Your Destination Guide to Oahu

Destination Guide Oahu - Your Destination Guide to Oahu, HI

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Pearl City

Pearl City
Pearl City

© Luis Argerich

Known now as a military town, Pearl City received its name, originally Wai Momi ("pearl waters"), from the pearl-producing oysters that teamed its harbor until the late 1800s, when over-harvesting exhausted supplies. Myths regard the area as the home of the shark goddess, Kaʻahupahau, and her brother (or son), Kahiʻuka.

Originally a shallow embayment, legend attributes the widening and deepening of the inlet to powerful Ewa chief Keaunui, who wished to expand his influence by bringing in ships for trade. Without him, Pearl Harbor probably would not be a Navy base—which needed the expanded inlet for operations—meaning the United States might have never entered World War II.

Pearl City borders the north shore of Pearl Harbor, resting just west of 'Aiea and Waipahu, and east of Ewa. The city itself contains University of Hawai'i-West Oahu, Leeward Community College, Pearl City Shopping Center, and the Pearl Harbor National Wildlife Refuge (managed cooperatively with the U.S. Navy). Mainly a residential area, heavily populated by military personnel working at Pearl Harbor Navy Base or Hickam Air Force Base, Pearl City doesn't contain much in the way of tourist attractions.

The main appeal to Pearl City is, of course, Pearl Harbor. The U.S. government gained exclusive use of the inlet in 1887, which it used as a repair area for ships; the Navy base came soon after. The surprise attack on December 7th destroyed 200 American aircraft, and caused death or injury to 3,000 military personnel. This tragic event gained the base status as a National Historic Landmark district in 1964, along with the USS Bowfin, Arizona, and Utah.

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