Kualoa Ranch is not actually a movie studio, but considering how much filming happens here, it’s close enough. In fact, I’ve often been surprised that they haven’t build soundstages yet to become a complete filming facility. For now, they offer some of the most stunning scenery possible, drawing filmmakers many projects to the area.
The Ranch is located on the Windward side of the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. It is about a 45-60 minute drive from Honolulu. The Ranch can provide bus transportation from Waikiki Hotels for anyone taking a tour. However my personal recommendation is to rent a car and drive. The entire island is beautiful, and there is so much to see, especially on the Windward Coast and North Shore, that a car will give you the freedom to explore.
If you wish to visit the ranch, you’ll need to book one of their guided tours. There are a variety of tours to choose from, including ATV and Horseback riding, zipline adventures, and a farm tour. However if you are looking to visit filming locations, the best tour is the Premier Movie Tour.
Kualoa Ranch actually offers two movie tours. There is a basic 1 hour movie tour option, but this tour only visits the valley, and generally drives by movie sites without allowing you out to see it. The Premier Tour, on the other hand, is conducted with small groups, takes about 3 hours, and includes stops in the jungle, the fish pond, and the valley. These multiple stops give you time to explore the site and get photos as well. The Premier tour is well worth the price difference. The experience is so much better, and will allow you the chance to see these filming locations up close and get much better photos.
The Ranch features three unique areas for filming. They are the Valley, the Jungle, and the Fish Pond. All three areas are very unique in appearance, and allow productions to create almost any type of locale.
The most well known and recognizable area is the valley. This beautiful valley is surrounded by mountains on 3 sides, and flows into the Pacific Ocean on the fourth side.
The first film that really brought the valley into prominence was Jurassic Park. This is where the scene featuring Dr. Alan Grant, Lex, and Timmy running from the flock of Gallimimus takes place. They hide behind a large log as the dinosaurs jump over them. This scene wasn’t even planned for the ranch. Most of the movie was to be filmed on the island of Kauai, but Hurricane Iniki hit during production, causing widespread damage across the island. Filmmakers were forced to look for alternate locations to film, and settled on Kualoa Ranch for this scene. Despite being a fluke, this scene brought Kualoa Ranch into the spotlight, and it quickly became a hotspot for filming.
Also found in the valley is the loading area for the Gyrosphere ride in Jurassic World. It was kept after filming and the platform now gives one of the best views of the valley.
Since Jurassic Park was filmed in the early 90s, some other notable films to use the valley include 50 First Dates, Kong: Skull Island, Pearl Harbor, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Windtalkers, and even the sequels Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The ranch has also hosted filming for TV shows like Hawaii Five-O, Lost, and the Amazing Race, as well as Nicki Minaj music video for the song Starships.
The second area of the ranch is known as the Jungle. This wooded area can be set up for a variety of scenes. There is a stream running through the area that has been featuring in a number of productions, including Hawaii Five-O.
In the movie Kong: Skull Island, the jungle was used to film the helicopter crash scene. The helicopter is still there, as are a number of other pieces of wreckage, all props of course.
One big highlight in the Jungle area is the Indominus Rex pen from Jurassic World. The Ranch sometimes negotiates with a film to leave some props behind so they can be visited on the various tours offered, and in this case, the actual movie pen is still as it stood in the film. Through movie-magic, the pen actually only has two sides. Through the use of various angles, and added vegetation, they were able to get away with building just two walls but making it look like a complete structure.
Along the wall are a number of scratches made by the Rex claws in Jurassic World. If you look closely, you can see that these scratches are actually carved in using Styrofoam and covered in paint.
The structure still has the observation room, which you get to visit as part of the Premier Movie Sites Tour. This room was used for filming, and gives a cool view of the Indominus Rex pen.
Another area in the Jungle is actually a large clearing looking out over the fish pond and the ocean. This is where the helicopter pad was created for Jurassic World. The view of the park that you see in the movie was added digitally in post production.
The helipad itself has been torn down, just leaving a large clearing with an amazing view. The only item left is a small piece of wood that was part of the frame of the structure.
The Fish Pond
The third area of the ranch is the fish pond area. This area features the Moli’i Fishpond, a traditional Hawaiian pond over 600 years old, which is now part of the Kualoa Ranch property.
This pond has been famously featured in Lost, where scenes of the submarine at the dock were filmed. This submarine was just a fake, made from fibreglass. In scenes of the sub sailing away from the dock, it was simply being tugged by underwater cables.
When filmmakers of 50 First Dates were looking for a location to construct the facade of the Hukilau Cafe, they picked a spot on the shore of the fishpond, with the mountains looming in the background.
Around the fishpond are a number of rustic buildings built as a small backlot. These buildings can be used in a variety of productions, and are arranged to appear as a small village if need be.
Other than these 3 areas, most tours also visit the old WWII bunker, which is now a small museum with displays from several films and shows. This bunker is built into the side of a mountain.
In this area, you can see a leftover set from Hawaii Five-0. This was from filming done in the bunker, and the set remains intact.
Another room holds some props and the fibreglass submarine from Lost. This is the same submarine that was used in the above fish pond.
There is also a scale model of the Kualoa mountains and valley, posters from various productions, an animatronic dinosaur display, and a jeep used in Jurassic World.