up from their hotel, others prefer to go it alone. You can do either with Pearl Harbor.
The benefits of doing a tour are that you are collected and returned to your hotel, you don’t have to worry about driving, you have the benefit of the commentary and information from your driver and you don’t have to join any queues once you’re there – you just go straight on through.
If you’re going it alone, there’s parking right across the road and the roads are well sign posted all the way there. Once you get there, you need to purchase your tickets at the gate. If you strike it at a busy time of year, or day, you may end up in some pretty long queues. It is stinking hot and there’s not a lot of shade. If you get there before or right on opening, they give away a certain number of free entries each day (but you’re not guaranteed of that). The benefit of going it alone is that you’re not tied to a time – if you want to spend longer, you can. If you have seen all that you want to see, you can go on home.
The other thing to consider is that you have to book your theatre time and depending how many tour companies are booked, as well as how busy it is on the day you visit, you may not be able to get the time you want. If you’ve got plenty of time, that won’t matter as you can take a look at the museums etc before you go in. But if you’re wanting to combine Pearl Harbor with another activity in the same day, you may like to book ahead.
Another option is to take the local transport which is super easy in Honolulu. The Waikiki Trolley Purple Line goes from various hotels in Waikiki through to Pearl Harbor and return, departing approximately every hour and 10 minutes. Just check which stop is closest to you and the time. You can get a Purple Line pass for $25 per adult/senior. Or you can buy a bundle that includes your bus fare and entry. The benefit of doing it this way is that you can visit Pearl Harbor and then stop off at one of the other sites along the way – eg. Bishop Museum, Ala Moana shopping centre etc.
What type of ticket should I get?
This all depends on how much you want to see and how long you want to spend there. Your entry includes the various museums housing artefacts like the naval uniform, replicas of the MS Arizona, stories about some of the people, machines used in intercepting messages etc. You’ll see the anchor of the Arizona, the bell and gain a good understanding of the events as they unfolded that fateful day.
You can also book a time to go into the theatre which shows you real footage and stories from survivors and it’s incredibly poignant and humbling. Following this, you exit and board the boat that will take you across to the Arizona Memorial. The Memorial is currently undergoing renovations (2019) and it isn’t known when it will be re-opened but rumour has it, it won’t be until around December. While the renovations are taking place, instead of boarding the Arizona Memorial, you’ll be taken for a quick ride up Battleship Row and you’ll be able to see the rusty funnel of the Arizona, but you won’t get very close.
If you’re visiting once the Memorial has been repaired, you’ll be able to step onto the Memorial that stands above the Arizona and look down onto the ship, in which hundreds of sailors are still entombed. The names of those who died are on the walls and it’s a very sobering experience.
You can also purchase the audio tour, which is well worth doing. For US$7.50 you’ll be given a headset and a guide, so you just key in the number corresponding to the exhibition you’re at. You’ll then hear a short commentary explaining what it is and hear survivor’s accounts of their experiences. You’ll get a lot more information doing this.
If you want to explore further, you can buy the pass to include the MS Missouri or the Bowfin, which allows you to go on board either vessel and see for yourself what life was like on board. If you’re going to do the whole lot, allow the full day as there’s a lot to see and take in.
Tips for Visiting Pearl Harbor
• You are not allowed to take bags into Pearl Harbor due to security. You can take phones, water in clear bottles and cameras but no bags, strollers ets. There are facilities to store bags for $5.
• There’s only one or two places to buy food or drinks inside Pearl Harbor so choice is pretty limited and prices aren’t cheap.
• It gets HOT! Aside from inside the the theatre or museums, you’ll be walking around outside. It gets very hot and there’s not a huge amount of shade, so be sure to sunscreen up, wear a hat and drink plenty of water!
• Be mindful that many people visiting Pearl Harbor have family who perished during Pearl Harbor – or are survivors themselves – so it can be a very sensitive time. Please be considerate.
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