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Best 5 Pearl Harbor Tours

Pearl Harbor is an iconic destination in Hawaii. We know its history through movies and countless books, but there is something fascinating and moving about seeing this naval base in person that cannot be described in words

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

8 min read

Best 5 Pearl Harbor Tours

USS Missouri and Arizona Memorial | ©Joanna Poe

Pearl Harbor is one of the most visited places in Oahu, you have to go there to experience it! If you like history and especially the period of the 20th century related to the most emblematic naval base in the world, here are the best options to visit Pearl Harbor.

1. Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial tours

Deck of the USS Missouri | ©Bernard Spragg. NZ
Deck of the USS Missouri | ©Bernard Spragg. NZ

Pearl Harbor is a must-see place you can't miss during your trip to Hawaii. In fact, it is one of the most visited sites on the island of Oahu because of its historical significance.

With this tour, a bus will pick you up in the morning at your hotel to take you to Pearl Harbor. You will see the Visitor Center and its exhibits about the military attack and enjoy skip-the-line admission to the Arizona Memorial (a memorial to the victims on the wreckage of the sunken ship) and the USS Missouri (the ship on which the surrender of Japan was signed and World War II ended).

After the visit to Pearl Harbor, you will board the bus for a tour of downtown and visit sites such as Kawaiahao Church, King Kamehameha Statue, Mission Houses Museum, Iolani Palace, Honolulu Hale, Public Library, or Punchbowl Cemetery before returning to the hotel with a fairly complete overview of the island's history.

Recommended... For those who want to combine in just one day a visit to the Pearl Harbor naval base with a tour of some of the main tourist attractions in downtown Honolulu.

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2. Complete tours of Pearl Harbor, its bay, the Arizona Memorial, and Honolulu

Arizona Memorial | ©InSapphoWeTrust
Arizona Memorial | ©InSapphoWeTrust

This option is very similar to the previous one but more economical. It will also take you by bus to Pearl Harbor Bay and you will tour the Visitor Center to see the exhibits about this historical episode through which you will learn about the context in which the attack took place.

In addition, you will enjoy a skip-the-line entrance to the USS Arizona Memorial, which will give you direct access to the memorial located on the remains of the battleship sunk by the Japanese air force.

After the visit, you will return to the bus for a walking tour of downtown Honolulu. The guide will show you some emblematic sites such as the Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific (honoring the U.S. Armed Forces), the historic Kawaiahao Church, and the Iolani Palace (the only royal residence in the country) and explain everything about them.

Recommended... If you're on a tight budget but don't want to miss out on a visit to Pearl Harbor and a brief tour of downtown Honolulu to get a taste of the city's history.

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3. Pearl Harbor tours with Honolulu city tour

View from the top of Aloha Tower | ©Jackie
View from the top of Aloha Tower | ©Jackie

There's no doubt that Pearl Harbor is a must-see for every traveler on Oahu but if you're really going to Hawaii for its beaches and surf, maybe you're looking for a short, budget-friendly U.S. military base tour that shows you the highlights without spending a lot of money.

This half-day Pearl Harbor tour from Honolulu is made for you! A bus will pick you up at your hotel to take you to this national monument. On the way, the guide will tell you about the role of the islands during the war in the Pacific and once at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center you will see several interesting exhibits that delve into its history.

Afterward, you will take a ferry to the USS Arizona Memorial, the most important site of the visit, where you will see the remains of the sunken battleship in which more than a thousand people perished during the attack. You will be very impressed to read all their names on the memorial to the victims located here.

Finally, you will return to the bus for a quick tour of downtown Honolulu and discover the history of the Aloha Tower, a symbol of Hawaii, before ending the tour in Waikiki.

Recommended... If you want to include Pearl Harbor in your trip to Hawaii but without spending too much money and without taking too much time to dedicate to other activities.

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4. Pearl Harbor Historical Tours

USS Oklahoma Memorial | ©Expert Infantry
USS Oklahoma Memorial | ©Expert Infantry

The attack on Pearl Harbor marked a before and after in the course of World War II, as it brought about the entry of the United States into the fray. Countless books have been written about this episode and many movies have been made, but if during your trip to Hawaii you are looking for an in-depth look at the conflict on the Pacific front because you are passionate about history, then I recommend you take this full-day tour to Pearl Harbor.

A bus will pick you up at your hotel to take you to the military base. During the ride, the guide will give you the necessary background on this historic site to understand what happened that day and Hawaii's role in the war, but you will be able to delve deeper into the subject with exhibits at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

You will then visit the highlights of the Pacific National Memorial such as the USS Arizona, USS Missouri, and USS Oklahoma Memorial. Then you will return to the bus for a tour of downtown Honolulu to see some historical sites relevant to the history of Hawaii and its monarchy. Before ending the tour you will pass by the Punchbowl Crater to view the Pacific National Memorial Cemetery.

Recommended... If you would like to take a cultural tour on Oahu that will uncover the history of the island and focus especially on what happened at Pearl Harbor and delve into the role of the United States in World War II.

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5. Pearl Harbor Private Tours

Visit the USS Bowfin | ©Jennifer Boyer
Visit the USS Bowfin | ©Jennifer Boyer

This half-day tour to Pearl Harbor is perfect for groups. It is private so only your group will participate and you will have a more personalized experience that will allow you to connect better with the guide, ask questions about the visit or ask for recommendations to make the most of your stay on Oahu.

