The “Pearl Harbor Memorial” is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s officially called “The World War II Valor in the Pacific Memorial”. Though most know it by the former name as that’s where it’s located. It’s comprised of a number of exhibits, information spots and memorials. Probably the most famous is the USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated to the battleship that was sunk by the Japanese with over a thousand men still on board, and is still sitting at the bottom of the harbor.
And there is a secret to reserving your tickets before hand and skip the lines, the long wait, and avoid a possible risk to missing out entirely.
Do any type of search for “Pearl Harbor tickets” or “Visit the Arizona” and you’ll inundated with the encouragement to arrive as early as possible due to limited tickets.
They only issue about 2,000 tickets per day to the Arizona, split across tour groups throughout the day, so with the net filled to the brim though of warnings and encouragements to get there as early as possible, there is good reason. Once that 2,000 tickets are gone, they’re gone. Sorry, come back tomorrow and try again.
Also keep in mind that it’s on a first come first serve basis for the tour, but you’re only buying a ticket, not necessarily time for the tour time. What does that mean? I have friends and family who showed up fairly early in the morning and were able to get tickets, but then had their tour start a few hours later. You might show up at 9am and secure a ticket, but t might be for the 12pm tour.
That’s not an issue if you want to walk around for that time, but if you’re limited at time or have already seen everything, it can be an inconvenience. This is a case where advanced planning will help your save time and maximize your trip.
A Little Known Trick – You Can Reserve Your Ticket Beforehand
It’s not so much a “trick” as the National Park Service mentions it, but it’s not plastered on the internet the same way as the warnings to “Arrive Early” are. But from that number of 2,000 tickets, a handful of tickets are made available that can be reserved in advance through the website, Recreation.gov.
The page has the option to book three different tickets at Pearl Harbor:
- U.S.S. Arizona memorial with narrated audio tour (headsets) for $7.50
- “Passport to the Pacific” which includes access to all of the memorials and museums at Pearl Harbor for $65.00
- U.S.S. Arizona memorial ticket only (No audio headset) which is free.
With all of these tickets, you’ll pay a processing charge of $1.50 by reserving it online and ahead of time. The ticket to the Arizona memorial itself is free, courtesy of the Parks Department. So if you show up the day of and grab one, there’s no charge. If you book beforehand, you’ll pay the $1.50 processing charge only.
In addition to guaranteeing yourself a spot, another fantasticn advantage is you’ll get to pick your tour time (depending on availability). So if you want to sleep in and you see there are tours available for 1pm, grab one and you can rest easy knowing you can show up in the afternoon and still get it.
Important Things to Remember
- There is a limit on early tickets. When I looked to book my tour, one time showed 60 tickets remaining while another showed one ticket remaining. So just because you’ve found the secret link most people don’t know about, doesn’t mean you should delay.
- You’re only able to book six tickets in advance. So if you have a larger party you may need to make separate bookings or have different people make purchases.
- This is the most important one. The website says that even if you purchase beforehand, you need to pickup your ticket no less than one hour before scheduled start or else it will be given away. So if you book a tour for 10am, make sure you show up no later than 9am. Even paying beforehand doesn’t guarantee you a spot if you show up just a few minutes before your tour. Make sure you get there at least an hour beforehand and I’d recommend a bit more.
I went on a Thursday in January it was not super busy around 8am when I showed up. But when my tour ended around 9:30am, it started to pickup. See the picture above.
At almost like a light switch went on, by about 9:45am a plethora of cars and tour buses began to show up. By 10am it was a packed and I saw why the Parks department encouraged people to get there early.
Is Buying a Ticket Beforehand Worth It?
It depends completely on how early you want to get up, which season you’re going in, and whether you can spare the $1.50. My guess is if you’re coming all the way to Hawaii, then $1.50 isn’t going to break the bank.
I had purchased my ticket for the Arizona for 11am, mainly because spending $1.50 was worth it to me to test it out. I ended up getting there a little after 8am though, to walk around a bit and take some pictures. There was no line at all, and when I picked up my ticket one of the rangers asked if I’d like to go earlier since they had room. I said sure, and he gave me a ticket instead for the 8:15am tour. But as I mentioned, once 930 and then certainly 10am came, the place as packed.
To Me It’s Worth It
For $1.50, you’re able to secure your ticket in advance, guarantee you’ll get to visit the Arizona memorial, and provide a fairly specific window into when your tour will be. If you’re traveling by yourself then you might be able to be flexible, but if you’re coming in a group, especially young children, the last you want is to drive all the way out to Pearl Harbor early in the morning and not have your tour start for a few hours. Or worse, drive all the way out there and be told they’re sold out. My advice, spend the $1.50. It’s well worth it to be able skip the line for the USS Arizona Memorial and ensure you get a chance to experience it.