AK: “I want to go, but I guess I can’t afford it.”
Christin: “Hold my beer.”
Being a huge fan of both films in general and Oahu in general I wanted to go do the Kualoa Ranch tour, but decided not to as it was really expensive and I’d already done the Hawaii Five-O Tour. Without knowing this one of my oldest and dearest friends bought me a gift card for my birthday (or Christmas, doesn’t really matter) at Veltra, a place that sells experiences. They had Kualoa on their list and I was overjoyed! Full day Kualoa Total Experience Package, here I come!
I am a huge movie buff. I don’t really need to state that, I feel, but still… This morning I got up before the sun (yes, really) and headed out to the Ala Moana Hotel parking where it turned out many of the tours on the island had a pick up point. This was my second pick up from this spot and it was about a 5 minute walk from my AirBnB (lucky that, eh?).
I was going to go see Kualoa Ranch, a 4,000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch, where they filmed such famous pieces of pop culture art as “Pearl Harbor” (duh!), “Hawaii Five-O“(book’em, Danno!!!), “Lost”, “Karate Kid II” “50 First Dates”, “JURASSIC PARK” (ammmagaawd!!1) and “JUMANJI” (the new reboots which I absolutely ADORE). I’m not even gonna try to hide it, I’ve seen both those movies about 20 times since I discovered the first one “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” on my cinema spree in Kuala Lumpur (the one where the guy working at the cinema asked me if I worked at the KLCC Mall because he saw me there every day… heh…).
This is going to be a picture-heavy post because I don’t really have that many words to describe the day but so so many pics and videos. They saved the movie sets part of the tour for last and it was the best one for us film buffs of course, but the start (Jungle Expedition) was a very, very close second with the drive around the landscape and the amazing views we got from various stops along the way. They included a little five minute hike up a little ridge to catch a sweeping view of one of the valley floors and it stays with me today. It didn’t really translate onto film (typical), but at least I have it saved so that I can be reminded of it. Half of the stuff I commit to camera is there so I will forget as little as possible from my trip.
Ok, so I show up, walk through the gift shop (of course) and proceed out to the back where they have horses, carvings, trucks and guides at different stations. Where you go depends on what you signed up for. They have everything from horse riding to ATV tour through the woods to “we’ll drive you around and show you stuff”. Something for everyone and popular with kids. I’m not sponsored, guys, I just liked this place a lot.
I had signed up for the “Kualoa Total Experience Package” and my first order of business was the Jungle Expedition Tour. This would take us through amazing scenery and a few of the movie sets closest to base camp. First we got assigned trucks (I was told there was another solo traveler in my truck and if I wanted to make a friend I could sit with her, but she had taken the window seat so I ignored that and sat opposite her to get my very own window seat). We then started the tour driving uphill getting a nice view of “Chinaman’s Hat” a tiny island (more of an islet) off the coast that serves as a bird sanctuary these days.
We proceeded upwards until one of the most spectacular views I had ever seen presented itself, but we didn’t stop! And I was on the wrong side of the truck! (I should have sat with the other solo traveler after all, damnit!) I was actually a bit gutted here, it took my breath away and I got almost desperate to document it somehow. I was sure I would forget the view, the effect on me and the feeling I had if I didn’t get something to take home so I stretched and maneuvered a bit and got a halfway there photo… I ended up only getting half of the actual view. I wish we had stopped and gotten out so we could just take it all in and enjoy it for a few minutes.
Circling our way upwards we caught another view of Chinaman before arriving at: THE SNAKEPIT!
(There were no snakes)
This is where Ruby Roundhouse gets the jewel before forcing a snake to bite her so she can transfer said jewel to Dr. Smolder Bravestone so he then can put it back in the Jaguar Statue’s eye, thereby defeating the nefarious Professor Van Pelt. SPOILERS!
“I don’t think so… Venom’s my weakness!”
– Ruby Roundhouse, Killer of Men
The Taste of Kualoa Farm Tour was enjoyable enough, but mostly because it showed us more beautiful places. We got to practice how to use an old nutcracker contraption and “learned” (got told about, apparently I’ve lost the ability to retain information) about the vast collection of fruits, vegetables and other plants they grow on the farm. I just remember some beautiful flowers, a lot of nuts and imagining bananas and pineapples galore (we didn’t actually see any of those). I remember Leslie, the other single person on the tour who I’d met and befriended at that point, and I trying to crack the nuts… With varying results. We also got to try the staple food “Poi” – it tasted less than it looks. Pretty bland, but filling.
“In Samoa and other Pacific islands, poi is a thick paste of pounded bananas or pineapples mixed with coconut cream; the word originally denoted the action of pounding the food to a pulp. In Hawaii, where poi is a staple of local cuisine, taro root is used almost exclusively for its preparation.”
After the Taste of Kualoa part of the tour there was lunch. Fitting as there wasn’t that much tasting on the taste tour. The buffet was yummy as heck, lots of different food to be had, all kinds of meat marinated in various sauces and crispy vegetables, rice, bread… I don’t remember what I had, I just remember being hungry and then being full and very content.
When lunch was done we were off again though, this time for the MOVIE SET part of the tour (YAYYYY!)
We set off seeing some more gorgeous views along the way.
We drove to the ranch’s northern half, Ka’a’awa Valley (“Ka’a’awa” means “the yellow wrasse fish” in Hawaiian. These yellow wrasse fish, ‘a’awa, are common reef fish in Hawaii). This is a popular TV and movie location where Jurassic Park, Lost & Hawaii Five-0 were filmed. We made a stop by the “Kualoa Ranch” sign because the view of the mountain ridge from there is stunning. Leslie and I, having partnered up at this point, once again took turns photographing our fabulous selves with the scenery.
