One of the most impactful places in modern cinema, Kualoa Ranch (or Jurassic Park Valley) is a sprawling 4000 acre private nature reserve that can be traversed and explored; catering to both tourists and cattle. Over 80 movies and tv shows have been filmed at this location, many of which have left certain prop and set pieces strewn about the Ranch for would-be adventurers to go and find. With all the various activities that are available at the Ranch, one that is often overlooked is the ability to see it all from the air!
Originally the site of the sacred drums of Kapahuʻula and Kaʻahuʻulapunawai as well as the sacred Hill of Kauakahiakahoʻowaha, the Kualoa Ranch area has had a longstanding history with the ancient Hawaiians. In 1850, an American doctor befriended the Hawaiian Chief at the time by translating medical journals into Hawaiian and helping teach the natives. In return, he was allowed to purchase portions of the land, and by the 1870s had ended up owning the 4000 acres (in addition to Mokoli’i Island, aka Chinaman’s Hat) that is now known as Kualoa Ranch. Having gone through various business iterations, including a stint as an airfield during WWII, the present day Ranch is involved with cattle, shrimp, and tourism.
While the cattle are readily noticeable from a distance, and the shrimp are found in fishponds or on a grill, the tourism part gets a bit more tricky as there are so many options available. The most popular is the ATV Raptor Adventure wherein you can travel through rivers and streams while visiting a few classic Hollywood movie sites. This option does seem to offer the most freedom of exploration, and comes in 1 or 2 hour increments, costing around $100. Similar to the ATV adventure, is the Electric Assist Mountain Bike adventure. The EAMB lets you explore just the same, but at a more leisurely rate with the addition of silence (the EAMBs don’t affect the ambiance), and comes in at a starting cost of $75. After these, the tourism options become more structured, starting with the Deluxe Jurassic Jeep Adventure; mimicking an altered jeep from the Jurassic Park movies, on a tour devoted to Jurassic Park. Costing a bit more than the ATV adventure, this is the second most expensive option presented. The most expensive option is reserved for the adrenaline junkies: the Jurassic Valley Zipline. Covering 2 suspension bridges and 7 lines, this 3 hour tour is “the world’s only totally sustainable and 100% off-the-grid zipline experience” and is the closest thing Kualoa Ranch has to compare to a helicopter ride over Hawaii’s lush vegetation.
Having not personally done the tours offered through Kualoa Ranch, I can only surmise the contrasts between the ground vs air tours; but I have had said double experiences from comparable situations. Being in the thick of things, on the ground, is a wonderful experience. Kualoa Ranch offers many options in experiencing their area at a rate that fits each individual person. And while this is indeed sublime, there is something to be said about visiting the same area from the sky. Being able to aerially see where you trekked, traversed, and the sites you had seen prior seen before, represented in a digestible manner is like the desert after a great meal; it brings it all together. The most striking thing, in my opinion, when shown things from a different perspective, is how small the overall area is and how much “movie magic” fools us all into vastly overestimating the scope of these production sites, buried in the Hawaiian rainforests.