Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

Pearl Harbor’s historical sites have enjoyed an impressive spike in visitor arrivals in recent years, boosted in part by increased interest following a $60 million overhaul to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument’s visitor center completed four years ago.  

“Since 2011, we’ve seen an increase in interest on the order of about 400,000 more visitors a year,” explained park superintendent Paul DePrey.

According to the National Park Service’s recreational visitation data, Pearl Harbor averaged around 1.4 million visitors annually from the late 1990s up until 2010.

“But remember, too, that the numbers we’re tracking are visitors to Pearl Harbor, so they go through our front entrance, but then may head to the Bowfin submarine or the Battleship Missouri or the Pacific Aviation Museum [by shuttle],” DePrey said. “As the attractions at those sites, along with the park services, are refreshed, they are going to continue to drive more sustained interest.”

DePrey added that a fair amount of the increased Pearl Harbor visitation has come from Oahu visitors returning for a repeat trip to the monument after hearing about the visitor center’s expansive new facilities and collection of highly informative and entertaining exhibits.

“It’s a great facility,” DePrey said. “And it really engaged a lot of people to take another look at Pearl Harbor.”

With improved experiences at the visitor center as well as the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and the Pacific Aviation Museum, Pearl Harbor has really become an attraction that many Oahu visitors may want to spend more than just one day exploring.

During a trip out to visit the Pacific Aviation Museum last week, I spent several hours wandering through the facility’s terrific collection of aircraft and wonderfully told historical stories. I also felt a little guilty about just popping in to take a look at the emotional Japanese kamikaze pilot exhibit onboard the Battleship Missouri Memorial. Although I’d been on the vessel several times before, I found myself wanting to revisit the ship’s interesting history all over again.

“Pearl Harbor is really more than just a day’s worth of visit,” DePrey said. “That’s another reason why more people are coming out to our site, because there is just more to see. It used to be you’d go out to the Arizona Memorial and come back all in two-and-a-half hours and be done. That’s just not the case anymore.

“Travel agents should know Pearl Harbor is not a three-hour visit,” he said. “And if they want satisfied clients, they should encourage them to understand that there’s much more than just one day’s worth here to explore.”

After my visit last week, I tend to agree with DePrey, but would suggest that folks may want to break up a multiday visit. Putting a little beach or ocean activity time in between trips out to Pearl Harbor may help cleanse the palate a little and help restore folks’ zeal for the museum experience. And while the USS Arizona Memorial and the new visitor center exhibitions really are must-sees for American travelers, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin are all very intriguing tours that should be seriously considered, as well.

Roberts Hawaii recently launched a shuttle to Pearl Harbor for guests staying in Waikiki, costing $15 for adults and $10 for kids roundtrip, which may make the trip out to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument easier for some travelers.

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