I have been so excited to write and post this blog on our memorable Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Preserve tour. We booked the “Movie site tour” through an app my sister recommended called Viator. Kualoa has been the site to many television shows like LOST, Magnum P.I., and Hawaii Five-O as well as Hollywood films such as: Jurassic World, Jurassic Park, Kong: Skull Island, Jumanji, Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, and more! This ranch is not only a favorite site for Hollywood producers but is also a 4,000 acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch. Located on the northeastern side of Oahu and the edge of Kaneohe Bay (imagine a tropical jungle kissing the warm sandy beach like we see in the show LOST time and time again!)
We almost didn’t make this tour! (if you read my previous post you know about this) Kualoa Ranch offers a variety of different tours including horseback riding, botanical gardens, and even riding ATV’s. I booked one of the simpler ones which was the movie site tour. When booking I would have sworn I saw that our tour provided pick up and drop off at our hotel along the Waikiki strip. Once arriving in Oahu and getting settled in I decided to double check our tour itinerary. I couldn’t any find information about transport to and from the Ranch (which was an issue because the Ranch was 45 minutes from Waikiki) I called as soon as I noticed but it was 7pm and their office was closed. I figured we would probably miss the tour and have to take a loss (renting a car or even Ubering would have cost us a lot of money per hour with a longer tour and could have cost more than the tour itself!)
We got an unexpected call at 6:10am in morning from the Ranch asking if we needed transportation (I have no idea how they knew!). I practically jumped out of bed shouting “yes please!” we paid a small $30 fee for both of us and that was it! We were on our way and I couldn’t wait to get there!
Of course my trusty camera came with me and I was snapping shots the entire time! I couldn’t put it down. Even on the drive toward the Ranch I was in awe of such a lush and green environment. It was raining a little giving the whole place a sort of mysterious and magical looking haze. Coming from a jungle of concrete my mouth was practically in a constant state of “open-jaw.” Wow. (Sometimes I wonder if this is a small taste of what earth was like before man fell, before things became gray, broken, hard, and cold.)
Once we got to the Ranch I was even more excited to head out for the movie site tour and see where all the films and television shows were made!
Once our tour was called up we hopped on a tall, green, open window bus with our guide and started off down the dirt road. I have to brag on our tour guide. He was so knowledgeable about the land, sustainability, agricultural practices, and movies filmed on site. It was really apparent that not only did he love his job but he deeply cared about the land and the animals he worked with every single day.
Our first stop was an old military bunker that was converted for tourists into a permanent resting spot for many of the props from films made on the Ranch. This bunker also contained some smaller historical exhibits about the bunker which were really interesting. We got to see props and set pieces from Jumanji, Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor, Jurassic World, LOST, Hawaii Five-O, and Kong, Skull Island. It was really neat to see some of the pieces that were actually used in filming! We learned a little bit about the Military history of the land as well. During WWII the US Military operated an Army Auxiliary airstrip at Kualoa with many of the large trees providing natural hangers for the small planes.
Once we finished in the bunker we headed out for the tour of the actual set locations. I was so excited about this and actually recognized quite a few of the spots as our tour guide described the exact scenes in movies like Kong, Skull Island and Jurassic Park.
Friends, as we pulled up to some of these different locations and hoped out of our bus I understood immediately why this location has become famously known as “Hawaii’s Backlot” and has been seen by over half a billion people in films produced over the past 50 years. I felt immediately dwarfed by the lush green mountains and could have stared at them for hours. The valleys are vast and seem to just disappear into the distance… It’s a truly spectacular thing to behold. No matter how many times I look at the pictures I took they really just don’t properly represent the beauty of what I saw.
Brian and I had so much fun on this tour but I would love to do some of the more extensive tours next time so we can really get more deeply into the Valley. The botanical Garden tour and the ATV tours were something we were both a little bummed we didn’t sign up for but really we couldn’t possibly be disappointed with the amazing experience we had!
I admit I now am on a mission to go back and see every movie and show that includes this gorgeous location and have been having a blast! (LOST marathon here I come) Hawaii Five-O has not disappointed and Godzilla was also pretty fun to go back and re-watch!
FUN FACT: We got to see the giant lizard tracks during this tour that Godzilla leaves behind in the movie which they had to modify post production because the cows in the ranch kept falling into; they are now only about 3 feet deep but still really fun to see!
If you are headed to Oahu I highly recommend checking this out, whether you are wanting to do something more low key like the movie site tour (definitely more kid friendly at only 60 minutes and not much walking required) or something more extensive like the ATV, horseback riding, zip lining, or secret beach tour.
Hope these pictures and fun facts gave you a little taste of “aloha” from wherever you are sitting! I know being back in the bay area I already love being able to look at these pictures and transport myself back into the beautiful green valleys or the warm sandy beaches.