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Pearl Harbor Tour (Self Guided), Honolulu

Pearl Harbor, a US deep-water naval base in Honolulu, made history in 1941 when came under attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service prompting the United States' entering World War II. Since 1964, Pearl Harbor has been declared a National Historic Landmark, featuring a number of military objects and installations turned-monuments. This self-guided tour invites you to pay tribute to the fallen heroes and to learn more about those days at Pearl Harbor.
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Pearl Harbor Tour Map

Guide Name: Pearl Harbor Tour
Guide Location: USA » Honolulu (See other walking tours in Honolulu)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 Km or 4.3 Miles
Author: helenp
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
  • World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
  • Admiral Clarey Bridge
  • Ford Island
  • USS Arizona Memorial
  • Oklahoma Memorial
  • USS Missouri Memorial
  • Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park

1) USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park (must see)

The USS Bowfin was a Balao-class submarine used extensively from 1942 to 1971. It is one of only 15 U.S. World War II-era submarines still in existence. The USS Bowfin went on nine patrols ranging from Japan to Australia before being decommissioned and placed in reserve in 1947. In 1980, the USS Bowfin was moved to her current location beside the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors' Center. Visitors can tour the submarine with an audio narration of life in the vessel during WWII.

The USS Bowfin Museum has several different exhibits, including the Waterfront Memorial. This lists 52 submarines that were lost during wartime, as well as all of the men that were on board. There's also a Japanese human torpedo on display. This weapon was a manned suicide torpedo used exclusively by the Japanese during WWII. It contained nearly 4,000 pounds of TNT and had no escape hatch for the pilot. These torpedoes were called “Kaiten,” a word that means “Return to the sky,” and were meant to be launched from a ship or submarine towards other naval craft. While the Kaiten were in use, eight launching craft and nearly nine hundred human lives were lost. In addition to the Waterfront Memorial and Kaiten display, the USS Bowfin Museum is filled with submarine weapons systems, photos, battle flags, and vintage recruitment posters.

Why You Should Visit:
If you have time while you are at Pearl Harbor, are not claustrophobic, and haven't been on a submarine before, then you should definitely go on this one.
The audio tour they give you with the price of admission is very good and includes several personal accounts from Marines who served on the Bowfin.

Remember to watch out and not hit your head on all the low clearance spots (if you are over 6'3", be prepared to duck often).
Make sure you visit the museum before touring the Bowfin for the obligatory history of submarines, or save your ticket and do the museum later.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am–5pm
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

2) World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (must see)

A visit to the USS Arizona Memorial is a solemn and sobering experience, even for those who were not alive when the attack occurred.

Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial remain top tourist destinations in Hawaii, welcoming over 1,700,000 visitors annually. The addition of the Battleship Missouri Memorial in 1999 and the opening of the Pacific Aviation Museum in 2006 have further enhanced the importance of this historic area.

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, is the primary portal for visitors coming to Pearl Harbor. Interpretive programs include a 23-minute documentary film about the attack and a boat trip to the USS Arizona Memorial. The visitor center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

After entering the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, visitors may choose from a variety of tours. In addition to visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, they may walk to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park to learn about subsurface warfare. Visitors may also choose to take the Ford Island shuttle from the visitor center to reach the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

You don’t NEED to do a tour. You can actually hire an audio guide when you’re there or you could just go with what’s written in the exhibits.
There are four areas to visit – it will probably take all day to do all of them; however, you can pick and choose what you really want to do.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-5pm
Admiral Clarey Bridge

3) Admiral Clarey Bridge

The Admiral Clarey Bridge is also known as the Ford Island Bridge, since it connects Hawaii to Ford Island, a U.S. navy installation in the middle of Pearl Harbor. The bridge was named in honor of Admiral Bernard A. Clarey, a submarine commander during World War II. He was the Commanding Officer for the Pintado, a submarine that patrolled the Pacific in 1944. One night in June, the Pintado fired on a Japanese convoy, making six direct hits with all of her torpedoes. Later on, she damaged a large freighter, and sank three more. Clarey was awarded the Navy Cross for the Pintado's success.

The Admiral Clarey Bridge is, 4,700 feet long, and includes a nearly 1000 foot section that can be retracted to allow ships to pass by. Prior to the bridge's construction, the only transportation available to and from the island was in the form of two diesel powered ferries. At this time, access to the island was limited to military personnel and their families. Unfortunately, during the 1990s, only one ferry was operational, and the last ferry of the night left at 11:00 pm. This left many navy personnel spending the night in the ferry parking lot if they missed the boat. The bridge, build in 1998, helped eliminate this problem.
Ford Island

4) Ford Island

Ford Island is a US navy installation located in the center of Pearl Harbor, and connected to the mainland by the Admiral Clarey Bridge. The island itself is home to several different military facilities, as well as four groups of housing for military personnel and their families.

Unlike some other military installations, Ford Island is not a man-made island. It was originally named Moku 'ume'ume, the isle of attraction. It was named Ford Island after Dr. Ford, a doctor who practiced at the U.S. Seamen's Hospital and the Hawaiian Insane Asylum in the mid 1800s. The United States military purchased the island during World War I, and stationed personnel there in 1918.

