We didn’t arrive on Oahu with an itinerary in hand. After months of wedding planning and seemingly endless to-do lists we were looking forward to a relaxing, tropical vacation. Visiting Pearl Harbor was pretty much the only “touristy” must-do activity we wanted to be sure to fit in on our weeklong stay on the island.
We set aside a half-day for visiting Pearl Harbor, which was enough time for us; however, if you’re a true history buff or aviation enthusiast, you could easily spend more time there. We bought the Passport to Pearl Harbor combo tour, which allowed us to check out the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, the U.S.S. Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island.
Note that admission to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is free, but it is also first-come, first-serve, even if it is part of a combo like ours. After we got our Passport deal we still had to go get the time-stamped tickets for the Arizona tour. Do so right away…it’s a popular tourist site on the island, and the wait time can be a couple hours long. We visited the U.S.S. Bowfin while we waited for our departure to the Arizona.
U.S.S. Bowfin Museum and Park
The U.S.S. Bowfin is a WWII-era submarine that sank 44 enemy ships during World War II. Today it is a National Historic Landmark and museum that offers a peek into what it was like to live and work aboard a sub at that time. We actually didn’t get a chance to go into the museum, but read that it contains more than 4,000 submarine-related artifacts.
U.S.S. Arizona Memorial
Touring the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial includes a short documentary on the history of Pearl Harbor before a short boat ride to the memorial. We recommend doing the narrated tour, which provides a headset and control to punch in the number posted at various places at the memorial. This was definitely the most sobering and introspective part of our Pearl Harbor excursion as we remembered the many lives lost while we literally stood above their watery grave.
Battleship U.S.S. Missouri Memorial
We hopped on the shuttle bus to Ford Island to check out the other two sites that were part of our tour. The U.S.S. Missouri was the last American battleship built, as well as the last to be decommissioned. The surrender of the Japanese on her deck brought World War II to an end. There are a variety of tour options available here–we chose to do a self-guided tour, which was a lot of fun, because there weren’t many people on board at the same time as us. We almost felt like we had the entire ship to ourselves!
Pacific Aviation Museum
The Pacific Aviation Museum consists of two World War II hangars, which still bear marks and bullet holes in the windows from the attacks on Pearl Harbor. This is a great museum for aviation enthusiasts, as it includes not just World War II-era planes (Japanese Zero, Stearman N2S-3), but also other vintage aircraft, including a Cobra attack helicopter, a Soviet-designed MiG-15 and “MiG Alley Exhibit,” an F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, P-40 Warhawk, “Flying Tigers” Exhibit, and more.
We’re so glad to have had the opportunity to visit this historic site where World War II began for the United States. It is definitely a must-do experience for any visitor to Oahu, no matter your nationality.
Written by Stephanie