Pearl Harbor Tours Oahu
How to Do It Quickly & Cheaply

Pearl Harbor Tours on Oahu, quick and cheap! The Pearl Harbor City Tour is basically the shortest and cheapest way to do Pearl Harbor for those who want to see and experience Pearl Harbor.

You get to see the Arizona Memorial which includes the boat ride across the harbor to the white freestanding Memorial building in the middle of the harbor.

I explain it like that because a lot of people don’t realize that Pearl Harbor is the military base area which also contains a set of museums including the Arizona Memorial.

pearl harbor tours oahu

Options and General Information

Many folks will just say ‘I want to go to Pearl Harbor’ but as an agent hearing that statement it could mean a lot of things.

It could also mean that you may want to see other museums such as the Battleship Missouri, the Pacific Aviation Museum, the USS Bowfin Submarine or the USS Oklahoma.

pearl harbor tours oahu exposed ship

For the purposes of this article I am just focusing on what you’ll see if you want to see the Arizona Memorial, the place where the attack happened.

For other tour options that include more than the Arizona see here

Now that we are clear that you want to see the Arizona Memorial I will proceed to explain what the “Pearl Harbor Historical City Tour” is.

 

PEARL HARBOR TOURS OAHU-What It Is

In a nutshell you will get to:

-Visit the Arizona Memorial first and then on the way back to Waikiki...

-Pass through Punchbowl National Cemetery and then

-Drive past the King Kamehameha statue and Iolani Palace.

They take the scenic way back to the hotels in Waikiki in order to allow you to see a few more things. You can kill 2 birds with one stone with a city drive through.

pearl harbor tours oahu arizona memorial inside

Punchbowl National Cemetery

Located in the crater floor of a dormant volcano Punchbowl National Cemetery is like our version of Arlington National Cemetery in DC.

-Tours are not allowed to stop in Punchbowl National Cemetery but can drive through really slowly.

-The picture below was taken from the vehicle I was riding in.

 -On the way out of the cemetery are some very nice views of the city of Honolulu below.

pearl harbor tours oahu punchbowl national cemetery

City Tour

After descending down the hill you’ll be in the historic part of Honolulu on the edge of the downtown area. This is where you’ll drive by the King Kamehameha statue and Iolani Palace.   

pearl harbor tours oahu iolani palace

Iolani Palace is where the last living member of the monarchy, Queen Lilliuokalani lived and was imprisoned before Hawaii was taken over by the United States.

Pictured below is the King Kamehameha statue. You may recognize it as the gold statue from the opening sequence of Hawaii 5-0 but it honors King Kamehameha and his significance in Hawaiian history.

pearl harbor tours oahu king kamehameha statue


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PEARL HARBOR TOURS OAHU-Where & When

What Times

Pickups for this tour are in Waikiki at different hotels. Different companies have varying times but most are between 6am-7am.

I know that this sounds early but if you think about it you’ll be up early anyway with the time difference.

I always advise people to do their Pearl Harbor trip at the beginning of their vacation.

pearl harbor tours oahu visitors center

Just take advantage of the fact that you’ll be awake before most of us here are even thinking of getting up.

The west coast is 2-3 hours ahead of Hawaii and the east coast is 5-6 depending on the time of year that you’re visiting. We don’t change our clocks here.

I’ve met plenty of people who told me that they had been up since 3 or 4:00 am because it was 8 or 9:00 back home.

As you go through your vacation you’ll want to sleep in so get it over with now if you can.

CHECK TIMES AND AVAILABILITY


Address

The exact address is 1 Arizona Memorial Place Honolulu, HI 96818


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PEARL HARBOR TOURS OAHU-How Long

The drive takes about 20-30 minutes without traffic first thing in the morning after getting on the expressway. Add time to that if leaving after breakfast time or later.

The shortest tour is about 4.5-5 hours. This includes the approximate 25-30 minutes it takes each way to get there.

pearl harbor tours oahu boat launch

EVERYONE whether you’re part of a tour or on your own has to arrive 1 hour prior to your ticket time. This is the rule of the National Park Service who runs and manages the Arizona Memorial.

