The Ultimate Guide to Pearl Harbor

When my submariner first received orders to Pearl Harbor, I was filled with both excitement and trepidation. Excitement for the adventure, as Hawaii was one of five states I had never been to, and trepidation because of how far I would be from family. When we left Saratoga Springs, we didn’t know anyone in Hawaii.  Living in paradise was definitely an adventure! Now that I have been away for three years, I find myself missing the weather, the culture, the food and the outdoor adventures.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) is a joint Navy-Air Force base located on the Island of O’ahu in the state of Hawaii. Pearl Harbor is one of the busiest harbors for the U.S. Navy. JBPHH is homeport to 18 submarines and 175 tenant commands. JBPHH is home to multiple major commands for both the Air Force and the Navy, as well as the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. The base population includes over 66,000 active duty personnel, their families, and civilian workers.

Quick Links

Fast Facts

  • The Hawaiian Islands are made up of eight main islands, numerous atolls, islets and seamounts in the Pacific Ocean. The chain extends 1500 miles from the island of Hawai’i in the south to the Kure Atoll in the north.
  • O’ahu means “the gathering place” and is the 3rd largest island in the Hawaiian Island chain.
  • Honolulu is considered the second most expensive city in the United States.


  • Polynesians began coming to the Hawaiian Islands about 1500 years ago, with permanent settlements formed on O’ahu around 500 CE.
  • In 1778, Captain Cook lands on Kauai and names the archipelago the “Sandwich Islands”. Cook is killed a year later.
  • 1795-1874: Hawaii is ruled by the Kamehameha dynasty.
  • 1845: Honolulu becomes the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
  • 1893: The overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and Queen Liliuokalani begins.
  • 1898: Hawaii is annexed by the United States.
  • During World War II, on December 7, 1941, Japanese fighter planes attacked O’ahu. More than 2400 Americans died in the attack. The Pearl Harbor Memorial includes the USS Arizona memorial, which can be reached by boat from the NPS visitor center. Other important memorials are the USS Utah, accessible from Ford Island, and the USS Oklahoma, which is in front of the Battleship Missouri, docked off Ford Island.
  • 1959: Hawaii becomes the 50th state in the United States.
  • A more detailed brief history of the Hawaiian Islands can be found here.

Things to Do*

If outdoor adventuring is calling you, then O’ahu has a lot to offer. From beaches, to hiking, to water sports, there is a lot to do outside!

  • This list splits beaches up by region. With so many beaches to explore, here are a few options to get you started! A favorite beach among the military community is Bellows Field Beach, located on the windward side of the island, Bellows beach has a pubic area as well as a military area behind a base guard. Want to see some sea turtles? Check out Laniakea Beach, aka Turtle Beach, on the North Shore. Have littles and want a calmer ocean experience? Drive over to the leeward side and lounge at the Lagoons at Ko Olina.
  • Hiking is a favorite pastime of mine, and when we were stationed at JBPHH, I could often be found on a hiking trail every weekend! From challenging all day hikes, to quick family hikes, O’ahu has a lot to offer. Be sure to check weather conditions before hitting the trails, and make sure you apply bug spray and sunscreen. Some favorites include Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, Ka’ena Point Trail, Manoa Falls, and Diamond Head.
  • Want to get out on the water? Rent some kayaks or take a tour out to the Mokes (Mokulua Islands). Head out to the Kaneohe Sandbar by taking a tour or try your own hand at sailing on a pontoon boat rented from Kaneohe Bay Marina on the Marine Corps Base at Kaneohe (Note that you will need to take a class and pass a test prior to renting a pontoon boat). There are also numerous sunset and dinner cruises around Waikiki Harbor.
  • Heard about Dole Whip but have no idea what it is? Head on over to the Dole Plantation, walk the maze, ride the train, and learn about the history of the pineapple. While in Central Oahu, check out Green World Coffee Farm, relax among their coffee plants and taste test their flavored coffee.
  • Film buff? Check out Kualoa Ranch. Take a tour and see where many famous movies were filmed.
  • Friday Night Fireworks at Hilton Hawaiian Village are a favorite family activity while in Honolulu. Get down early and hang out at the Hale Koa, the festivities can be seen from their outside bar.
  • Stay tuned for more articles on things to do around O’ahu and the Hawaiian Islands!

Eat + Drink*

There are many restaurants and food trucks around the island that offer various cuisines.

A favorite breakfast location on the windward side is Cinnamon’s. For both sit down and take out breakfast, check out Liliha’s Bakery. Their coco puff pastries are a great treat for special occasions (or, really, anytime). Speaking of sweets, check out Leonard’s Bakery for some delicious Malasada’s. Their Malasadamobile can be seen at various locations around Oahu. No discussion of sweets is complete without mentioning Shave Ice. At busy times, there are lines out the door for Matsumoto’s Shave Ice up on the North Shore and Waiola Shave Ice in Waikiki.

Heard of the Shrimp Trucks, but not sure where they are? Head up to the North Shore and check out Giovanni’s Original White Shrimp Truck or Big Wave Shrimp, two local favorites. There are many more shrimp trucks and fruit stands on the side of the road on the North Shore.

Oahu is also home to some nice bars and breweries. Kona Brewing Co is located on the docks of Koko Marina in Hawaii Kai. Waikiki Brewing Company has two locations on island, in Waikiki and Kaka’ako. Lanikai Brewing Company has a tasting room in Kailua, with a family friendly atmosphere and allows you to bring your own food. Looking for some beer and pizza? Check out Aloha Beer Co in Kaka’ako.

If dinner and a show is what you are looking for, check out some local Luau companies. Germaine’s Luau and Paradise Cove are both located on the leeward side of the island. The Polynesian Cultural Center also has Luau packages.

There are many more options for food and drink around the island. Keep a look out for more articles discussing restaurants and areas to explore!

*Some of these places may have restrictions or closures due to COVID-19. Please check their social media or websites for the most up to date information on hours and procedures.

Have you been stationed at Pearl Harbor? Comment below and share your favorite locations and activities!

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