No matter what age, Kualoa Ranch can keep every soul visiting this place, engaged and entranced from Kualoa Ranch ATV expeditions through the ranch, to silent and serene beaches to horseback rides and the most exquisite ‘farm to table’ traditional Hawaiian culinary dining experiences, it provides a wholesome experience. The Kualoa Ranch is the home ground for some of Hollywood’s classics, often called “Hollywood’s Backlot”. The property of Kualoa Ranch is majorly divided into two areas, the northern half include areas of Kaʻaʻawa Valley, famously nicknamed as “Jurassic Valley”. The site has been used for over 70 Hollywood movies since 1950 with many blockbusters such as Jurassic World, Jurassic Park, Jumanji, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, 50 First Dates and Tears of the Sun, to name just a few. Kualoa has also been the site for TV shows like LOST and Hawaii Five-O. The southern half, however, is for the ones who seek tranquillity and relaxation, and an opportunity to be one with nature; with the Hakipuʻu Valley rainforest, the Secret Island Hokule’a beach, and an 800-year-old ancient Hawaiian fishpond called Moli’i. Moli’i is listed in US National Register of Historic Places. The Kualoa Ranch, with its authentic history, sacred traditions and out of the world scenic beauty of the Ahupua'a, this recreational haven truly packs a strong punch with everything that one might possibly look for in a holiday get-away.
- 1. Kualoa Ranch ATV Expedition
- 2. Kayak Adventure Tour
- 3. The Movie Site Tour
- 4. Kualoa UTV Tour
- 5. Jungle Jeep Expedition
- 6. Secret Island Beach Activities, Oʻahu
- 7. Electric Mountain Bike Tour
- 8. Jurassic Valley Zipline
- 9. Horseback Tour
- 10. Kualoa Culinary Experience Tour
- Kualoa Weather
- Other things to do in Kualoa
- When to Visit Kualoa Ranch
- Getting there
- Where to stay:
The 4000-acre natural reserve belonged to Dr Gerrit Parmele Judd and is now owned and managed by his successors, The Morgans. Dr Judd was an American physician who later renounced his American citizenship and became a trusted advisor and cabinet minister to King Kamehameha III of Hawaii from whom he went on to buy the 4000-acre Kualoa Natural Reserve. Established in 1850, the vision of setting up this reserve was to protect and enhance the natural beauty of these lands while developing sustainable recreational, agricultural and aqua-cultural enterprises that are compatible with the environment. The reserve consists of regions comprising of Kualoa, Hakipu’u and Ka’a’awa. The primary goal is to nurture the undeveloped fashion of these lands so that the future generation will be able to enjoy the inherent natural richness this place has to offer.
Kualoa basically in Hawaiian means “long back”, as are the soaring peaks and beautiful deep valleys of the ranch. Kualoa is one of the most historically significant areas on Oʻahu, and in ancient times, was one of the most sacred places on the island. Legend has it that Kualoa was once a place of refuge where Hawaiian natives could come to seek forgiveness and used to host the Makahiki, an annual event where training and participation of warrior skills were conducted.
The Ahupua'a is the signature of Kualoa and is considered a spiritual symbol. The Ahupua'a is basically the wedge-shaped structure in the valley running from the mountain crest to shore. Ancient Hawaiians did not believe in the concept of private property and followed a complex system of land division and lived by the belief in the ancient Ahupua'a, the basic self-sustaining unit, the belief system of the interrelationship of elements and beings, and co-existence through interdependency in the activities of daily and seasonal life. Each Ahupua`a provided resources for the sustenance of its human community, from fish and salt to fertile land for farming and the coast to fish and conduct trade. These gigantic natural mountainous structures are tough to fathom the beauty of, especially once you get close to it while taking a Kualoa Ranch ATV ride or e-mountain bike ride.
The Private Nature Reserve, even now with its livestock of 600 cattle, 120 horses and 200 sheep and the 300 Kualoa employees share a common goal, to invite every visitor with an ‘aloha’ and give them the exquisite sense of belonging to the ʻohana (family). They aim to educate the visitors through experiences about Hawaiian values, cuisine, the deep respect and connection with the natural environment, respect for the hosting culture of Hawaiians, and most importantly the sacred history of Kualoa. They thrive to enlighten the visitors why it is important to leave these untouched and undeveloped places of nature in a preserved manner for future generations to explore and experience. The place overwhelms a visitor with its offer of exploration, spanning between its mind-numbingly beautiful mountain cliffs to the supremely serene waters of Kaneohe Bay. There one can avail Kualoa’s own guided tours, the signature Kualoa Ranch ATV tour, an e-mountain bike exploration through the ranch, zipline adventures, horseback rides, safaris through the reserve on a bus, UTVs, kayaks or catamarans.