Upon arriving your driver will give you your tickets, point out where the vehicle is parked and tell you the time to return.

TIP: Make sure not to miss your bus because it’s about a $50 cab ride one way back to Waikiki (without traffic).

  • The tickets have a time on them which indicates the time that you are to check in to watch the Pearl Harbor movie.

  • It’s about 23-25 minutes long and sums up the events in history that were happening at this time.

You’ll go in one door to enter the theater and when it is over you’ll exit out of another where the boat shuttle will be waiting to take you across the harbor to the Arizona Memorial.

pearl harbor oahu theater

You’ll have time to spend inside the Memorial before the shuttle returns to get you.

After returning to the visitor center you’ll have a little more time before boarding the bus to drive through Punchbowl and historical Honolulu on the way back to Waikiki.

Most tours return in time for lunch and for you to enjoy the rest of your day.


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PEARL HARBOR TOURS OAHU-NEED TO KNOW

Be Aware of the Following-Must Know

  1. Must have ID-It is an active military base so everyone aged 18 years and old must have his or her government issued ID. A driver’s license is fine, it is not necessary to have a passport if you’re international. I have sent scores of international travelers there with just a driver’s license and it has been fine.
  2.  

  3. No Bags-Ever since 9/11 they are really strict about bags. You can have a camera but not a camera case; no purses, backpacks or fannypacks are allowed.  There is a baggage claim for $3 cash or lockers if they are available. Cell phones are ok.

Travelers With Babies

You can take your baby stroller and things BUT...

  • Minimize the amount of baby things that you take with you and put them inside of clear plastic Ziploc freezer bags so that security can easily identify what is inside the bag.

I recommend that your strollers be the easily collapsible kind and you should inform whomever you’re booking with that you will have a stroller.

  • You WILL NOT be allowed to take the stroller into the movie theater and onto the boat shuttle and into the actual Arizona Memorial. Strollers are only allowed around the visitor center area.

What will happen when you watch the movie is that your stroller will stay outside of the theater along with the other strollers.

The strollers in a special section that is guarded by security. They are used to this and deal with several hundred strollers a day.


Go Oahu Card Users:

If you are planning on doing this tour as part of the Go Oahu card you will need to make a reservation. This means:
    1. Call the phone number for the vendor and make a reservation ahead of time. The cost is already covered. I recommend that you get the name of the person who took your reservation and the reservation number so that you have this information for future reference.
    2. DO NOT wait until the last minute. Ideally allow at least 2-3 days advance notice, more during the summer and definitely more during Christmas.
    3. Tell them your hotel so that your pickup can be scheduled. Be ready for pickup 10 minutes ahead of time.

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PEARL HARBOR TOURS OAHU-Planning Tips

The less you take with you the better. Keep in mind that over 5,000 people A DAY visit Pearl Harbor. There are only so many lockers and lines are likely for the baggage claim.

The baggage claim is simple. It consists of you handing your bag to the person on the other side of the counter who then puts your bag next to all of the other bags behind them.

They will hand you a claim ticket. Don't check valuables if this bothers you.


Related Tips For Pearl Harbor

  • Don't stay out late the night before

  • Don't go to the Polynesian Cultural Center the day before-this is for those staying for the HA Show at night. You won't get back to Waikiki until about 10:30 at night.

    Waking up really early will be hard and it will be too late to get your money back.

  • Don't do a day trip to an outer island-you'll be back late (after 10pm)

  • If you take medication that you need with you put it in your pocket or a clear plastic bag. Don't take a bag for this.

  • Don't try to do a luau afterwards unless it is located in Waikiki where you're staying. We have bad traffic which can mean a delay getting back and it may be too tight time wise.
  • Exceptions to the rule are those who know they are getting back by 12:00noon or 1:00pm. If going to a luau outside of Waikiki most pickups are 3:00-4:00pm.
    Give yourself a 3 hour buffer after Pearl Harbor for possible delays, time to catch your breath, shower and get dressed. You may also need to walk to a luau pickup location.

