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The History of Kualoa Ranch

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Hawaii is famous for lots of reasons: Hawaii Five-0, beautiful white sand beaches, President Barack Obama. The list is endless. What the island paradise isn’t typically known for is ranching, although you’ve probably seen one particular ranch on Oahu more times than you realize. Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Kong: Skull Island and Lost all have something in common. Each of those films and TV shows—along with many others—was filmed on the 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch, located on the Windward, or east, side of Oahu.

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King Kamehameha III

The historic ranch is located roughly 24 miles away from the home base for the majority Oahu visitors, Waikiki. Therefore, many vacationers to Oahu never even hear about this Eden of jaw-dropping vistas and gorgeous untouched nature. Kualoa today is a working cattle ranch with more than 500 head, established way back in 1850. The ranch is also a private nature reserve and a living memory of what Oahu looked like over 150 years ago. The name Kualoa means “long back” in Hawaiian, which refers to the ranch’s deep valleys and soaring mountainous peaks.

An American doctor, Dr. Gerrit P. Judd, bought 622 acres of land from King Kamehameha III in 1850 for $1300. Ten years later, he bought an additional 2,200 acres. An additional purchase by his son in 1880 brought the total area to the roughly 4,000 acres it is today. Ownership of the ranch is still in the Morgan family, descendants of Dr. Judd.

Nestled along the coast, Kualoa is located in the country; a native, pastoral part of Hawaii’s most populous island. Thanks to the patronage of many visitors, the ranch has remained free from over-development, making it a model of conservation. The ranch’s terrain is incredibly varied, ranging from dense tropical rainforest to wide open pasture-grounds bordered by vibrant green cliffs that lead to the ocean. With so much space, Kualoa is an ideal place for outdoor recreation. Horseback riding, ATVing, ziplining, and much more are all available in this tropical wonderland.

Oahu Zipline - Kualoa Ranch Molii fish pond
Molii fish pond

Dating back to the 13th century, the earliest Hawaiians considered this area sacred, and it was reserved for royalty learning how to govern their land for hundreds of years. It was the home of kings, including the Kamehameha lineage, descendants of King Kamehameha the Great who united the eight sovereign islands into one kingdom. The ranch is still home to an 800-year-old fish pond and its very own secluded beach.

Hawaii attracts visitors in droves and for good reason. The tropical island chain is a truly special place, and Kualoa Ranch is an extraordinary locale. When you’re on Oahu, be sure to check out some of the amazing tours in Kualoa’s majestic landscapes.