Let us take a look at Kualoa Ranch’s plethora of amazing offerings including the following:
1. Kualoa Ranch ATV Expedition
If going solo is your style and for ones with a hunger for adventurous exploration with a couple of hours in hand, the Kualoa Ranch ATV tour would be the best pick. The guided Kualoa Ranch ATV tour takes you on an exciting adventure to the Jurassic Valley, the land which brought dinosaurs to life for us. The Kualoa Ranch ATV is one of the coolest experiences that Kualoa Ranch has to offer. The Kualoa Ranch ATV tour is incredible and is the perfect option for classic movie buffs who do not mind getting a little dirty to visit many movie locations throughout the valley, especially more off the beaten path since the ATVs can go places other transportation cannot. The Kualoa Ranch ATV tour can also be clubbed with the Jungle Expedition and Ocean Voyage as a package for those with an eye for exploration.
2. Kayak Adventure Tour
If you are interested to take up an adventure sport to reach the shores of the “secret island” over the crystal waters of Kaneohe Bay, the escorted Kayaking trip is the way to go. You will have the experience of being as close to life in the waters as possible. Be enthralled by the overwhelming beauty that the Kauloa Ranch holds together while you paddle downstream in this one-way trip to the “secret island”. It is, of course, an escorted adventure and the safety of the visitors is the first priority, completely ensured with required equipment and guides on duty.
3. The Movie Site Tour
One of the trips that families enjoy together at the Kualoa Ranch is The Kualoa Ranch movie tour, specifically focusing on movies shot at this place, also known as “Hollywood’s Backlot”. The numerous movies that Kualoa Ranch has been home to might help you understand the magnanimity of billions of people who have seen this place but do not know or have not possibly experienced this heaven on earth which was portrayed as from the dinosaur era. Since Kualoa Ranch was an American base during World War II, through the tour, one will also get to visit WWII army bunker and memorabilia. This tour takes place through a vintage school bus and is with a group of people, unlike the Kualoa Ranch ATV tour.
4. Kualoa UTV Tour
Another new addition to the touring options, Kualoa Ranch’s UTV (ultra-terrain vehicle) tour is most recommended if you have a family of up to 6. The UTVs are basically an ATV but for 2-6 people together and so the fun part of the ride is covered for with rocky, exciting routes and the vehicle traversing through the most of terrains. You will of course experience exclusive Ka’a’awa “Jurassic” Valley in its essence much similar to the Kualoa Ranch ATV tour with several iconic movie locations as well as glimpses of the scenic flora and most importantly the unique Ahupua'a which adds to the almost super-natural effect of this paradise on earth.
5. Jungle Jeep Expedition
A tour on a jungle jeep, sounds similar to a scene from the Jurassic Park movie. Well, that is exactly what this 16-passenger trip aims at bringing to you, also similar to Jur tour at Kualoa Ranch. This is a crowd favorite of the ranch apart from Kualoa Ranch ATV tour, especially due to its affordability. This trip gives you glimpses of the southern part venturing into the Hakipuʻu rainforest. The 800-year-old ancient Hawaiian fishpond called Moli’i lies placidly looking to the Ahupua'a from the dock of the pond. This site is an extremely famous site for dream weddings and the sight is to die for; no surprise that it is even listed as a historic place in the US National Register.
6. Secret Island Beach Activities, Oʻahu
A secret beach where you can spend the whole day away, doing absolutely anything that you keep you on toes. The beach could be booked for half a day from 9 am to 12 pm or 11:30 am to 2 pm, or in fact if required for the whole day. The island is a place where one could forget about the worries of being in a public beach, with security and all the activities that one could think of, be it kayaking, beach volleyball, SUP, canoeing, or just to lay back on the beach or in a hammock and relax under the sun all day. Sunscreen is an extremely important item that visitors would want to keep in mind as Hawaii sun can get strong during the day.
7. Electric Mountain Bike Tour
This new addition to the exploration section of the Jurassic world is for those who might want to avoid the noise of the Kualoa Ranch ATV and other vehicular disturbances and enjoy a more peaceful yet assisted ride. The eco-friendly electric mountain bike tour is a guided tour of the Jurassic Valley and an opportunity to experience sections nature preserve and movie and TV show sites, possibly one of the closest ways possible.
8. Jurassic Valley Zipline
The exhilarating treetop canopy zipline which begins at the top of the Ka’a’awa Valley is one of the best in Oʻahu with 7 exciting sections,2 suspension bridges,and 3 nature walks around five minutes in length with the overall tour taking roughly two hours. One gets to catch glimpses of the entire valley and parts of the Jurassic Park locations again over here. Not to worry for first timers as there is no pre-requisite experience required, other than to weigh 70 pounds.
