The Kualoa Ranch is an incredibly popular tourist location located in Oahu, Hawaii. It is often rated as one of the Top Things to Do on Oahu. The large Estate is located in one of the most beautiful parts of the Island with Stunning Back-Drops and deserted Coastline The ranch offers many tours and experiences you can’t find elsewhere. But is the Kualoa Ranch worth Visiting? Our Kualoa Ranch Reviews post aims to show you exactly what to expect when visiting the Ranch and which tours may suit you best.
There is so much on offer at the ranch it’s essential to pick the best tours for you!
What is the Kualoa Ranch?
The Ranch is a Privately owned Working Cattle ranch. Seated in a stunningly beautiful part of Oahu the Ranch now serves mostly as a tourist attraction. The 4000 Acres if the property runs from the Glistening coast up to the steep mountain cliffs with Stunning Valleys and Dense jungle in Between.
The area was traditionally very important to the Native Hawaiians and many parts are considered sacred so development is extremely limited and most of the ranch is pristine and untouched. It is a National Historic site for its Hawaiian cultural importance.
The Judd Family, custodians since 1850, have preserved the Area fantastically and the entire place has an air of the Jurrasic about it. One of the ways the Family Finance the upkeep is through Hollywood. Known as Hawaii’s Hollywood Backlot a visit to the Ranch can feel a bit like visiting a Hollywood Studio…only greener.
Many Famous films have been shot here. It is the Go to jungle location or anytime a prehistoric backdrop is required. Jumanji, Kong Skull Island, Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, Tears of the Sun, and 50 First Dates. Are some of the notable films shot right here along with TV shows such as Hawaii Five-O, Magnum P.I. and LOST.
hmmm, I feel like we are forgetting something…
That’s right the original Jurrasic Park had large parts shot here including the famous “flocking this way” scene
The Tree used to shelter the protagonists from the T-Rex is still there and ready for you to have your photo taken! If you are as big Jurrasic Park fans as us you will find this very exciting.
The latest films in the series, Jurrasic World and Jurrasic World Fallen Kingdon are also largely shot here with the main theme park being in the Ka’a’awa Valley and highly recognisable. You can visit all these locations and sets from the films on the Hollywood Movie Site Tour, see below.
IN A NUTSHELL
There are a multitude of tours available at the ranch and choosing one can be difficult. There really is a whole lot going on at the ranch and you could easily spend 2 or 3 days here experiencing whats on offer. It is not just tours on offer though there are lots of activities and adventures too. Below we take a look at the line up:
Hollywood Movie Site Tour (Jurassic Park!)
Probably the most popular tours available is the Hollywood Movie Site Tour. This 90 Min Tour sees you boarding a historic bus and heading out into the Park…sorry I mean ranch, to see the Dinosaurs…Wait… no Dinosaurs. Sorry, it’s hard not to just think of this as Jurrasic Park!
The Bus takes you round all the different locations used in Movies and TV shows. Highlights include Godzilla’s footprint, Locations from LOST, the Indominus Rex Paddock, Globe loading dock and other sets and props from the movies.
There is also a ton of history, during the WW2 the ranch was “commandeered” by the military and there is evidence of this all over the ranch. Not least the WW2 bunker built into the mountain that is now the Museum filled with props and artefacts from the movies.
The tour also takes you down the near-deserted coastline which is also used as a Pirates of the Carribean 4 film set. It is a fantastic tour that really brings to life the history, Beuty and movie sets of the Ranch.
Jurassic Jungle Expedition
An expedition is probably a bit of a Grandiose term to apply to this 90min tour. It may take the Guise of an expedition as you load up in the Safari style truck but really it’s just a pleasant drive around the jungle. The Jurrasic jungle takes you out to the more remote areas of the Ranch where the Jungle has been preserved and very few people venture… apart from the daily tours that come through.
The Hakipu`u Valley is the main destination for this tour and like the Ka’a’awa Valley, this area is well used as a filming location. This time it’s more for the deep jungle backdrop that you will be exploring. You will visit plenty of movie set that the Movie Sites tour doesn’t but this is not the focus of the tour.
The ride is pretty bumpy at times but nothing most healthy people can’t deal with. You ford a few rivers and some of the track tackled by the trucks are a little hairy but it’s pretty mild and mainly on fairly well-graded roads.
One of the main attractions of this tour is the scenic beauty the tour exposes you too. As the trucks head up into the hills the vantage point reveals breathtaking vistas of the lush green jungle cascading down into the Axure blue Ocean. It really is a stunning journey.
Ocean Voyage Adventure
The Ocean voyage tour offers you the chance to hit the waves and head out on a catamaran to see the beauty of the Ranch from the Ocean. The Tour starts out with you crossing the Fishpond to Secret beach where you board the Catamaran for around 35-45 mins out on the ocean.
The cat is not the most luxurious and the tour not the most comprehensive sailing experience available on Oahu but seeing the Mountains from the ocean is a breathtaking experience. The tour us usually quite quiet and you are not crammed in like sardines as some cruises are.
