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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kualoa Ranch – An Oahu Must Visit!

Today was our opportunity to finally visit the Kualoa Ranch on the windward side of Oahu on the islands of Hawaii. It was an experience that was well worth the wait. Ashley and I had such a great time while we were there, that we would consider the Kualoa Ranch to be on of, it not the top ‘must see’ entertainment and adventure experience location here on Oahu.

As I have previously mentioned, we were originally supposed to head out to Kualoa Ranch on Friday, but because of the mistake by the booking agency – changed it to Saturday. So, first thing this morning we jumped in our Avis rental car and headed out across Likelike Highway towards the ranch.

Understanding a little more about this ranch is important. This is a family owned ranch of 4200 acres of pristine Hawaiian island land. It was purchased many years ago for a thousand dollars from the Hawaiian King. It has been passed down through the family through generations and now is owned by a couple of brothers. The rumor is that the Hilton Corporation recently offered over $3 billion for the land. However, one of the initial conditions was that the land would not be sold – and it has not been. It is also a working ranch, meaning there are approximately 350 head of cattle roaming the grounds. While down from a high of 1,000 heads some time ago – it is still a sizeable number. Additionally, there is a large orchid farm on the ranch that provides the majority of the orchids used for arrival leis.

We arrived shortly before the suggested check-in time of 9:00am and wandered around a little. The ranch is just that – it has a general store where you enter where you can get food & souvenirs, and a few barns and areas where you board the various adventures and tours that you choose.

Checking in right at 9:00am, we still had our full choice of the two things we were interested in doing for our half day adventure. We ended up signing up for the horseback ride as well as the ranch and movie set tour. There were several other options including an ATV ride, a jeep trek through difficult terrain (using Pinzegauers), ocean kayaking, and shooting rifles at the gun range.

While we were waiting for our horseback ride to begin, we wandered over to the stables where they had a chocolate lab. The lab’s name was Yoda, and his owner’s name was Mike. Both were extremely friendly. We learned that Yoda loved the ranch and roaming it – even though he has a plastic hip from being hit by a car some years ago. A great, relatively calm 7-year old chocolate lab – imagine that.

As we jumped on our horses, we noticed the real attention to safety that the staff had, as well as the general great condition that all of the horses were in. We had a great little ride up and down one of the hills on the ranch. This is a great ride for new or beginning horse-riders, as the morning 1 hour ride is a walk – no trotting or cantering. Those who have been a number of times will have plenty of time to take in the beautiful scenery and letting the horse do the work for you. The horses know what to do and will only take advantage of you by trying to eat during the ride. There is even a photo opportunity that you can take.

It is really important to mention the competency and friendliness of the staff at Kualoa Ranch. While being very safety minded, and still very conversational – they manage groups of up to 25 riders generally in both English and Japanese very successfully. Even with the majority of the folks that have never been on a ride before, you still feel safe and know they are looking out for you.

The ranch and movie set tour was equally entertaining although quite different. As the tour started, two buses loaded up – divided by English and Japanese speaking. We had a tour bus operator that was pretty young, that did a good job.

The first stop was at the top of a hill at a World War II bunker that was used to film the movie Pearl Harbor. Inside is a lot of memorabilia from the various movies that have been shot at the Kualoa Ranch.

Outside, the spot is dedicated as one of the observation spots for the Whale Watchers of America. There are few folks posted to watch for various behavioral exhibitions of the humpback whales as pass by – blowing, slapping, and breeching. The spot does not appear to be open to the public, although the watchers are currently tracking a pod of about 5 whales, however we do not catch a sighting. Further, our onshore experiences watching whales can be found here.

Continuing on the tour, we go past a number of movie sets including:

Lost – Hurley’s 3-hole course

Jurassic Park – the last 5 minutes of the movie was filmed here, although the rest was filmed on Kauai.

Mighty Joe Young – numerous scenes here.

Windtalkers – lots of live explosives, apparently the director blew up two of the 4 shacks from Mighty Joe Young without permission during testing. However, he made up for the misunderstanding with a sizeable check.

Godzilla – nice foot prints.

50 First Dates – Great scene where Drew Barrymore chases down Rob Schneider while with Adam Sandler.

While out on tour, we also run into a number of the folks working and patrolling the Ranch. Both Mike & Yoda the lab are with them and they spend some time with the folks on the tour during a stopping point.

After the tour is over, we head back to the Kualoa Ranch General store to have lunch. With the half-day tour package, a buffet Hawaiian barbeque lunch is included. It has an excellent assortment of BBQ ribs, chicken, Mahi-Mahi, salads, and more – complimented with guava punch. We enjoyed our meal out on the front porch which over looks the Kualoa Park and the ocean. An excellent end to our half-day adventure.

We had such a great time on the Kualoa Ranch that we will definitely be back should we visit Oahu in the future. We recommend you visit it as well, it is a Hawaiian adventure that will excite you and give you great memories of Hawaii! Make sure to say hi to Yoda for us!


Anthony said...

I definitely agree with you on the ranch. We went there for a half day and rode ATVs throughout the ranch. It was amazing to see all the small WWII bunkers that are slowly being retaken by the jungle. We also spent some time at the shooting range. I always recommend people make this a stop when they are vacationing in Oahu; absolutely worth it.