Pearl Harbor is one of the most (tragically) famous and well-known sites in all of Hawaii, but I probably never would have actually gone if I hadn’t had to photograph the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri for work… and I’m glad I did. It is definitely worth visiting while you are on Oahu, both for the historical aspect and also to pay respect to the lives lost. And of course, getting to wander around a massive battleship is just… well, fun.

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There are three main things to see at Pearl Harbor: The USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri, and the USS Bowfin. There is also a gift shop, pacific aviation museum, and a waterfront memorial.

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The USS Arizona Memorial marks the tragic spot where the USS Arizona was sunk during the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941, and where 1777 of her crewmen lost their lives. Part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, the structure is 184 feet in length and stretches across the middle of the sunken ship. Names of the lives lost in the attack are engraved into its walls.

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The majestic and USS Missouri is one of the most high-trafficked sights at Pearl Harbor. Commissioned on June 11, 1944, the USS Missouri is most famous for its role in World War II — and particularly in the end of it. On September 2, 1945, representatives sent by Japan boarded the USS Missouri and signed surrender documents on what is now known as the ‘Surrender Deck.’ With that, World War II was brought to a close. The battleship’s life was not nearly over, however. It also took part in the Korean War in 1950 and in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

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The USS Bowfin (a submarine) was launched the day after the Pearl Harbor Attack (December 7, 1941) and was called the “Pearl Harbor Avenger.” It made 9 patrols through the pacific during World War II, and is now open to the public.

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The Visitor Center, where you will park your car and obtain your ticket to the memorial, provides a wealth of information on the history of Pearl Harbor and the various tour options. Visitors can explore museums, a bookstore, gift shops, and educational displays scattered throughout the grounds, along with views of the harbor and her ships.

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Pearl Harbor is still an active military base, and you will not be permitted to carry any bags (purses included) in with you. After parking at the visitor center, you can check your bags outside the visitor center for $3. Once inside, you will be taken by bus or boat to the various memorials and tours. Cameras are allowed but again, not in bags.

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Visit Pearl Harbor

Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, HI 96701

Directions: From Waikiki, take the H1 west. Follow the signs toward Pearl Harbor and the airport. Take Exit 15A (Arizona Memorial/Stadium) and follow the “Pearl Harbor Historic Sites” signs. These signs will lead to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.