When visiting the Hawaiian island of Oahu, most people think of sandy beaches, luaus, surfing, oh, and mai tais. On our most recent trip we discovered a whole other side to the island thanks to the folks at Kualoa Ranch.
Located on the northeaster side of Oahu, about 45 minutes from Honolulu, Kualoa Ranch encompasses many different terrains. Along with white sand beaches you’ll find dense rainforests, tall cliffs, and even wide open valleys. You may have passed the ranch on your way to the Polynesian Cultural Center. That’s how we spotted it. The Kualoa Ranch is family owned and works to preserve this special part of Hawaii’s natural beauty. You can experience it yourself through a number of programs and tours offered at the ranch.
The biggest problem will be trying to figure out which tour to experience. Should it be a tour on horseback or maybe a tour of Kane’oha Bay on a private 49-passenger catamaran? Perhaps a movie tour is more your thing? Thankfully for the indecisive types like myself or for families where interests vary, the Kualoa Ranch offers the Kualoa All-Day Experience Pass, giving you access to all available Hawaiian experience tours for the day. And we packed our day.
The first thing the kids wanted to do was the Jungle Expidition Tour and who could blame them. Riding through the hills, valleys and jungles of the Ranch aboard a 6-wheel drive Swiss Pinzgauer. My kids loved it as I did I; just remember to hang on tight because there’s no such thing as shock absorbers on this vehicle.
Our guide was awesome, showing us native plant such as sleeping grass (it closes up when you touch it) and taro. We bumped up hills and through jungles, along cliff edges and back down again. We did get a moment to stop and get out of the vehicle to admire the view before bumping our way down.
My son was thrilled since he got to ride ‘shotgun’ on the way down. The Jungle Expedition certainly gave us a peek at a whole other side to O’ahu we’ve never experienced before.
After our trek through the jungle we jumped on the Movie Sites bus tour. I was surprised to find out so many movies were actually filmed at Kualoa Ranch. We visited an original lookout bunker that was used in the filming of Pearl Harbor. Inside were loads of great props from movies and television shows filmed on site, including one of our favourite TV series, LOST. They even had the sub prop.
We passed giant dinosaur footprints carved out in the ground as well as the valley where all the dinosaurs stampede through in the movie Jurassic Park. As I looked at these landscapes I could envision some of these scenes. Movie sets aside, the scenery among the hills and valley at the Ranch were awe inspiring.
At the end of our Movie Sites Tour we stopped in for lunch. You can buy food from the cafeteria or add a BBQ lunch buffet at the Ranch House to your ticket. We did the later, enjoying huge ribs and coleslaw. It was filling and lovely sitting on the covered deck of the Ranch House.
Before our final tour the kids visited the small petting zoo, enamored by the rabbits, horses and barn cat. Our final tour planned seemed like a fitting way to end our day at Kualoa Ranch. We were off to Secret Island Beach. A short bus ride off of the Ranch we ended up at a dock. We boarded a flat boat and crossed the water to Secret Island. The view of the Kuala Ranch cliffs was amazing from the boat. Once across, another staff member greeted us and walked us to a lovely white sand beach. And it was empty. There were no sunbathers or rows of beach umbrellas. It was just our small bus group.
After we changed into our suits (there are small huts on site so you don’t need to worry about wearing your suit all day), it was time to decide what to do first. My youngest daughter and I went to the water, which was very cold and cloudy but nice under the hot sun. The beach bottom is somewhat rocky in parts so I’d bring water shoes if you plan on visiting. My daughter and I just waded in the water but for the more adventurous you could borrow snorkel gear, paddleboards and even kayaks to use in the area.
My husband was busy playing beach games with my older two. First badminton, then ping pong. Of course you could choose to just sleep away your afternoon in one of the hammocks but my kids preferred the rope swings, calling out their inner Tarzan. But all good things must come to an end and soon it was time to take the boat and bus back to Kualoa Ranch.
The kids were out 10 minutes into our drive back to the hotel. Kualoa Ranch offered us an amazing adventure, giving us a peek at another side of Oahu that we might normally miss. You can certainly visit Kuala Ranch for just one of their tours but why not make a day of it and get into a whole adventure with the Kualoa All-Day Experience Pass.
Thanks to the folks at Kualoa Ranch for the experience.