Top Picks: Pearl Harbor Memorial (Historical, Leeward)
If you ask me, no trip to Oahu is complete without a visit to the Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial site (1 Arizona Memorial Place Honolulu, HI 96818). The National Park Service has done a beautiful job on this memorial; it is interesting, educational, and elegant. This is an activity that can get extremely packed if you do not get there early. The visitors center opens at 7am, so we were parked and inside at that time (no bags allowed, and bring ID!), we got to watch the sunrise from the road. We got tickets for the first tour at 7:30am; this is a completely free tour. We had a half an hour to look through the museum before our tour. It had a lot of unbiased information to set the scene for you if you know nothing about the attack, and maybe some new information even if you are well informed. The tour is assembled and you file into a room to watch a 25-minute documentary. It is engaging the whole way through, extremely informative, and once again not biased. It doesn’t feel like American propaganda, but a two-sided story with facts leading up to an attack. It was very emotional for me and I struggled to hold back my tears. We visited just a few days after December 7th, and all I could think about were my USS Slater shipmates, and Pearl Harbor veterans that I have personally given tours to and made connection with. I was thinking about how the men that died here were around my age, and not ready for the fate that was handed to them. Our group filed out of the film and onto a boat to take us to the actual USS Arizona memorial site. The boat ride through the harbor was beautiful as the sun was rising. You can look for other ships and memorials in the harbor on the short ride. When you get to the memorial you are allowed some free time to walk around. The memorial itself is beautiful, simplistic, and pristine. The wreckage of the Arizona lies exactly where she sunk, and you can see parts of the ship in the water. It has become a reef for fish, and you can that they are flourishing here. You will notice the rainbow slick on the water, oil is still leaking from the ship today. There are a few informational panels, and at the end of the memorial here is a shrine dedicated to the crew of the Arizona. The boat ride back is quiet and reflective. It was such a tragic event, but these men and this day live on in infamy. Our entire experience here was 75 minutes, but there are many enhanced tours available (including a visit to the Missouri and the Bowfin) at a price. You could spend a day or two here, and many people do. It is important to take some time out of your carefree vacation to pay homage to these men who died protecting this country we call home.