Remember Pearl Harbor: HNL Day Trip

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  1. hulagrrl210
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    hulagrrl210 Gold Member

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    Last week when I was over on Maui on business, I managed to sneak away to Oahu for the day to revisit Pearl Harbor. It was a last minute trip, conceptualized over dinner and mai tais the night before. For anyone who hasn't been, I highly recommend going. It is only a few miles away for the Honolulu airport and relatively easy trip to arrange (especially last minute).

    My travel companions for the day were my dad and my husband. Our day started at OGG for our interisland flight on board Hawaiian Airlines. We arrived at the airport way earlier than we needed to (we're used to traveling to the mainland during the mid-day rush at Kahului). We asked if we could go standby on another flight (flights leave about every 20 minutes-1 hour) but found out without paying a small fee, same-day standby travel is a perk reserved for their premier flyers. Maui to Honolulu is just a short 20 minutes, during which we were served a container of Passion Orange juice. It's not quite POG (passion orange guava) which I remember both Aloha and Hawaiian used to serve when I was a kid, but it's sugary and tropical and always a personal highlight of flying in the islands. Other than that, the quick flight was rather uneventful; a nice view of Molokai from my right-hand side window seat, however air quality in the islands all last week was pretty terrible due to VOG (volcanic haze) from the big island and south "Kona" winds.

    We arrived and picked up a rental car at the Honolulu airport at about 10:30. It would have been just as easy to get to Pearl Harbor by taxi, but we anticipated we might drive around the island later in the day and visit a few other places. It turns out we ran out of time though because Pearl Harbor is just so interesting we ended up spending the whole day there. Parking at Pearl Harbor is hard to come by, which I remembered was the case during my last visits in 2001 and 2006. The good news, however, is that they finally seem to be doing something about it and a new structure is under construction, 10 years later.

    What used to be the USS Arizona Memorial's visitor center has been replaced with a completely new open-air facility named the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument; I guess this title is meant to be more inclusive of all the other stuff there to see including the USS Bowfin, the USS Missouri and the newly completed USS Oklahoma Memorial. Our first stop was the information/ticket counter where we picked up our free tickets to see the Arizona Memorial. I suggest you plan your day around that. Tickets for the Arizona are first-come first serve and are limited in quantity due to having to take a boat out to the site. All the other tickets cost money, but do not have any time constraints (about $80 for all three of us to see the Missouri and the Bowfin). We had about an hour before our assigned 12:00pm slot, and decided to go see the USS Bowfin first. The USS Bowfin was a submarine that served in the war, and one of the few that survived; near the sub there is a small memorial park that is dedicated to all the others that didn't. The submarine tour is self guided (meaning you get a headset and enter whatever number into a little player that corresponds to where you are on the ship). Fairly interesting facts include that cooks were the only ones who were allowed to shower daily and that the crew practiced what is called "hot bunking", meaning due to the close quarters, there weren't beds for everyone, so while one shift was on duty, the other slept, and they all shared beds. On the tour you are told about an interesting story when the submarine snagged a mine cable in Tokyo bay, luckily however the cable slid off the side of the ship and nothing exploded. Talk about a close call! I was also impressed learning about the sub's technology. While on the surface the submarine operated on diesel, but while underwater used batteries to power the motors. I was surprised to learn that such technology existed back then to allow the sub to stay underwater for days at a time.

    We visited the USS Arizona next. The trip begins with a short video at the visitor center about the attack before you are taken by boat out to the actual memorial. I really liked that the video highlighted to importance of not texting and talking on cell phones and just being respectful at the site. It's sad that our society has come to the point where someone has to tell you to do (or not do) something like that, but I was glad the head the message especially as I remember being a little taken aback by others' (foreign tourists') bad behavior during my 2006 visit. It's a short boat ride out to the memorial which stands over the remnants of the Arizona. Much of the ship is still visible under the water. Almost 70 years later, gas and oil still seep out of the wreckage and cause little rainbow-colored slicks on the surface. The back room of the memorial has a wall with the names of everyone who died during the attack. There is a small shrine that also names survivors who served, but have since died. When we left, we were among the last on the boat before lunch and it completely emptied out. It was a stark contrast to how the memorial looked, packed with tourists when we had arrived about 20 minutes earlier.

