Have you ever visited Pearl Harbor and pulled into the parking lot for the USS Arizona Memorial only to discover that there are dozens of tour buses offloading people? I have and what usually happens is that you learn that you have a considerable wait - often an hour or more - to take the tour of the Memorial. In some cases, you learn that no tickets are available at all for the day.
It has long been one of the most common complaints of travelers to Oahu - especially first-time visitors. But, that frustration has ended for those who can plan their visit well in advance.
Advance Reservation Program
The National Park Service has a reservation program for individuals and groups for the USS Arizona Memorial. The program began in February 2012. Ticket reservations for the free 75-minute tour of the USS Arizona Memorial are available online at www.Recreation.gov.
The 75-minute program for the USS Arizona Memorial begins at Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater. It includes a brief introduction, a 23-minute documentary film, a Navy-operated shuttle boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, and time to experience the Memorial itself.
In addition, online reservations are available for the official WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument audio tour and the new Passport to Pearl Harbor, which includes entry into the Pacific Aviation Museum, the USS Bowfin, and the USS Missouri.
Reasons Behind the New Ticketing Policy
Paul DePrey, Superintendent of WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument explained the reasons behind the new ticketing policy. "For almost 50 years, tours to the USS Arizona Memorial have been offered on a first-come-first-served basis. We experience many days throughout the year that all tickets are distributed by the early morning hours. We hope this new service will enhance the visitor experience by giving individuals and groups the option to make reservations for the USS Arizona Memorial tour, the audio tour and the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites. The National Park Service will continue to offer first-come, first-service tickets throughout the day for those individuals who do not have reservations."
Making a Reservation
Reservations can be made in a three-month period, and, while the tour is free, there is a non-refundable reservation fee of $1.50 per ticket. Reservations and changes can be made through the website or by calling 1-877-444-6777. I recommend that if you want to use this service, be sure to order your advance tickets well in advance as they do go very quickly.
Walk-in Tickets Available
Some tours may be available only from the Visitor Center on a first-come-first-served basis. Arrival dates earlier than the online-reservation-window may also be available at the Visitor Center. So, even if you can’t get an advance reservation, there is a good chance that you may be able to visit the Memorial. The National Park Service gives out 1,300 free walk-in tickets daily, on a first come, first served basis. It is highly recommended that you arrive at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center early. Doors open at 7:00 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time.
Tour tickets must be picked up at least one hour before tour time at the National Park Service Tickets and Information desk at the new Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Individuals and families may reserve up to nine tickets at a time, and group reservations up to 65 guests will also be available.