KĀNEʻOHE, Hawaii—For a first time visitor driving up from Kailua along HI-83, it felt like that John Williams’ “Main Theme” should’ve been playing the entire time as we watched the Hawaiian landscape reveal itself. Then we arrived—and learned we had signed up to tour the actual Jurassic Park.
I have it on good authority that a certain Ars staffer may or may not have appeared in the background of park scenes in 2015’s Jurassic World. In reality, those particular sequences happened at an abandoned theme park outside of New Orleans on a production set. But it turns out the lush nature and endless greenery seen in both the original and the latest Jurassic Park iterations happens to be very genuine and very open to the public for those that can make it to Kualoa Ranch.
Located on the eastern coast of Oahu, Kualoa Ranch spans 4,000 acres of nature preserve. It boasts so many different microclimates and environments that it can rain in one portion of the place while being bone dry in another. It has such stunning scenery that a freaking Motorola phone from 2014 will take photos that look like movie stills at a glance. And because of those two factors—a private remote setting, effortless visual beauty—Kualoa has become a popular destination for big budget productions. Everything from Jurassic World to Battleship to Jumanji (2017) has worked here in recent years (and gems like The Karate Kid or Krippendorf’s Tribe did in the past). Evidently Triple Frontier had just been at Kualoa filming one particular cliffside escape scene, utilizing an artificially created three-foot high cliff for safety.
So if you’re also lucky enough to be traveling with someone who reads, plans, and books tour tickets in advance, Kualoa Ranch opens its doors to visitor tours on horseback, on boat, on bike, on bus, on trolley, on ATV, and on some delightfully decaled Kawasaki Raptor UTVs so you can feel just like Dr. Ian Malcolm cruising around the ranch’s dirt paths. Eighty-five dollars per head will get you a guided hour of scenery gazing, rain dodging, dust kicking, and photo-taking at various film locations like the bunkers from Pearl Harbor or Hurley’s golf course from Lost. We stood in Godzilla’s footsteps (10-foot-deep stylized trenches, now filled in partially to spare Kualoa Ranch’s poor cows) and looked at the graveyard from Kong: Skull Island. No matter how often we came across illustrated Chris Pratt faces in the gift shop afterward, consensus opinion had long been solidified: that was one tourist activity worth skipping the beach for.
Listing image by Nathan Mattise (with a 2014 Moto G)