Welcome to Jurassic World at Hawaii’s Kualoa Ranch

“Welcome… to Jurassic World,” and Jurassic Park, and Skull Island, oh and while we’re at it “welcome to the Jungle” (Jumanji’s jungle) too – because Kualoa Ranch is the real-world home of them all. With JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM taking us back to Isla Nublar one more time, when our family visited O’ahu, our family couldn’t wait to explore Kualoa Ranch, the site where dinosaurs ruled the earth.

Kualoa Ranch

“Jurassic Park” filming location at Kualoa Ranch, photo by Dave Parfitt

Located approximately 20 miles north of Honolulu, Kualoa Ranch is a 4,000 acre private nature reserve on the eastern coast of O’ahu.  Originally a refuge for Hawaiian royalty, Kualoa Ranch was established in 1850 when King Kamehameha III sold off a portion of the land to his personal physician and advisor Dr. Gerritt P. Judd.  Hollywood started filming there in the 1950’s with John Ford’s MR. ROBERTS starring Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon and James Cagney, and since that time over 70 productions have filmed on the property.  We booked the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour, and got ready for our 90 minute excursion into Hollywood’s Hawaii backlot.

Kualoa Ranch

Starting point for Hollywood Movie Sites tour at Kualoa Ranch, photo by Dave Parfitt

After boarding a vintage school bus with authentic Hawaiian air conditioning (i.e., open windows), we whisked off into the Kaʻaʻawa mountains that surround the valley.

Kualoa Ranch

Vintage school buses used for tours at Kualoa Ranch, photo by Dave Parfitt

First stop on the tour was Battery Cooper, a World War II concrete bunker with stunning views of the ocean and Mokoli’i Island (Chinaman’s Hat).  The bunker is now used as a movie museum filled with photos, posters, and props of various productions filmed at the ranch – including JURASSIC WORLD.

Kualoa Ranch

JURASSIC WORLD props and photos on display at Kualoa Ranch, photo by Dave Parfitt

Kualoa Ranch

JURASSIC WORLD props and photos on display at Kualoa Ranch, photo courtesy Dave Parfitt

Sitting outside the battery is even an Austrian Pinzgauer all-terrain vehicle initially used for jungle tours by Kualoa Ranch before appearing briefly on screen in JURRASIC WORLD.

Kualoa Ranch

JURASSIC WORLD tour vehicle on display at Kualoa Ranch, photo courtesy Dave Parfitt

After exploring the bunker, we were driven into the Kaʻaʻawa Valley, where dozens of movies were filmed.  We stopped at a prominent log used in the original Jurassic Park where paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant hunkered down with Lex and Tim (John Hammond’s grandchildren) safe from the stampeding gallimimus dinosaurs.

Kualoa Ranch

Log featured in “Jurassic Park” on location at Kualoa Ranch, photo by Dave Parfitt

Aside from the film and television locations and kitschy photo-ops, Kualoa Ranch is a working farm dedicated to protecting the land and environment.  There are a number of activities for families including horseback riding, “taste of the farm,” and zipline canopy tours.  After a hearty Hawaiian Plate Lunch at Aunty Pat’s Cafe, we set off on the Ocean Adventure Tour through the Kaneohe Bay.

Kualoa Ranch

Ocean voyage catamaran at Kualoa Ranch, photo by Dave Parfitt

We learned about ancient fishing practices as we crossed 800-1000 year old Moli’i fish pond, and relaxed during the ocean boat ride off Hokule’a Beach and around Mokoli’i Island (Chinaman’s Hat).  We even spotted Pacific green sea turtles sunning themselves in the stunning azure waters.

Kualoa Ranch

View of the Kaʻaʻawa Mountain Range and Mokoli’i Island during the Kualoa Ranch ocean voyage catamaran ride, photo by Dave Parfitt

Our visit to Kualoa Ranch was a perfect day trip during our recent vacation at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii.  It was an easy drive from the resort, and exposed us to an entirely different ecosystem than the western side of O’ahu.  There were plenty of activities to pick from at Kualoa Ranch, much more than you could do in a single day.  In addition to the fun and beautiful location, our family learned more about the history and culture of the area, and would definitely recommend the ranch for those visiting O’ahu.

Kualoa Ranch

Horse corral at Kualoa Ranch, photo by Dave Parfitt

DISCLOSURE: Our family was hosted by Kualoa Ranch and provided with complimentary admission to the movie site and ocean adventure tours. However, all opinions are those of the author. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagramtwitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.