9. Horseback Tour
The 150-year-old cattle ranch of Oʻahu Explore gives a real vintage opportunity of rising through the woods on the horseback for the ones who are looking to just relax with loved ones or alone while traversing through Oʻahu’s valleys in the Koolau mountain range. The ride typically takes less than a couple of hours.
10. Kualoa Culinary Experience Tour
Food is one of the best ways to learn about the regional culture and this $50 Kualoa Farm Trolley tour exhibits the true love that the Kualoa people hold for hospitality and their sacred land of Kualoa. This tour takes you to their tropical fruit and flower garden and lets you taste some locally grown fresh fruits. Explore the 800-year-old ancient Hawaiian fishpond “Moli’i and learn from the active Hawaiian aquaculture that they practice here. They work relentlessly here to maintain the organic interaction with nature as life in Kualoa flourishes with the nature in and around it.
Another part of this experience is the Kualoa Culinary Experience, ‘farm-to-table’ tour – an immersive tour, allowing guests to learn and taste the hogs, sheep, cattle, and sea-life being raised here. In addition to the livestock, Kualoa farms are full of exotic crops such as breadfruit, cacao, sweet potato, taro and numerous fresh vegetables and herbs. The tour ends with a special “farm-to-table” four-course meal made using the produce from this little, almost-utopic and bountiful paradise. Since Kualoa prides itself on providing the best guest experience, and the “guide-to-guest” ratios (a guide to at-most ten guests) maintained very low, it is recommended to make advance reservations for the tour as they sell out 2-3 weeks in advance.
Tip: It would be quite an experience to take a helicopter flight from Kalaeloa Airport to Kualoa Ranch if it is affordable. Through this, you would be able to visualize scenes from movies like Pearl Harbour and also get the opportunity to see major landmarks of the place, such as Waikiki, Hanauma Bay on the way to Ka’a’awa Valley.
Like typical Hawaii weather, the sun is bright, the waves in the shores are energetic and it is just nice holiday weather, but having said that, as is known, Hawaii weather can become a bit unpredictable with untimely showers and temperature variations. Early morning weather is known to be supremely wonderful with active life all over the place with tourists trying out adventure sports, the place bubbling with energy of daily commerce from tourism and what not. But any day is a good day for an adventurous ride on the Kualoa Ranch ATV.
Other things to do in Kualoa
1) Kualoa History Hall is an on-site museum exhibit of artefacts about the history and legacy of Kualoa Ranch and its founder Dr Gerrit Parmel Judd and the legend of its creation.
2) Judd theatre is a tribute in the form of a short documentary to educate guests about the founding and operational history of the legendary Kualoa Ranch.
3) Petting Zoo is a‘zoo’for guests to try and get accustomed to the farm animals here, such as goats,donkey, macaw, ostrich, llama, potbelly pigs, tortoises, calves, and ponies that you can get close and pet.
4) Sculpture Garden is a display of artwork from a garden overlooking the beautiful Mokolii Island (Chinaman’s hat).
When to Visit Kualoa Ranch
Just like Hawaii, there is never a time that is not good for a visit to this place, to take up the Kualoa Ranch ATV and other exciting tours and excursions, in fact, they could be more fun in the rain and mud. However, the time between May and October are dried and sunnier while the rest of the year is with either the winter chill or often wet, due to the monsoons.
Kualoa Ranch Address: 49-560 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744
1) Located just 24 miles to the north of Honolulu, driving yourself would probably be the most comfortable and possibly relaxing option to get to Kualoa Ranch, through Likelike Highway which takes hardly 45 minutes. Just a search for “Kualoa Ranch” in your smartphone GPS should get you there with no trouble.
2) Public transport from Waikiki is a more affordable option, with a roundtrip costing roughly $15.
3) One could also just get a one-day pass and take a bus from Honolulu city which would cost just around $6.
Where to stay:
There are plenty of Airbnb’s in Honolulu, Waikiki, the North Shore, and Ko Olina which one could opt for according to the required comfort. Exquisite resorts are also available in the area for visitors to choose from.
Kualoa Ranch has an extensive history to its formation and apart from the above details, there are remains of the sugar mill from the sugar plantation business started and closed between 1863 and 1870 due to a severe occurrence of drought in the form of few dilapidated walls and a coral brick stacking, along Kamehameha Highway. Also after the establishment of the Kualoa Ranch, during World War II, the land was used by the American military as Kualoa Airfield in 1941. Only after the war, the ranch was reinstated back to the Judd family only in 1974. The entire place is also registered in Oʻahu’s Historic Places listing.
So, let’s make our next stop at Kualoa for a truly wholesome and enlightening holiday experience.