The 5 Biggest Mistakes in Visiting Pearl Harbor

March 13, 2016
by Jason Alghussein

Visiting Pearl Harbor is easy

You can arrive by taxi, bus, motorcoach, limo, rental car, shuttle or even walk. But, visiting Pearl Harbor the right way isn't so simple. You can screw it up. We see people every day who show up after it's too late to get tickets, who get stranded without a ride back to their hotel, who get seriously sunburned, and even those who expected to get in a submarine to see the sunken ship.

Don't be one of those people. Be a smart traveler and avoid the 5 biggest mistakes in visiting Pearl Harbor. DON'T: 

1. Just show up

When you visit Hawaii it is so relaxing. You don't have a care in the world. You start getting on island time and assume everything will work out. And it usually does.

But, . . .

Don't just show up at Pearl Harbor. The worst thing you can do is not schedule anything and arrive at Pearl Harbor hoping that everything will go smoothly. Here's what often happens to people who do that. They wait in line for Arizona Memorial tickets only to find out that there are no tickets left. Then they try to make the most of it by going to the nearby Bowfin Submarine. Then, by the time they finish there, they think, maybe we should go to the Battleship Missouri, only by this time the Missouri is closing and it's too late.

Be smart, book in advance! You can book a Pearl Harbor Tour and let the tour company deal with traffic, tickets, logistics and lunch. Or if your budget doesn't allow a tour, you can get tickets to Pearl Harbor and cut out the lines at each of the sites.

2. Book a shuttle on the street

We often hear from people who make the mistake of trusting the shuttles on the street. The most common complaint is that they buy round-trip transportation and nobody shows up to take them back to Waikiki. In the end it cost more than taking a tour.

Shuttle Bus

We don't recommend shuttles for a few reasons. First, shuttles tend to be unreliable. Second, shuttles do not have an interest in your experience at Pearl Harbor. When you book a tour, the tour company and the guide want you to have a great time and get the most out of your experience. Third, shuttles are not as comfortable as tours. Finally, shuttles are not a savings over other means of visiting Pearl Harbor.

3. Buy the cruise ship package

Some people wait and buy their tours when they are on the cruise ship. We understand why. They know when you are arriving and it's easy to arrange. But keep in mind these two things:

  • Tours purchased on cruise ships are more expensive. We have seen cruise ships charge 3 times what we charge for Pearl Harbor tours. You are seeing the same sights, but you are paying the cruise ship a huge fee for booking your tour. They get away with this because they have a captive audience.
  • You are with the crowd. That means that you all arrive at Pearl Harbor and that means that you all have to wait a very long time while the other cruise passengers get in and out of their buses. Our tours operate on a different schedule than the cruise ship tours allowing us to better avoid the huge crowds.

Cruise Ship

4. Bring bags

We tell people every day, don't bring bags to Pearl Harbor.

We inevitably get the same questions."Well, what about my purse?"

"Is your purse a bag?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"Then don't bring it"

"Well maybe I'll bring it anyway. It has important things in it".

"All the more reason not to bring it since you won't have it with you the entire time you are there."

"Oh. OK. I'll just bring it anyway."

Then afterwards, we hear: "I waited in line for the baggage storage for 15 minutes and by the time I paid my $3 and got the ticket I almost missed the movie. When we were ready to leave, I couldn't find my bag claim ticket because normally I would put that in my purse. Why didn't you tell us not to bring a bag?"

We do have a solution for you. Bring a clear plastic bag. The security guards are allowing those into Pearl Harbor.

5. Fail to do your homework

We're not suggesting that you need to read textbooks about Pearl Harbor history. We're saying that spending 30 minutes reading up about the events will enhance your experience at Pearl Harbor. Not a reader? Watch movies. Even, we daresay, Jerry Bruckheimer's movie Pearl Harbor is worth watching to prepare for your visit. You will have a better understanding of the timeline and the players. That makes the museums, the movie, and the sights more meaningful.


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