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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Getting to Know Hawaii: Kualoa Ranch ATV Tour

The Need to Knows:
  • Kualoa Ranch is located at 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744.  Here's the exact location via Google Maps:
  • There are two kinds of ATV tours available: the 1 hour ATV tour ($69 per person) and the 2 hour ATV tour ($99 per person and the one we ended up choosing).  If you're military, there are discounted rates at the ITT offices on island (I think around $84 per person), and Kualoa Ranch offers Kama'aina discounts as well.
  • The times for the ATV tour are 9:30 AM, 11:45 AM, and 3:30 PM nearly every day (I'm not 100% sure on which days the ranch is closed).
  • Other tours available include horseback riding tours, movie location tours, a fishpond tour, a trip to a "secret" beach, and many more.  There are some restrictions, so be sure to fully read up on the tour you're interested in before signing up.
  • They recommend closed toe shoes (a necessity), sunglasses (another necessity, but they'll provide goggles if you don't have any kind of eyewear -- I was allowed to wear my glasses just fine), and long pants.  The long pants were the only thing I didn't find to be a total necessity, but they did help us keep the dust off our legs!
  • For more information on this tour, other tours, and the ranch itself, check out their website here.

One of the many activities my parents and I chose to do while they were visiting was to take an ATV ride over at Kualoa Ranch in Kaneohe.  We'd honestly been talking about doing this particular tour for over a year, so we were all very excited to finally go check it out!

Kualoa Ranch is actually a very famous spot for Hollywood, and you'd probably recognize its beauty even if you don't recognize its name!  The ranch has been used in tons of movies and TV shows, like Jurassic Park, LOST, 50 First Dates, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and many, many others.

My parents and I arrived at the ranch (unfortunately Mr. L wasn't able to make it) for the 3:30 PM tour and then proceeded to head up to the designated meeting spot for the ATV tour.

After we watched an instructional safety video about ATVs, we donned our helmets and eyewear and hopped on our ATVs!

The first stop on the ATV tour was at Battery Cooper, an old WWII bunker that now houses some memorabilia and props from the many productions done here on the ranch.

The views from here were very pretty!
Entrance to the bunker
Our guide led us through the bunker and we got to see a few pieces of memorabilia from movies and TV shows.  The walls were lined throughout with posters and pictures, like these below:

Floor plan of the bunker
I was definitely excited to see this TV show prop -- the submarine from LOST!  Interestingly enough, this is actually all that was ever built of the submarine itself and they just floated it next to the pier for shooting scenes.

Huge cast picture in the submarine room
We then meandered into another room that had some leftover props from the movie Journey 2...

...and then into yet another room with a huge scale model of Kualoa Ranch.

At this point we weren't on the model yet, but pretty close to the lower left hand road.
There was also a room set up to showcase the bunker's use during WWII.  From what our guide told us, it was a pretty boring assignment since the soldiers would just stay in the bunker all the time!

After walking through and checking out the interior of the bunker, we hopped back on our ATVs and made our way to our next stop -- inside the truly stunning Hakipu'u Valley.

Lots of movies and shows have been filmed in this area, and I was pretty excited to see that it was the location of Hurley's golf course as well!

And if you look closely, you can see that those dirt pits are actually giant Godzilla footprints!  They used to be a lot deeper, but the ranch apparently had to fill them in because of a liability issue.

After we were done checking out the giant footprints and the beautiful scenery, we put our gear back on and headed off to the next part of the tour, which was part of the set from the movie Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.

Our guide explained that there was actually a whole city that was CGI'd behind this arch in the movie itself, and of course we had to run up and take a picture with it.

My dad attempted to flex his muscles and pick up this "super heavy" rock prop:

And the scenery here was just as gorgeous as it was everywhere else!

After some more riding, we made another stop on the eastern side of the Hakipu'u Valley and were treated to an incredible view of the valley all around us.

Click for a larger version!
It was so beautiful, and probably my favorite stop out of the ones we made.  We were able to have a few minutes to really soak in the view and it was awesome.

After this stop, our guide let us know that we could pick the next thing to do -- either head to the Jurassic Park sign area or check out a "secret" spot that they'd just recently reopened.  Our group opted to see the secret spot, so we left the overlook and headed over to check it out.

This time we had a nice view of the ocean and even Marine Corps Base Kaneohe out in the distance.

We also got to see this really neat rock formation that looked like two gorillas kissing!

After seeing the "secret spot" and the Kissing Gorillas, we started to make our way back to the ATV area since the tour was getting close to over.  We actually spent about 15 minutes right before we got back doing a LOT of loops and twists and turns -- my dad's theory was that the guide was trying to see what all he could do since my dad actually owns an ATV back home and had been talking with the guide throughout the tour about it.  Regardless, my dad definitely kept up with the guide, but my mom and I were a lot slower, haha.  We finally did make it back to the ranch (our wrists were hurting from all the turns!), and we thanked and tipped our guide and headed to wash up in the restrooms since we were super dusty.

We all had a really great time on this tour, and it's something that I'll definitely be doing again, but this time with my brother when he comes out to visit us next year.  Hopefully Mr. L will be able to go too then.  I know he'd love it!

Do you have any experience with ATVs?  Would a tour like this be right up your alley?

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