    Our next stop was the USS Missouri which is on Ford Island. To get there, you have to take a shuttle (included in the price of the ticket) to see it. You are reminded on the way that Pearl Harbor is an active naval base and that they don't want you taking pictures from the bus; I found this interesting because you are pretty much able to take unlimited pictures at/from the Missouri, the Arizona and the Visitor Center- you don't really see anything from the bus, that you can't see from those places or Google Earth for that matter, but rules are rules. I'd been to the Missouri once before in 2006. It's addition to Pearl Harbor means you can see the beginning and the end of the war in one place- the USS Missouri was the site of the Japanese surrender. I learned some cool stuff about the Missouri on this trip, and since 2006, a lot more of the ship is open to the public. Some interesting facts: One of those huge 16" guns weighs as much as the space shuttle. Two of them weigh as much as a 747. It's fast too, about as fast as a modern cruise ship. The Missouri served in 3 wars: WW2, The Korean War and Desert Storm, and was the last battleship to serve in the navy prior to becoming a museum at Pearl Harbor. On the deck there is a huge plate marking where the surrender documents were signed. I also didn't realize until this visit that the ship had been attacked by a kamakazi. Perhaps a testament to how well made the ship is, there is only a slight dent on the side of the deck where the plane hit. Luckily the 500-pound bomb that was on the plane dropped off into the ocean before the crash. Instead of having his body thrown overboard, the Japanese pilot was given a proper burial at sea with full military honors. I couldn't get over how amazing it was to think that as recently was 1991, people served on board this giant floating piece of history. One could easily spend an entire afternoon wandering the decks of this ship as we did.

    We briefly visited the USS Oklahoma memorial which is right across from the USS Missouri. The story of the Oklahoma isn't as well known as the Arizona, but perhaps equally as tragic. The ship capsized and trapped over 400 men. It took rescuers several days to get to the site, but by then everyone on board had either drown or suffocated.

    Also on Ford Island is an aviation museum (new as a remember since my last visit). There was a nice little display and dioramas of some world war 2 aircraft, and an old hanger full of some more modern helicopters, an f14, and such. You can also see where they do a lot of the restoration to the items on display. After having been to both Air and Space Museums and the Museum of flight in Seattle, I wasn't super impressed, but at the same time glad I saw this one too. Two things really stood out. 1) In the main museum there was a display with a huge floor map of the pacific. I think it was a reproduction of National Geographic's Pacific-centered world map, but I was blown away by all the islands on it. I'm always fascinated by maps, but this was an exceptionally good one and I actually found it far more interesting than the plane that was supposed to be the focus of the exhibit. 2) Across from the main museum is the original red and white striped control tower on Ford Island. It is in compete disrepair (rusted, broken windows) and probably like most other older tall metal structures in the tropics, is slated for destruction/demolition. I noticed a banner on the fence from the air museum, trying to raise money and awareness to save it. This made me happy about my visit (and better about the rather steep $20 entrance fee) because this is definitely something that should be saved and it would undoubtedly make a very interesting addition to the museum.

    As it reached close to 5pm and the museum was closing, we realized it had been overly-ambitious of us to try and drive around the island and visit punchbowl cemetery all in the same day; there simply wasn't enough time. During my day trips before, I'd managed to squeeze in a trips to Waikiki, Duke's and to hike Diamond Head, but hadn't seen nearly as much of Pearl Harbor or enjoyed my visit nearly as much, therefore I recommend that if you are going to visit Pearl Harbor don't rush it and spend a full day there. It's definitely worth it.

    So after our long day, we headed back to Honolulu airport about 2 hours before our flight. We were all exhausted so the idea of just "sitting" there was very appealing. Right before we returned our rental car I remember by dad telling me about the lei stands that used to be at the airport when he started flying there in the 1950's. We were both shocked to find that they were still there! He told me that "back in the day" a lei cost $.50. I assume they're a little more than that now, but I was really happy to see something like that had survived...and it was well-marked too, complete with a giant bright yellow sign. I'll save my full rant about poor signage in the HNL airport for another trip report, but here's a the gist of it- I am a near million mile flyer/been a Premier/Premier Executive with United for well over 10 years. I've traveled around the world and have flown to/from Hawaii 4-6 times a year since I was born. I still managed to get lost/almost miss a flight in the Honolulu airport last October.
     

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  2. kiwi
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    kiwi Gold Member

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    Thanks for the report.
     
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  3. savydog
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    savydog Gold Member

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    Brings back some memories, when I visited there was a theatre which gave some information before the boat trip over to the memorial. I left my pass in the theatre and was about to watch my friends board without me when the marine/ sailor let me get on anyway [​IMG] After we finished the pearl harbour tour we went a little further to a War Cemetary which had a lot of graves laid out, but I am not sure of the details of where that was or what name.

    Visit Pearl Harbour it is worth your time and out over the sunken ship in the memorial you will really feel the place, I know I was touched by the story of those men who died there.
     
  4. milestoburn
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    milestoburn Gold Member

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    will be going back to visit this May. have not been back since 1992!!!
     
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