 

 

 

 

I've seen all of these scenarios happen and more. I don't want you to miss your activity, hate it because you're tired or resent it because of one of the reasons listed above.


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PEARL HARBOR TOURS OAHU-COST

Go Oahu Card

With the Go Oahu card the cost is included and therefore discounted by up to 50%. This is because you are buying a number of activities in bulk with the option to choose which ones you want to do and when.


Retail Cost

If you are paying retail expect to pay about $41-42 on average including tax for the cheapest tour.

Children 11-12 years old will be less. Keep in mind that the cut off age for children for most companies is 11 years old.

CHECK PRICING & AVAILABILITY


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TOP 3 REASONS TO TAKE A TOUR

1. The tickets are included. No worries about getting there and they’ve run out of tickets. No long lines or having to wait all day until your ticket time comes up.

You can plan the rest of your day because you KNOW how this activity is scheduled. The unknowns are taken out of the equation for Pearl Harbor, the #1 attraction on the island.


2. Roundtrip transportation is included
. No need to schedule a shuttle that is likely going to stop at the airport and drop people off. No need to pay for a taxi cab which averages about $50 one way without bad traffic.

 

3. You still have freedom. The tour doesn’t really feel like a tour in a bad way. It doesn’t feel like a long, boring school trip.

You’ll get there and your driver will give you your tickets and say ‘Hey, this is where we’re parked. Be back here at such and such time so that we can leave.’

After that you’re on your own to go do the Arizona Memorial. It’s really easy.


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PEARL HARBOR TOURS OAHU-Why So Early

Well, it’s the #1 attraction on Oahu. I get asked this question more than anything else. I've had people calling me in January to book their tickets for June.

I've had people in April, May and June calling me to book their tickets for December.

There are people who are really planning to vacation on Maui who are ONLY coming to Oahu for a day or 2 JUST to do Pearl Harbor.

Over 5,000 people a day attend and there are only so many seats on the boat shuttle that crosses the harbor to the Arizona Memorial. Only so many people can fit inside the memorial at a time.

pearl harbor oahu tours souvenir shop

I’m mentioning all of that to point out how popular it is. People will get there an hour before they open just to try and get in.

There is competition for the tour companies as well to secure tickets.

With that said most tours leave between 6-7:00am. This is why I suggest that you do the tour early on in your stay before your body clock adjusts to the time zone.

You’re up anyway since it’s probably lunch time back home so you might as well go.


What About Breakfast?

As far as food there is a concession and mini convenience store there with snacks, coffee, etc.

Many coffee shops such as Starbucks are also open early and there are 24 hour diners in Waikiki.

If you will be touring the Battleship Missouri or the Pacific Aviation Museum they have restaurants on site.


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Other Pearl Harbor Tour Options

There are other options to tour Pearl Harbor that go beyond just seeing the Arizona Memorial.

1. Include the Battleship Missouri-The most popular option includes the Battleship Missouri as well. It is called WWII Beginning to End because you get the complete picture.

You will see where the attack happened at the Arizona Memorial and then where the Peace Treaty was signed ending WWII.

TIP: The BEST photos of the Arizona Memorial are from the Battleship Missouri. You can't take photos when you're in it but from this vantage point you can zoom right in and get the classic postcard photos.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Combine the Arizona with the Pacific Aviation Museum-Visit the Arizona Memorial first and then visit the Pacific Aviation Museum. See restored WWIi aircraft and then try out the flight simulator.

3. See Everything at Pearl Harbor-Arizona Memorial, Bowfin Submarine, Pacific Aviation Museum, Battleship Missouri (and possibly the USS Oklahoma). This is a full day.

4. Combine the Arizona with a Circle Island Tour-Go to Pearl Harbor first and then on to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, the north shore, macadamia nut farm, Byodo-In Temple and the Pali Lookout. This is a full day.

PRICING & AVAILABILITY


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