The fertile central valley between the Waianae Mountains and Koolau range offers a peek into Oahu's history. On your way from Honolulu to the North Shore, you'll pass residential areas as well the Leilehua Plateau in Wahiawa, where you can see sprawling fields that are reminders of Oahu's sugar cane and pineapple plantation past.
Attractions in Central Oahu include the Dole Plantation, famous for its Guinness Book of World Records worthy shrub maze, the Hawaii Plantation Village, where you can learn about Oahu's plantation past, and Aloha Stadium, site of University of Hawaii football games and annual site of the NFL Pro Bowl.
But the most important landmark in Central Oahu sits to the south in historic Pearl Harbor, the largest natural harbor in Hawaii. This active naval base is home to 5 Pearl Harbor Historic Sites: The Pacific Historic Parks, the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Oklahoma Memorial. These special monuments commemorate the historic events that changed world history during World War II.
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"Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." — Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Pearl Harbor, named for the pearl oysters once harvested there, is the largest natural harbor in Hawaii, a World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and the only naval base in the United States to be designated a National Historical Landmark. The devastating aerial attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in 2,390 dead and hundreds wounded, and drove the United States into World War II. Pearl Harbor honors this history-changing event with the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites:
USS Arizona Memorial
At 8:06 a.m. on December 7th, 1941, the USS Arizona was hit by a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb, which ignited its forward ammunition magazine. The catastrophic explosion that resulted sank this massive battleship in nine minutes, killing 1,177 crewmen.
Today, the USS Arizona Memorial is a place to learn about this historic attack and pay your respects to the brave soldiers that fell that day. Begin at the Visitor Center where you can watch a film about the attack and view plaques honoring lives lost on that fateful day.
You'll then take a boat shuttle to the USS Arizona Memorial, a floating memorial built over the sunken hull of the Battleship USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the ship’s crew. In the shrine room, a marble wall exhibits the names of the men who lost their lives on the Arizona. Poignant and powerful, this is a place where visitors come face to face with the devastating effects of war. Learn more about the Pacific Historic Parks.
Battleship Missouri Memorial
General Macarthur accepted the unconditional Japanese surrender that ended WWII on September 2, 1945 on the Surrender Deck of the Battleship Missouri Memorial. Now located at Pearl Harbor’s historic Battleship Row, the massive “Mighty Mo” is a living museum, with exhibits spanning three wars and five decades of service.
Explore the decks of this 60,000-ton Battleship, three football fields long and twenty stories tall. Stand on the Surrender Deck and view the documents that ended the war. Take a tour and get special access to restricted areas. You won’t want to miss the ship’s most stunning feature: towering 16-inch guns that could fire a 2,700-pound shell 23 miles. Learn more about the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
The U.S.S. Bowfin (SS-287) is one of the 288 U.S. submarines that carried out the war in the Pacific during World War II. Explore the 10,000 square foot submarine museum to learn about the battle under the seas. A tour of the grounds will take you to a Waterfront Memorial honoring submariners lost in WWII as well as interactive gun and torpedo exhibits.
Step onboard the USS Bowfin, also known as the “Pearl Harbor Avenger,” for a panoramic view of the harbor. Step below decks and walk through an authentic submarine, touring its torpedo room, engine room, and sleeping quarters. In the Bowfin’s claustrophobic quarters you may ask yourself if you have what it takes to be a submariner. Learn more about the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park.
Pacific Aviation Museum
Located within former WWII airplane hangars on Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island, the Pacific Aviation Museum is an immersive aviation museum complete with interactive simulators and exhibits showcasing the stories behind authentic WWII fighter planes and bombers.
Explore the battle in the skies in Hangar 37, a 42,000 square foot airplane hangar that survived the Pearl Harbor attack. See planes like an authentic Japanese Zero and a B-25B Bomber, similar to the one used in the famous “Doolittle Raid” on Japan in 1942. Gain a new perspective on the war at the Pacific Aviation Museum. Learn more about the Pacific Aviation Museum.
USS Oklahoma Memorial
Dedicated on December 7th, 2007, the USS Oklahoma Memorial honors the 429 crewmen who lost their lives in the Pearl Harbor attack. Approximately nine torpedoes hit “The Okie,” capsizing this 35,000-ton battleship in only twelve minutes.
Some crewmen were actually trapped in compartments below deck after the ship capsized. They used hammers and wrenches to signal rescue crews on the surface. Two days after the attack, thirty-two men were rescued from the overturned hull of the Oklahoma.