Hawaii Travel Diary: Pearl Harbor

I don't think I really believed we were going to Hawaii until the wheels touched down on the palm tree lined runway. And even then, it didn't quite feel like our vacation had started because when you come out of the airport you're reminded that Honolulu is actually quite a busy city, not just a vacation spot, with tall buildings, and a lot of traffic, that just so happens to be lined with miles of sandy beaches. We grabbed a cab and hurried on to our hotel, hoping to get checked in and get our toes in the sand before the sun set. Along the way we noted Tripler Army Medical Center set up a bit higher above the city. It's pink and has a great view of the ocean and happens to be where my mom was born which I think is just the greatest coincidence.
Since we were only going to be on Oahu for two nights we booked a more reasonable hotel so we could really splurge at our second destination in Maui. The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa was a good spot for our quick stopover. We didn't rent a car here but we were close enough to walk to a lot of restaurants and it's set right across from Waikiki Beach of course.  We got checked in and immediately threw on bathing suits and practically ran to the beach to catch the sun as it sank into the ocean. Our first of many beautiful sunsets in Hawaii checked off we headed back to the hotel and jumped into the pool before grabbing dinner at the hotel's poolside bar.  We headed to bed, completely exhausted from our day of traveling and looking forward for our first full day in Hawaii!
The next morning we woke up nice and early, thanks jet lag, and I was fully able to appreciate the view from our room. Though we both agreed that Waikiki was a little too crowded and crazy for the relaxing vacation we had in mind, it was fun to see all the surf boards dotting the ocean every day all day. We grabbed a bagel from the coffee shop in the hotel and then ordered an Uber to take us to Pearl Harbor.
I think most people back on the East Coast expect a Hawaiian vacation to include Pearl Harbor- I know we did. And even though we were probably more excited to get to Maui, T.J. and I both agreed that to not visit would be "un-American".  Pearl Harbor is a national park and therefore free to visit, however they only have a certain number of tickets available each day for the USS Arizona. If you don't want to get there right when the gates open to ensure you get a ticket, you can pre-book online the day before (they become available 24 hours in advance, 7am Hawaii time, for a $1.50 processing fee) which is what we did. Then you only need to get there an hour or so before your scheduled ticket time to walk around the visitor center. They also have an audio tour you can pick up which guides you along the shoreline and through the museums providing you more information about the sights.
(The anchor recovered from the USS Arizona- just to give you an ideal of the scale of that ship.)
(The beautiful harbor, with active Navy ships and the USS Arizona memorial in the distance.)

The shoreline is dotted with palm trees and the water is calm and clear blue. It's hard to picture the horror and chaos from that day in December set against such a beautiful backdrop. We quietly wandered through the two exhibit galleries that paint a picture of what it was like to be stationed here in 1941, and give you a reminder of what the world, and the build up to our entrance into the war, looked like.

Before you board the boat that takes you out to the USS Arizona, you gather in a theater to watch a short documentary about the events leading up to that day and the actual attack. They remind you that the USS Arizona is the final resting place of the crewman who sank with the ship, and that we are to step onto the memorial in solemn silence and respect.
The memorial hovers over the remains of the ship, now resting peacefully in the shallow water. Fish swim through the ruins and you can see oil still slowly leaking into the harbor as you look down into the remains of the Arizona.  
A placard reads: "This memorial honors the fallen crew of the USS Arizona and all those who died in the attack on December 7, 1941. The remains of over 900 Arizona crewmen rest beneath you within the sunken battleship... The Shrine room beyond displays the names of the 1,177 Arizona crewmen lost in the attack. Another list honors Arizona survivors who have rejoined their shipmates in the waters below." 
It gutted me to read all those names, and to see the front two shorter pillars listing the men who survived that day but died either later in the war, or even many years after it ended, and then decided to have their ashes returned to Pearl Harbor to join their brothers in the Arizona.

Though visiting a national cemetery is not exactly what you think of when you picture a romantic vacation, it was important to us to go and be reminded of the cost of freedom, the price paid at this place at that time in our history. It's a place you disembark from with a heavier heart and a deeper understanding of the honor and sacrifice of the men who served. It also made me look at the servicemen and women I know now, all one hundred percent volunteer, my husband included, with a deeper sense of appreciation and respect of what they may be called to do. Though it was strange to see people posing for a selfie in front of torpedos, or face-timing their family from the shoreline (is it just me who thinks that's odd and more than a little disrespectful???) we thought the trip to Pearl Harbor and the time spent at such a beautiful memorial was well worth the layover.

We took an uber back to our homebase, and spent the rest of the day enjoying the sun shining generously down on the shores. We were only on Oahu for less than 48 hours as the next day we headed on to Maui, and both agreed that's when the real vacation started!


  1. We visited Pearl Harbor when we were there, too, but just read the exhibits and saw what was on shore since we couldn't get tickets for any hour soon--it was a really busy day there. It was both sobering and educational to read all the info they had available in the on-shore exhibits.

  2. Your description is so moving. I'd love to see it for myself one day.

  3. Gorgeous pictures! Everything looks so beautiful!
    I agree about taking selfies at memorials. I like to take pictures of the monuments themselves but anything else feels like missing the point.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Alysia Ave

  4. Still, a lovely way to begin your vacation in Hawaii. Looking forward to the next day!

  5. This is on my Bucket List. I am a history buff and so much of our US History has happened in our own back yard. Many kids today only take Social Studies in school. A true US history isn't really being taught at the grade school level. This is sad. Thank you for the post and the pictures.


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