We then headed to the famous “Jurassic Park Log” (or a copy of it, it’s been a while since 1993 after all). You know the one. If you’ve seen the first movie that is. #TheyreFlockingThisWay Our tour guide had a dryer sense of humor than my old biology teacher so we took some super cheesy photos with a rubber reptile. It was more hilarious than it should have been ;-D
We drove past some of Godzilla‘s footprints that used to be 8 feet deep, but the cattle on the ranch kept falling into them so they decided to make them shallow and just keep the shape.(I wish I had a lol-emoji right here)…
The tour continued on with the same spectacular views hitting us everywhere we went. The mountain ranges on Hawaii’s islands are incredible. Jagged and spiky and hostile, yet full of plants, bushes and so green and lush it’s breathtaking. I never get tired of seeing them.
Along the way we saw movie signs showing what movies had been filmed where. They had props some places too, like the ones belonging to “Kong: Skull Island”. Dinosaur skulls and bones that looked incredibly cool lying on the ground like some prehistoric graveyard… Then the guide told us they were made from some very light, almost styrofoam-ish material which made them blown to all ends of the island whenever there was a storm or even heavy gust of wind. So it created quite the cleanup job for the crew on a regular basis ;-D
They also had a slightly-smaller-than-movie-size statue thingy of Joe the Gorilla from “Mighty Joe Young” because apparently after they filmed on location they packed everything up so nothing was left for a future tour. “But it WAS filmed on location right here, just look at the not so lifelike popup statue of the gorilla.” (I think my favourite thing about the tour was the guides expertly navigating the line between making fun of the cringe stuff and taknig the movie trivia seriously).
THEN. We were almost there. The guide stopped the car, he got on the intercom and told us to give him a second and be real quiet. I thought “What the hell is this now?” and looked around seeing nothing but trees… until the sound of the Jurassic Park Theme by John Williams started playing from this guys’ little speaker. We rounded a bend and found:
The entrance to the pen of the Indominus Rex.
“You should hear a four year old try to say “Archaeornithomimus”.”
– Claire Dearing
The entrance is made from plywood and light materials painted and grafted to make it look like concrete, the only “real” things are the rusty, metal bars. We got to see the entrance to the pen, the fence around it, the scratches made by “dinosaur claws” (from the movie, guys! If you know, you know. If not, what are you even doing on this tour??)
The viewing deck was intact, this is where Claire (Bryce Howard) shows off the Indominus Rex to her boss, then tries to show it to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), but by then the dinosaur has clawed on the wall pretending to have escaped while masking its own heat signature so the stupid humans will panic, open the pen to search and give it a chance to escaaaaape!
We stayed for a little while so the tour guide could give us background info on logistics and behind the scenes stories (as tehy had done all the way, really. We got to know, unrelated to Jurassic Park, that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the crew’s favorite actor on set. Sometimes the trucks are allowed to tour WHILE movie crews are actually filming and when that happens (because it’s usually between takes) The Rock would sprint to the trucks a lot of the time and just say hi to the tourists. He was also super friendly to the crew and just an all round jovial dude. I already liked the guy, this warmed my heart.
More views along the way #SorryNotSorry
So during WW2 (1943) the U.S. Army built a bunker called Battery Cooper. Today it is the largest remaining bunker on Oahu and Kualoa Ranch uses it as an exhibit center (or mini-museum) with props and sets from movies and TV shows shot at the scenic visitor attraction. It was also used in the series “Lost” as a site for the DHARMA Initiative (or whatever they were called, I stopped watching halfway through season two).
Inside the bunker you’ll find all the props they really don’t want to blow away (those poor dino-bones must feel so un-appreciated). Framed movie posters decorate the walls and the corresponding props are displayed next to or near them. It’s like a movie safari in there, so much stuff to see and you get real close to it too. Oh! Journey to the Center of the Earth or whatever was also filmed there, I’d forgotten that one… Should have remembered, I went home and watched it right after this tour. Just for the scenery, the movie is quite forgettable. But the hot chick falls off a giant bee and Michael Caine somehow ended up starring in it, so… I guess…
I can’t remember how much time we were allocated here, but I was the last one back on the bus after hustling a little in the end… I’m definitely the tourist who needs a deadline at places like this…
The tour ended back at base camp where I had some time to myself before the bus took us back to Honolulu (obviously they wanted us to have some time in the gift shop, for which I said “yes, thank you very much, I love these magnetsOOOH! DINO BONES!”… I’m not a natural haggler and I have no poker face. I bought a fridge magnet for me and some gifts for the kids back home).
I also had time to check out the photo wall where they mounted photos taken of many of the celebrity visitors they’d had to the ranch, among them the Obamas, obviously The Rock and other A-list actors who starred in the plethora of films they shoot there, but I also found a picture of Devin Supertramp and his wife. I’ve followed this guy on YouTube for ten years, he has the most amazing ideas turned into videos and just kept getting more and more pro until apparently now he has done stuff like make the official promo video for Kualoa Ranch. So cool ❤
I got back to Ala Moana, Honolulu at about 4pm and judging from the snap videos I made walking back to my place I was extremely happy with how the day turned out. What a trip this was for a nerd like me ❤
Did I say this was going to be a picture heavy post implying little text?
I’m not the smrtest dinosawr in the park…