We love getting out on the ocean and this tour provides a fairly unique ocean experience other cruises may get down this way to see the incredible coastline of the Kualoa area. But none spend the entire time sailing in these remote waters.
Secret Island Beach Activities Tour
No beaches on Oahu are private. So getting alone time on a beach can feel impossible. Any amount of time spent on Waikiki beach will leave you longing for solitude. One way to get an almost private beach is the Secret Island Beach Activities Tour.
First of all, it is not private. No beach is. It is however quite hard to get to and normally very deserted. Secondly, it’s not an island either! It is surrounded by water on most sides and backs onto an ancient fish pond that must be crossed to access the beach from the ranch. But the beach stretches right up along the coast and can be accessed via the shoreline. Not many do though. And the amenities there are for exclusive use of the Tour Patrons.
So realistically the only people on the beach are the people on the tour. The ranch keeps these number quite low so you do get the feel of a private beach. It’s about as close as you will find in Oahu.
On top of access to the “private” beach, there is a host of activities provided. Kayaking, Traditional canoes, stand-up paddle boarding, volleyball, table tennis and Snorkelling. It’s a great way yo try your hand at a few things you have fancied trying but not quite had the courage to have a go at.
It’s also great for families and there is tons of room for parents to relax while the Kids run riot doing the activities!
It is worth mentioning that the snorkelling is not up to much in the area. There is no coral and very little to see. You may be lucky and see turtles but it’s far from guaranteed. A sense of realistic expectations is also required. The facilities here are a little basic and people are often expecting a lot more than you can realistically review for $48 You really are going for the Seclusion. Something that can be hard to come across on Oahu
Taste of Kualoa Farm Tour
A very different tour and one that is much more sedate than the others. Here adventure is replaced by education and tranquillity. The tour takes a look at life on the ranch both the past and present. It takes you round the 1000 year olf fish pond and explains how the pond and others like it were used to farm fish sustainably for centuries. You will also head out onto the pond in a traditional canoe with the stunning backdrop of the mountains behind.
You will also learn about farming techniques used by the ancient Hawaiians and today’s sustainable techniques used by the current ranch. There is often fresh fruit to try (seasonal) that has all be grown locally on the farm. The tour is around 90 Minutes and is definitely a much different pace to the others. Recommended to those who just want to take in the beauty and learn more about the way of life on the Ranch.
The ATV Tours are an incredibly popular attraction at the ranch. Along with the movie sites tour, this is the Top Seller. Available as either a one or two-hour tour the ATV’s cover ground really well and have a less stopping time as the other tours so you get to see a whole lot of the Ranch in quite a short time. With the two hour tour expect to see almost the entire ranch!
Of course, the small ATV’s can tackle much smaller and rougher terrain than the trucks or buses used for the tours and the majority of the tour is off-road. Don’t expect and really challenging or exciting terrain, the tours are designed for complete novices so the routes are easy but expect some river crossings and steep ascents and descents. It is a lot of fun. If you are experienced with ATV’s it might be a little tame though. But the tours aren’t just about the vehicles but the staggering setting of the Ranch and exploring the prehistoric wilderness on ATV’s always feels pretty special!
Prices are for Each person and you much be able to handle your own ATV’s there is no sharing. Wheather this is a good or bad thing is very much down to your willingness/ability to drive an ATV. As said the tour is for Absolute beginners so with a little confidence you will be fine but it’s not for everyone!
One of the Big Drawbacks of the ATV’s is each person is expected to be able to ride their own vehicle. Some people are just not comfortable doing this. ATV’s are very different from most forms of transport. They are not overly hard to get to grips with but it does require a degree of confidence. Also, Kids are not allowed to drive their own ATV. This means Families are often excluded from this exhilarating and fun activity!
The Ranch’s solution to this is the six-person ATV’s more like a car/buggy than the Quad they are much easier to drive and besides only require one driver (all though you are able to swap if more than one person wants a go!) So a whole family can jump in and go and enjoy the same tour as the ATV riders.
This opens the tour up to a whole new group of people and is a really neat addition. Prices are the same per person as the ATV tours, which is a little mean as you are only taking one vehicle!
Cards on the table here. We are not Horsey people. Sorry. Horses run in both our families but riding them is just not in our interests. However, we do appreciate many people feel very different. As the Ranch is an actual working cattle ranch there is an abundance of working horses, around 120. These are used by the Cowboys and Girls of the ranch to herd and steer the cattle. But they are also used to take tourists out for a wonderful trek around the fantastic landscape.
If riding a horse through a pristine prehistoric wilderness is your idea of heaven then the ranch door is your pearly gates. Despite not being that way inclined we really can’t think of many places better to saddle up and peacefully trot around. Naturally, the horses are the slowest of the options so you get to see less than you would on the motorised tours. However, you still get a good taste especially on the 2 hour, which is really good value.
TBH this tour pretty much sells itself. You are either really taken with the idea of trecking around on horseback or not.
