As you think of Pearl Harbor today, the 66th anniversary of its bombing, consider planning a trip to Hawaii’s USS Arizona Memorial. Here’s why travelers who have been there urge you to make the pilgrimage, along with their tips for getting the most out of your visit.
Like other IgoUgo travelers, Carmen felt moved to find herself “on the hull of a ship where over 1,100 people died in an attack on our freedom” and to see that “oil still colors the water in places even after 60-some years.” Her top tip for feeling the emotion of the memorial without getting emotional at the crowds? “Get there EARLY! The complex opens its doors at 7:30am, and the first boat leaves for the memorial at 8am.” She also notes that “it’s not a site to see at your leisure; you’re assigned a tour time when you’re given your free ticket.” A last piece of advice from the self-proclaimed picture freak: “sit in the front-right of the movie theater, as the exit doors to the boat are located there. Position yourself on the right side of the boat for a view of the warships.”
SFPhotocraft, who says “you should take one morning away from the beach and visit this important sight,” advises taking in the memorial on your own rather than with a tour company, as a visit to the site (including parking) is completely free. He says the tour took him about 4 hours, so you’ll need to “plan a full morning” for the memorial. And since you’re doing it on your own, “if driving, do NOT take the Pearl Harbor exit; this will take you into the active Pearl Harbor military base. Take the next exit: Arizona Memorial/Stadium.”
One of the most personal reviews of the memorial is written by Truly Malin, who returned to New York from her visit to Hawaii on September 10, 2001. She says, “I dare to hope that a memorial as impressive will be erected for the victims of September 11...I hope it will be as moving, shocking, and inspiring.” For your visit to the USS Arizona, she advises checking out the public bus schedule, arriving by 3pm to make the last tour, and stopping in the gift shop for “unique souvenirs.”
RoBoNC has ideas for expanding your visit to include more than one historic site. When he asked a USS Arizona park ranger why only one of the three ships that sank on December 7, 1941, has a memorial, he discovered that there is another one—the USS Utah—on nearby Ford Island. Only visitors with military IDs are allowed to see it, though, as it’s on an active Navy base. If you can’t enter Ford Island, he recommends checking out the USS Missouri, which is next to the USS Arizona and is where the US and Japan signed a peace treaty to end World War II. RoBoNC says that “while a visit to the USS Arizona symbolizes the ultimate sacrifice of our military, in contrast, the USS Missouri symbolizes the pride and victory of the same.” He notes that the Battleship Missouri Memorial is privately run and requires an entrance fee.
On her trip to see the USS Arizona Memorial earlier this year, kathyjohanna discovered that the best time to go is early—before the tour buses arrive. She also warns that there are “pretty major security regulations in place: purses, bags, backpacks, camera cases, and diaper bags are not allowed in the visitor center or on the tour.” (Recent visitor acmasters1 adds that young children in strollers also cannot board the ferry to the memorial.) Both felt a sense of patriotism there, and kathyjohanna says that “although I wouldn't consider Pearl Harbor a fun part of our vacation, it is an important part of the Hawaiian experience.”
The USS Arizona Memorial is Oahu’s most visited site, and many other IgoUgo writers have been; read about all of their experiences before you go.