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For those with a keen interest in military history, or just US history, the wreck of the USS Arizona is a must-see on the island of Oahu. The ship, which was bombed by Japanese air forces in 1941, stands as a memorial to the lives lost on board and the United States’ involvement in World War II.
The Arizona, originally commissioned in 1913, was added to the Pacific Fleet in the 1920s and used for training exercises between the two world wars. In 1940, it was sent to Pearl Harbor along with the rest of the Pacific Fleet, with the idea that a conspicuous military presence would deter Japanese designs on the then-US Territory of Hawaii.
The bombing of the USS Arizona resulted in the deaths of more than 1,100 crewmen, and the ship sustained irreparable damage with more than 900 souls unable to be recovered from the vessel. The submerged USS Arizona is now part of the National Park Service’s World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. About 1.8 million people visit in a typical year, but the NPS was forced to suspend visits last spring when it learned that natural shifts in sediment had damaged the ship dock’s anchoring system. Repairs are underway, and the Arizona is scheduled to (hopefully) reopen in the fall, though some speculate the already-delayed project may take until the end of the year.
More to See
While the Arizona itself is closed for now, there still are loads of other opportunities within the National Monument. The Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau website offers tips for families planning to visit Pearl Harbor, including suggested educational films, and ways to enjoy the sights. It’s very important to note that timed tickets to visit Pearl Harbor are released online 60 days before your visit and sell out quickly, even with the USS Arizona under repair. Tickets are free, but do cost a $1 processing fee when booked online. Same-day tickets are also available as an early morning walk-up, but there is no guarantee of admission during peak periods. This ticket will include a boat tour around the harbor, but you will not be able to get out at the USS Arizona until repairs are completed. (If you don’t remember to grab tickets online exactly 60 days out, you can purchase tours with transportation from Waikiki hotels on Groupon from around $30 each, but read carefully as to what the tours actually include.) Additional online tickets are also released 24 hours before if you want to attempt that route.
The Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Visitor Center and Museum should be your first stop on-site, and they are both free to visit. In addition to selling tickets for other attractions and providing tourist information, the visitor center offers an excellent 15-minute introductory film about the attack. This is also where you’ll be required to store any large bags or backpacks, as this is still a functioning military base. The cost is $5 per bag, so leave unnecessary gear in your hotel.
Allow a couple of hours to make your way through the museum, which tells the story of the military presence here, including the Pearl Harbor attack, via exhibits and artifacts.
Beyond the visitor center, you can take a 30-minute headset-narrated tour of Battleship Row; tickets are available from the visitor center or online from www.recreation.gov. Tickets are $7.50 if purchased on-site, or $8.50 if you reserve online (including a $1 nonrefundable reservation fee).
There’s also a deluxe tour ($12.50 per person, plus $1 to reserve) that includes smartphone access to the National Park Service’s World War II archives and videos on the attack at Pearl Harbor. The deluxe tour also includes admission to the new Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality Center, where visitors enjoy a unique 360-degree view of the area and the events of Dec. 7, 1941. All the required equipment to enjoy the VR Center is included in the price of admission.
An even more comprehensive experience of the Pacific Fleet is offered with the Passport to Pearl Harbor ($72 adults, $35 children 4–12), which provides access to the Battleship Missouri, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, as well as the headset-narrated tour covering Battleship Row. The Missouri and Aviation Museum are on nearby Ford Island, which is reached via a 15-minute shuttle ride from the visitor center. The last return shuttle leaves from the Aviation Museum at 5pm.
The NPS suggests that visitors allow eight hours to tour all of the sights included in the Passport. Alternately, you can elect to purchase separate admission to one or more sights that suit your schedule and children’s ages. For example, the Bowfin is a great choice for families with school-aged kids — its expansive indoor and outdoor exhibits include torpedoes and missiles, as well as an actual submarine — but children under 4 are not permitted in or on the submarine.
Oahu Beyond Pearl Harbor
Whether or not Pearl Harbor is your main reason for visiting Oahu, there’s lots for families to explore on the island beyond the national monument. TPG‘s article on Waikiki fun for all kinds of families suggests activities from snorkeling with sea turtles to luaus to shucking oysters for pearls.
Getting to Oahu and Staying There
This post on the best ways to get to Hawaii using points and miles breaks down most of the major carriers that serve Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), including recommended credit cards and the points required to book economy and first-class tickets. In addition, Southwest recently added service from California to Hawaii, including flights to Honolulu.
Families with young children will also benefit from tips on the best way to fly with kids to Hawaii.
Points hotels on Oahu include many of the major players. Marriott property the Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort and Spa offers rooms with two double beds from 60,000 points per night plus a $37-per-night resort fee that includes bottled water, Go Pro rental and Wi-Fi. This hotel is right on Waikiki Beach, and the facilities include a spa, fitness equipment and oceanfront pool.
The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa also has rooms with two double beds, from 70,000 points/night plus the $37 resort fee. This resort includes more than five oceanfront acres, as well as fitness facilities and two saltwater pools.
The Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa offers rooms with two queen beds from 20,000 points/night, including Wi-Fi, an ocean-view pool and several dining options. That hotel has an above average club lounge, so could be a great pick for those with Globalist elite status or a Club Lounge access certificate.
Hilton offers several hotels in Waikiki, including the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Alana Waikiki Beach, with rooms with two queen beds from 50,000 points/night.
Despite the temporary closure of the dock for the USS Arizona, Oahu offers more family-friendly activities than most of us could pack into our PTO. Don’t skip a visit to the Valor in the Pacific National Monument, because there’s still so much to learn and see on Battleship Row even when while the USS Arizona is undergoing repairs. Combine that fascinating, living history lesson with beach days and other outdoor adventures for a unique family trip.
If you’re headed to Hawaii, these stories might interest you:
- Waikiki Fun for All Kinds of Families
- Doing the 6-Time-Zone Shuffle: A Review of Hawaiian Airlines’ A330 in First Class From Boston to Honolulu
- What to Do in Oahu, Hawaii: Beach, Mountains and More
- Review: Hawaiian Airlines (Boeing 717) Economy from Maui to Oahu
- 9 Common Mistakes Tourists Make in Hawaii
- 10 Things Kids Will Love at the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii
- These Are the Best Times to Visit Hawaii
- Everything You Need to Know About Inter-Island Travel in Hawaii
Featured photo of the Arizona Memorial and Mighty Mo Missouri battleship at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. (Photo by Sean Davey / Auroroa Photos / Getty Images)
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