Top 5 Tips to Visiting Pearl Harbor
Visiting a national park or monument is always special, but there is nothing quite like spending a day at Pearl Harbor, just two miles from the Honolulu airport on the island of Oahu. Paying tribute to the service men and women and civilians who died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 is inspirational. Here is how to make the most of it:
1. Getting Tickets
If you take your own car versus having a tour pick-up from your hotel, drop someone off while you park the car so they can get ferry boat tickets. Only 1,300 tickets are given out daily.
Because no one knows how much energy they will have two months in advance or what the weather will be on any given vacation day, arranging a tour or deciding to visit Pearl Harbor can be done when the mood and weather is right. If you like to plan things and assure admission, online reservations are available 60 days in advance at www.recreation.gov . Up to 12 tickets per person are available online. Admission is FREE (your tax dollars at work), which offers welcome relief to a vacation budget.
2. Have Your Coffee Before You go
There are limited food facilities onboard, so grabbing your cup of Kona coffee, tea, juice, and breakfast is a must. While there are hot dogs, sandwiches, and snacks to fill the void, but there isn’t a restaurant on the Arizona. If you want to bring your own food, you can enjoy it in the Visitor Center.
3. Getting Ready for the Day
You can’t carry anything larger than what will fit in the palm of your hand on to government sites any longer for security reasons. This will require that you wear something with pockets to hold your cash and credit cards. You may only carry a bottle of clear water.
Small lockers rent for $3 if you don’t know this and come to the admissions area with a contraband purse or backpack. Comfortable shoes are key because the grounds and vessels are huge.
4. Audio and Video Tour
Get your return ferry tickets before you do much else once you get on board so that you aren’t standing in line for them later when your feet are tired and your energy may be flagging. You may stand by for an earlier ferry if you finish touring before your chosen exit time, but at least you will have a ticket to get out.
Just like taking a city tour when visiting a new city or country, watching the video to get oriented in historical places and national parks is a wise starting point, so start there. There is a 23-minute video showing regularly in the Arizona auditorium, which should be your first stop.
Do invest the small fee ($7.50 in 2017) for the audio tour. It will add valuable information and enhance your experience. It is available in many languages. You control whether you look at every item in the order they have it or just areas of interest to you. It isn’t practical to share a headset. Get your own.
5. Four Sites to See and It All Takes Time
The Arizona is the main draw for a Pearl Harbor visit. While everyone favors peace on the planet, learning about the tales and accomplishments of the 900-foot-long battleship and its important service in World War II will impress.
The systems required to feed and house over 1,000 men and women is daunting. The technology of the time led the way and is still in use in some cases. The scope and size of the vessels built in record time to meet the demands of war pay tribute to American ingenuity and the power of the governmental purse. Visitors come away awe-inspired.
It is sobering to see the Arizona and know all of the people who died in it are still there. The airy, sunlit hall with the contemporarily cut windows where names of all of the company casualties are engraved pays beautiful tribute to those lost in the bombing on that fateful December day.
Any of the company who were fortunate enough to not be on board at the time of the bombing can ask to be buried with their shipmates. The Arizona is opened whenever a WW II veteran on the company list wants to be buried at sea with their pals. Survivors of the day are often onboard the Arizona to share stories and take a picture with you.
The “Mighty Mo” can be explored on your own or on one of the two daily tours or with an audio guide. Shuttle buses from the Visitor Center get you there. You will see where WWII actually ended on this vessel.
The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park offers a glimpse into what it was like to live on a submarine in the World War II era. Access to this is also near the Visitor’s Center.
The Pacific Aviation Museum houses vintage aircraft and offers a flight simulator.
Use this link to get more fully oriented: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m621PsbfIOc .
People often say that words don’t adequately describe a place or circumstances. Pearl Harbor is one of those. The phrase about being proud to be an American where you know you are free will have new meaning after a visit to this hallowed site.
Beth Holt is a contributing editor to Travel Daily Media, USA. She is an experienced traveler and author