A bus will pick you up at your hotel in Waikiki in the morning to go to Pearl Harbor. What happened in this naval base is well known, even movies have been made about it, but to delve into this historical episode there is a documentary that will bring you up to date on the role of Hawaii and the United States in World War II. You will also see the Pacific National Monument to Valor in World War II as well as the USS Arizona Memorial, one of the most moving sites of the visit.

Later you will go to downtown Honolulu to learn from an expert guide about Hawaii's history, its monarchy, and its inclusion as the 50th state in the country.

Recommended... if you want a more personalized experience than large groups can offer while enjoying the same itinerary.

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6. What is the best Pearl Harbor tour?

Aerial view of Pearl Harbor Bay | ©Eric Tessmer
Aerial view of Pearl Harbor Bay | ©Eric Tessmer

The most comprehensive are the Pearl Harbor Arizona, Missouri, and City Tour and the Pearl Harbor Remembered Tour.

Not only will you see and learn in detail about the U.S. naval base, but you will also visit downtown Honolulu and learn about the history of Oahu and the Hawaiian monarchy.

7. How much does a guided tour of Pearl Harbor cost?

Interior of the Arizona Memorial | ©Pearl Harbor
Interior of the Arizona Memorial | ©Pearl Harbor

It depends on the Pearl Harbor tour you choose and what you want to see during the visit. If you are looking for a short tour and are on a tight budget, there are tours to Pearl Harbor for around $ 40 to $ 50.

If you want to do a more comprehensive tour that shows you in detail Pearl Harbor and also certain points of interest in downtown Honolulu, then you can find tours from $ 55 to $ 120.

8. Is Pearl Harbor worth a visit?

Navy soldiers during an official ceremony | ©Pearl Harbor
Navy soldiers during an official ceremony | ©Pearl Harbor

Absolutely. We know the story well because we have read about it and it has been made into a movie several times (the last time in 2001 with Michael Bay's film) but nothing compares to seeing in person the place where the events took place and which changed the course of World War II, since as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered fully into the conflict.

The visit is quite emotional as the museums and memorials of Pearl Harbor make you meditate on the fatal consequences of the war. However, it was wanted to make this place a place to reflect and honor the victims. That is why it was provided with a lot of vegetation to make this place a quiet place to take a relaxing walk in front of the waters of the bay.

9. How far is Pearl Harbor from Oahu?

Wreckage of the USS Utah after the attack | ©Expert Infantry
Wreckage of the USS Utah after the attack | ©Expert Infantry

Pearl Harbor Naval Base is located about 14 miles from Honolulu. Although you can get there by taking a cab or the City Bus, the best option is to choose an organized bus tour from Waikiki.

You won't have to worry about finding transportation or waiting in line for tickets at the National Monument's ticket booths, and you'll learn interesting stories and anecdotes about the site along the way.

10. Pearl Harbor Private Tours

Uss Missouri with the Arizona Memorial in the background | ©Daniel Ramirez
Uss Missouri with the Arizona Memorial in the background | ©Daniel Ramirez

If you are looking to enjoy a private Pearl Harbor tour where only your group participates, then I recommend the Pearl Harbor City Tour for approximately $ 52.

11. Pearl Harbor tickets

Aerial view of the Arizona Memorial | ©Expert Infantry
Aerial view of the Arizona Memorial | ©Expert Infantry

Admission to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free but access to certain spaces such as the USS Arizona Memorial requires making a reservation on the official website.

In my opinion, the most recommended option is to book your tickets with a guided tour to Pearl Harbor because you will combine the visit to the naval base with other attractions on the island and you will have a more complete and entertaining experience. It is well worth it!

What to bring to Pearl Harbor?

As Ford Island is an operational military base, for security reasons security personnel may require visitors to Pearl Harbor to show their passport or driver's license for identification.

How to dress for a visit to Pearl Harbor?

As a memorial, the dress code for entering Pearl Harbor is smart casual. For example, to go to the USS Arizona Memorial, a shirt and shoes are required but high heels are not recommended. In addition, swimsuits are not allowed. Neither are purses or backpacks. They can be left in a locker outside the main entrance for $ 5 per bag.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is important about Pearl Harbor?

    During World War II, Pearl Harbor suffered a surprise attack from the Japanese Navy Air Service, it was this act of war that brought the US (a then-neutral country) into World War II. For this reason, Pearl Harbor has since been staple tourist destination, with many paying their respects to the soldiers that lost their lives and seeing the remnants of that fateful day.

  • How far from Oahu is Pearl Harbor?

    Oahu is actually the closest town to Pearl Harbor, and so at only 15km (9 mi) to the south, it only takes a 15 minute drive to reach the harbor.

  • Is there anything else I should know before I visit Pearl Harbor?

    There are a couple of things that will definitely make your experience go easy. First of all, if you need to bring a bag make sure it's clear (see-through), as that way you won't need to check it into baggage storage, better yet try not to bring a bag at all. Second of all, make sure you wear active clothing, as some of the sights involve climbing ladders and crawling through portholes. Finally, do a little research of Pearl Harbor before going, that way you'll understand the stories and their protagonists a little better.