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

The driver had a lot of information and was funny. Unfortunately it was raining so touring the city we did not get out of the bus. The palace was not open due to Covid. Pearl Harbor was interesting and the Park Ranger on the Arizona Memorial was very informative and you could tell he liked his job and willing to share his information.

Audio tour comes with a paper guide but you also need to pay attention to the sites to find all the points of interest. We did not get that direction, we figured it out on our own and missed some of the points we passed before we figured it out.

It was extremely beneficial to have an audio giving details and information while we walked around Pearl Harbor! The survivors commentary were especially impactful & moving!! Excellent & necessary addition!!

This was the best helicopter tour I have ever had and I had rode a lot in multiple cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. This one was soooo great!!! 60-minute tour is highly recommended

The narration was great, it explained what had happened during the events that took place. I learned more by listening to what had happened than just by reading on the plaques.