Ford Island was originally the site of a naval air station, and the center of the attack on Pearl Harbor since it is surrounded by battleship moorings. In 1962, it was decommissioned as a separate command and placed under the control of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. In 1964, the island was declared a National Historic Landmark, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Before 1998, the island was accessible only to military personnel and their families. Since the construction of the Admiral Clarey Bridge, civilians can visit the island and the USS Missouri and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.
Sight description based on wikipedia
USS Arizona Memorial

5) USS Arizona Memorial (must see)

Editor's Note: Visitor access to the USS Arizona Memorial has been suspended for several months due to movement of the loading dock and corresponding movement of the loading ramp to the memorial, which poses a safety concern for our visitors. While repairs are made, the USS Arizona Memorial will remain closed.


The USS Arizona Memorial is a white marble structure that straddles the wreck of the USS Arizona, sunk during WWII in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Memorial was designed to commemorate all of the lives lost in the attack.

The Memorial itself has a sort of saddle shape designed to evoke the spirit of the U.S. before, during, and after WWII – tall on one end to represent U.S. pride before the war, sunken in the middle to represent U.S. depression after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and tall on the opposite end to represent U.S. pride after WWII was won.

The USS Arizona lies directly beneath the Memorial. After the ship was sunk, the navy salvaged all that it could from the vessel. The components that weren't able to be salvaged remain there today. These include the ship's fuel tanks. Physical damage and corrosion from salt water cause the tanks to leak small amounts of oil, which rise to the surface to produce visible oil slicks. These are called “black tears” or the “tears of the Arizona.”

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-5pm
Oklahoma Memorial

6) Oklahoma Memorial

The USS Oklahoma was a World War I-era battleship, and one of the first to rely on oil for power, as opposed to older, coal-powered battleships. Though the Oklahoma was used in World War I, she was modernized between 1927 and 1929, and used to rescue refugees during the Spanish Civil War. After the ship returned to the Pacific in 1939, she remained there. The ship was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and 429 members of her crew sank with her.

Unlike the USS Arizona, the Oklahoma was raised in 1943. Unfortunately, the ship was irreparably damaged, and was not returned to duty. Instead, all of the Oklahoma's weaponry and key components were stripped, and the ship was sold for scrap. The USS Oklahoma finally sank while being towed to the mainland in 1947.

The Oklahoma Memorial was designed to commemorate the lives that were lost with the sinking of the Oklahoma. For each of the 429 men that were lost, there is an individual white marble column. This gives visitors a real sense of just how many people 429 is- it's easy to talk about losing 429 people on the Oklahoma, or 1,177 on the Arizona, but the Oklahoma Memorial gives visitors a real idea of the toll that the attack on Pearl Harbor caused.
USS Missouri Memorial

7) USS Missouri Memorial (must see)

The USS Missouri is the last battleship built by the U.S. Navy, and was the site of the official end of World War II.

The USS Missouri was commissioned in 1944, and fought in both the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, in the Korean War between the years 1950 and 1953, and then in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. This battleship was the site where the Emperor of Japan formally surrendered after WWII. All told, the Missouri received a total of eleven service stars before being decommissioned in 1992. In 1998, the ship was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association for use as a museum ship. One of the ship's trademarks is her nine 16-inch guns. The barrel of each one is roughly 67 feet long and weighs over 115 tons.

The USS Missouri Memorial is a museum devoted to the history of the Missouri, the wars she was involved in, and the men who worked on her. The collections within the museum consist of anything related to the USS Missouri: artifacts and archives about the ship, things that originated on the ship, or materials related to the history surrounding the ship.

Why You Should Visit:
Symbolism aside, it is quite interesting to see a WWII-era battleship that was modernized in the 1980s. This ship truly has one of the most unique stories in all of the U.S. Navy.

If you purchase tickets online, make sure you go to the Visitor Center to get credit. You need to show the receipt that you can only get from the Visitor Center when you board.
Shuttle to Ford Island and the site is free and takes about 10 mins. Shuttles arrive every 10-15 mins, so there's no need to panic if you miss one.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-4pm
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

8) Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (must see)

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is located on Ford Island, in the middle of Pearl Harbor. The island used to be accessible solely to military personnel, their guests, and their families, but, with the construction of the Admiral Clarey Bridge in 1998, it is now open to visitors.

The Museum itself is housed in the seaplane hangars that survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The displays include a collection of WWII-era military aircraft, including Japanese Zero aircraft, American bombers, some planes used in the Korean war, and a set of vintage Japanese torpedoes similar to those used during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The museum also has a 200-seat theater, gift shop, and restaurant. Visitors can additionally experience a combat flight simulator, which offers simulated dogfights with enemy planes over the Pacific. If they look closely, they can still see some of the bullet holes from the attack on Pearl Harbor that mark Hangar 37's windows.

Adjacent to Hangar 37 is Hangar 79, a former aircraft maintenance workshop. In this area, vintage aircraft are fixed up and readied for display, and visitors can view part of the aircraft maintenance process.

The planes have descriptive plaques, but for a complete experience, try and catch a docent tour using the Aviator's Tour option.
Eat at the museum rather than at the USS Arizona or USS Missouri memorials – food choices are better if you spend all day there.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm

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