Revved Up At Kualoa Ranch

Aboard an all terrain vehicle at Kualoa Ranch, MidWeek’s resident gearhead takes a ride deep into one of the most beautiful valleys in Hawaii and calls it a great experience

Steve Murray
Wednesday - May 10, 2006
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
E-mail this story | Print this page | Archive | RSS

If this view doesn’t take your breath away, nothing will
If this view doesn’t take your breath away, nothing will

Admit it. You’ve driven past the historic ranch 1,000 times without giving it a second thought. You may have pulled in for one of its many concerts, or maybe your keiki was one of the 16,000 young students who visit each year to get up close and personal with the livestock. But beyond that, like much in Hawaii, it is often seen as just a tourist spot. Some place to visit only when friends and family come from a great distance. And like many of the areas that attract tourists and are often ignored by locals, you’re missing something.

Covering 4,000 acres, Kualoa Ranch is more than just a place for tourists to load up on trinkets, or the place to walk in the footsteps of Godzilla, or even more terrifying, Adam Sandler. It’s one of the few remaining parts of Oahu that hasn’t been destroyed by urban sprawl.

John Morgan, whose family has owned the property since 1850, says with the exception of invasive plants, not much has changed in the last century and a half. And that’s the plan.

“It’s not just myself. All of our family owners feel strongly that we want to preserve this area for ourselves and our community,” says Morgan, president and general manager of the ranch. “We think it’s a good business model. We think the more our society becomes urbanized, the more valuable an outdoor, rural experience is going to become. We don’t have to sacrifice being prudent businesspeople with preservation. The two go together very well.”

ATVs can take you deep into the valley to some of the most beautiful scenery in Hawaii
ATVs can take you deep into the valley to some of the
most beautiful scenery in Hawaii

Kualoa Ranch is more than just a pretty spot. Its historical and cultural legacy is unmatched. For centuries the valley was used as a training area for young alii, and it’s believed to be the final resting place of more than 50 high chiefs. It was also an ahupua’a, and a place of absolution, where Hawaiians could go as a refuge. Riding deep into the valley, taking in the high, sculpted walls and the ocean below, and it’s not hard to picture life in the valley before Western contact, and the spiritual nature of the place.

Enjoying what the ranch - which is actually made up of three different parts, Kualoa, Hakipu’u and Ka’a'awa - has to offer can be accomplished in a variety of ways. You can visit the tropical garden, kayak at Secret Island or check out movie sites from the comfort of a bus or truck. But to really experience the lush Ka’a'awa valley, you only have two choices, one natural, the other mechanical.

Go mechanical. The valley is breathtaking and big, and an all-terrain vehicle provides you with more opportunities to explore this amazing place. That being said, the horse rides are extremely popular and, really, who doesn’t enjoy playing cowboy?

Riders splash through one of the ranch’s streams
Riders splash through one of the ranch’s streams

The ranch offers two ATV tours - a one-hour excursion that runs $46, and the two-hour tour that will cost you $74. Break the bank. Go for the two. You won’t be disappointed. The last thing you will want at the end of the ride is to realize there was much more you could have seen.

The hardest part of the ride may be at the very the beginning. After the safety video and briefing by staff members, it’s on to a short, twisting path over rocks of various sizes that make the vehicles climb, lean and even slide as you get used to controling the 400-pound machines. This is done on purpose. If you’re not safe here, the guides will not let you go on. Don’t worry, this rarely happens.

Once you’ve shown you’re not a danger to yourself and others, it’s on to one of the most breathtaking rides you can find. Through the lower section you will encounter thick brush and low-hanging tree branches, so it may be a good idea to prepare. Though the rules say all you need is closed-toe shoes and a helmet - which they provide - do yourself a favor and add long pants and probably a long-sleeve shirt to the ensemble. Gloves wouldn’t be a bad idea either, since the thumb throttle takes some getting used to. The extra clothing not only will help to protect you from the scraps of trees and brush, but on an over-cast day, the climb up the side of the mountain can be a bit chilly.

The first landmark you pass is a bunker that was installed as a gun placement during World

Page 1 of 2 pages for this story  1 2 >

E-mail this story | Print this page | Comments (0) | Archive | RSS

Most Recent Comment(s):

Posting a comment on requires a free registration.



Auto Login

Forgot Password

Sign Up for MidWeek newsletter Times Supermarket



Hawaii Luxury

Tiare Asia and Alex Bing
were spotted at the Sugar Ray's Bar Lounge