KĀNEʻOHE, Hawaii—For the first time a visitor to Kailua pulled up along HI-83, it felt like John Williams’ “Main Theme” should have been playing the whole time as we watched the Hawaiian landscape appear. Then we arrived – and heard we had signed up for a tour of the real 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 Jurassic World. In reality, those particular sequences took place in an abandoned theme park outside of New Orleans on a production set. But it turns out that the lush nature and endless greenery can be seen in both the original and the latest Jurassic Park iterations are very genuine and very open to the public for those who can get to Kualoa Ranch.
Kualoa Ranch is located on the east coast of Oahu and covers 4,000 acres of nature preserve. It has so many different microclimates and environments that it can rain in one part of the place while being bone dry in another. It has such a stunning scenery that an outrageous 2014 Motorola phone takes pictures that look like movie stills at a glance. And it’s because of those two factors — a remote private environment, effortless visual beauty — Kualoa has become a popular destination for budget productions. Everything of Jurassic World until Battleship until jumanjic (2017) has worked here in recent years (and gems like The karate kid or The tribe of Krippendorf did in the past). apparently Triple limit had just been to Kualoa to film a certain cliff escape scene, which involved using an artificially created three-foot cliff for safety.
So if you’re also lucky enough to travel with someone who reads, plans, and books tour tickets in advance, Kualoa Ranch opens its doors to visitor tours on horseback, boat, bike, bus, trolley, ATV, and some wonderfully decaled Kawasaki Raptor UTVs so you can feel just like Dr. Ian Malcolm as you cruise the ranch’s dirt trails. Eighty-five dollars a head gives you a guided hour of landscape viewing, dodging rain, kicking dust and taking photos at various filming locations such as the bunkers of Pearl Harbor or Hurley’s golf course of Lost. We were in godzillas footprints (10 foot deep stylized trenches, now partially filled in to save the poor cows of Kualoa Ranch) and looked at the graveyard of Kong: Skull Island. No matter how many times we came across illustrated faces of Chris Pratt in the gift shop after that, the consensus had long since solidified: That was a tourist activity worth skipping the beach.
List image by Nathan Mattise (with a 2014 Moto G)