Day 4 - Koalua Ranch
The day still started earlyish. Jenny and I were out of bed and walking to the hotel lobby for some “coffee” before 7:00. We then went on a little walk of the grounds to see what we could see. Unfortunately it wasn't much!!! There are a lot of trails on the property. Good for walking, biking, horse riding, etc. We probably did about 2 miles, but needed to get back to the kids and make sure they weren't killing each other.
On our walk we did come across another of the cairn's that we saw the other evening on our walks. This time it had a placcard explaining what it was for. Apparently these were used to designate property line designations, for lack of a better term, though I'm sure there's a more culturally appropriate way to say that it separated lands where people typically dwelled.
Our main event for the day was the Koalua Ranch, just down the windward highway about 15 miles or so, just south of Kaaawa. We needed to be there by 10:00 to checkin, so we loaded up the vehicle a little after 9:00 and headed south, arriving on site by 9:40 or so.
After we checked in, we of course had to get some snacks. Not a day goes by here where we don't have to spend at least $20 on snacks and drinks just after or before we purchased or otherwise ate a big meal!!! Oh well, our kids are much more pleasant to be around they are fed and watered.
Our 90 minute tour was the “Jungle Experience Tour” starting at 10:30. We loaded up onto our Jeep captained by Jared, our tour guide, and took off through the Hawai'ian wilderness!
The Jungle Experience Tour is sort of a mix between Disney's Jungle Cruise Ride and Disney's African Experience. We were all loaded into the back of Jeeps, which were needed due to the primitive nature of the roads that we traversed. We first stopped at a reconstructed Hawai'ian worship site. The ranch built this in 2011 (I think) because they are very scarce in the natural environment any more. Something about protestant missionaries coming through and converting people and forcing them to give up their “primitive religions.” Fun stuff. Of course, some of the stuff they did was pretty primitive. Apparently you had to be of a particular class to be admitted into the worship area, and if you weren't admitted, the priest was fully within his rights to execute you on the spot. I'm pretty sure I would NOT go to church on Sunday if it meant I might be executed. This site also happened to be used as one of the scenes in Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle. In fact, this ranch has been used for dozens of movies, and even has a “Movie Set Experience” tour you can book!
After our stop at the worship place, we headed into the Haki Pu'u (sp) area, which is separate from the main ranch, but I believe owned by the same people. Haki Pu'u roughly means “broken hills,” which Jared used to great effect for his patter to describe how much we would bounce around in the back of the Jeep. It was marked by one of the cairn's like we had seen that morning, though this time it had a pig's head on top of it.
Along our drive through Haki Pu'u, we saw movie sets for Jurassic World, Kong: Skull Island, and overlooked Kaneohe Bay where 50 First Dates, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Gilligan's Island were all filmed. Yes, this ranch is used extensively for movies and TV. Oh, and did I mention that many scenes from Lost were filmed here as well? Also, if you are a Netflix subscriber, parts of the movie Triple Frontier was filmed here. I shall have to add that to my list.
One interesting feature of Kaneohe Bay was the primitive fish pool that was constructed by the locals. They basically built an earthen wall to trap some of the ocean in a confined area, then built holes big enough for small fish to swim in, but once they stayed for awhile and ate, they were too big to swim back out. So they had their own little fish farm!
The climax of the tour was at the “saddle” of some mountains. We got out, took some pictures, and observed “sleeping grass” for the first time. Sleeping grass is sensitive to touch. When you touch it, it “wilts” and disappears for like 5 minutes, then comes back out. It was a big hit with the kids (ok, with me as well).
Overall, this was a great tour, and I highly recommend Kualoa Ranch to anybody visiting Oahu. There's tons to do, and it felt like they made a very good effort to give a genuine perspective of Hawai'ian history. They also have 4000 acres on the island, which is the equivalent of about $4 billion, and they seem very intent on keeping it as pure as possible. And in the end, this was one of the cheaper things we've done on the island to date. The prices were inflated, sure, but by Hawi'ian standards, it was total bargains!!! And, come on, Jurassic Park!!!
After our tour, we headed back towards “home” to grab some lunch. Our target was the Kahuku Food Truck “haven.” Jenny and I got shrimp from the world famouse Giovanni's Shrimp Truck. She had Scampi, I had Hot and Spicy. They were definitely delicious. I had to wait in line about 10 minutes to order and another 10 minutes to get my food, but it was quite the operation. Kahuku has a big shrimp farm which I'm guessing is why there are so many food trucks around that serve “Hawai'i's best shrimp.”
As an aside, one thing we've been struggling to get used to is the dearth of restaurants in this area. Sure there is stuff we can go to at the resort, but once outside the resort, you have to go a good long way before you find a restaurant where you can sit down and order food. Instead, there are TONS of food trucks, and each seems to have really, really good food. It's just a little different, I suppose.
Of course, no culinary experience would be complete without exploring how the local hot dogs tasted. That's what Mireille and Quin got, anyway. Ethan found a food truck serving Thai food. He said there were a lot of Asians standing in line, so he knew it would be good!
After lunch we went back to our room. The kids relaxed in the room while Jenny and I went for a “walk.” Actually we went and had a couple of poolside drinks at the hotel pool bar.
Once we reluctantly returned to the room, we collected the kids and went swimming at the big pool once more. Once we were tired of that, we went back to the room for beans and weiners, mac and cheese, and whatever else we had in the room.
After dinner, we wound down by just hanging out. I brought my Nintendo Switch and hooked it up to the room television. It took a little while, but eventually I got everybody playing Super Smash Brothers. It was a nice way to wind down an otherwise busy day!