Jurrasic Valley ZipLine Tours
Zip lining has become big business. Outlets have opened up all over the US and thrill junkies are spoilt for choice. The Jurassic Valley is a natural choice for a venue. Wild, green with tons of elevation it was an obvious choice to open a Ziplining course here. And what a course.
It is one of the best on the Island. (although we do rate Climb Works slightly higher) There are 7 tandem lines that are automatically braked whisking you over some incredible scenery. Linked together by nature trails and two rickety (but Safe) Suspension Bridges. It’s a thrilling tour taking about 2.5-3 hours.
The Price is a little painful but it’s pretty par for the course for a Zip Lining tour. Really although we prefer the 8 line offering of Climb works there is not a great deal in it both are very good Zip line tours. If you are visiting Kualoa for any other reason and want to do Zip lining there is little point heading all the way to the Northshore for it. Kualoa ranch is just about as good!
Getting to the Kualoa Ranch
Driving is by far the easiest method of getting to the ranch. It is conveniently located on the Kamehameha Highway (84) on the coast and is approximately 40-50 mins from Waikiki. The Ranch offers free parking and likes you to arrive an hour before your tour.
There are ways to get to the Ranch via Public transport but we don’t really recommend it. especially when the Ranch offers roundtrip transportation for $15 per person (From Waikiki) or $10 if you buy a package. This tends to be the best method should you not be able to drive. You can always blame them should you be late for a tour!
Packages and Money Saving
The Kualoa Ranch offers a number of Package deals that can seriously save you money while giving you a fantastic experience. We high rate these packages to give you an utterly fantastic day and the Ranch. The savings don’t appear amazing but remember you get a Buffet lunch (usually $17.95) included as well which bumps the value up significantly.
“Best of Kualoa” Experience Package
- Hollywood Movie Site Tour (Jurassic Park!) ($48.12)
- Jurassic Jungle Expedition ($48.12)
- Taste of Kualoa Farm Tour ($48.12)
- Free Buffet Lunch ($17.95)
This is one of our favourite packages and really packs in everything the Ranch has to offer. The Movie Sites and the Jungle Expedition cover the vast swathe of land that makes up the ranch. While the Taste of Kualoa Farm explores what the farm is all about and how the land used to be tended. You will leave with an incredible appreciation of what the ranch is about.
Horse Back Adventure Package
- One Hour Horseback Tour ($88.95)
- Hollywood Movie Site Tour (Jurassic Park!) ($48.12)
- Taste of Kualoa Farm Tour ($48.12)
- Free Buffet Lunch($17.95)
Like the Tour above the Horseback, the package does cover a large part of the Ranch. This one is perfect for those who want to enjoy horse trekking but also want to know more about the ranch as well. The Pacdoesn’tosn’t come cheap but it’s still a sizable saving once you consider lunch is thrown in as well.
ATV Adventure Package
- One Hour ATV Adventure Tour ($88.95)
- Jurassic Jungle Expedition ($48.12)
- Ocean Voyage Adventure ($48.12)
- Free Buffet Lunch ($17.95)
While the ATV Package misses out the ever popular movie sites tout this is not a huge issue! The 1 hour Atv Tour takes place primarily in the same valley (Ka’a’awa Valley) the Movie sites tour takes place in. So you still see MOST of the Ranch and most of the Movie sites. The Action is kept up by replacing the Taste of Kualoa Farm with the Ocean adventure*. This is a package for those who get bored easy as it’s action all day!
It’s worth mentioning the Ocean tours do not operate on Sunday’s and Federal Holiday’s so the Farm tour will be offered if you book on those days.
It is imperative to book your tours well beforehand. The Ranch tries really hard to keep numbers low for a more personal tour as such there is always limited availability and all the tours are VERY popular. Expect the top tours to sell out up to 3 WEEKS out. We would be booking well over a month before to guarantee optimal availability to book the tours we want. This is not a BUY NOW tactic. There is a very real possibility of the tour you want not being available.
Go Oahu Card
The Five main tours all offered as part of the Go Oahu Attraction Pass. This all-inclusive pass offers an unlimited attraction for a set number of days for a fixed price that is often much lower than paying separately. We think this is a great option for people planning on visiting Oahu.
A Go Card can add real value and structure to a trip and really help with financial planning along with just pure saving money We recommend looking into one. We have a full review of the Go Oahu Card here. Even if you decide against just reading the article can really help give you ideas for your trip.
Included with the Go Oahu Card:
- Hollywood Movie Site Tour (Jurassic Park!)
- Jurassic Jungle Expedition
- Taste of Kualoa Farm Tour
- Secret Island Beach activities
- Ocean Adventure Catamaran Tour
Finally, Let us know if you have visited the Ranch? what did you think of it? Which tours did you take? Let us know how you feel good or bad? Also, let us know if you have any questions there is a lot to take in with the ranch offering SO much choice and diversity in their tours. Just drop us a comment and we will get straight back to you.