I'm going to Honolulu for the first time and want to tour Pearl Harbor. I know nothing about the area and I'm not sure how to prepare. How long does it take? Are tours required or can I go on my own? Any tips would be greatly appreciated!
Pearl Harbor is a powerful experience that I highly recommend as a way to connect with our past. What everyone may not know initially is in addition to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center there are a few different attractions: USS Arizona Memorial and Uss Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. Both are popular locations but to the USS Arizona you will need to be shuttled out by boat.
If you are staying in Waikiki you will want to rent a car or go with a tour bus. You can take a Taxi cab but it will cost around $35 each way. The tour is 75 minutes long but with lines and transportation this is a half day event. There really is not anything else in the area so plan ahead if you do not have your own transport or are at the mercy of someone else's schedule. As for dress, be respectful of the location, if you wear something skimpy or controversial you will likely be called out on it... 'Murica don't mess around.
For more information check out Recreation.gov:
Reserve tickets up to two (2) months in advance. You can also reserve next-day online tickets starting at 7 a.m. the day prior to your visit for a 24 hour period. These tickets are available for groups and individuals online at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
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I wish someone had told me about the bag situation! You can't take any bags... annoying but try to bring the essentials. I had my phone, camera, a little wallet, chapstick and water. If you want to see the USS Arizona, it's free which is cool but book ahead when visiting Pearl Harbor and I suggest driving if you rent a car or take a bus (if you go on a tour). Cabs are so expensive! You can go on your own, we didn't take a tour and I thought it was fine but I'm sure you would definitely learn a lot more through a tour.
All excellent suggestions. I will only add that if you are too late to book a time on-line (like we were), arrive 1 hour before opening (8:00 was the opening time when we were there, but it may change). Grab a cup of coffee before arrival, and make some new friends while you wait in line. We did take a cab (we actually hired our cab driver from the evening before for a reduced rate). It was more expensive than bus, but more convenient.
They have designated times to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, but there is no guide while on the memorial itself. You will want a guide for the USS Missouri or you miss so many stories.
Totally agree with Rob, rent a car or take a bus. A cab would be so expensive. If you're a member of the US military, you get in for free. Book online before, or you'll risk waiting in a looong line and may not even get in. If you book online, you have to pick them up one hour before. If you're visiting in the busier months (like summer) I suggest booking them months in advance. Just to be safe. Oh and no bags allowed :)