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Experience Kualoa Ranch on this Scenic UTV Tour

May 24, 2023

As clouds of dust get kicked up from the all terrain tires of the UTV Raptor in front of me, I’m glad I brought my bandana to cover my mouth on this Kualoa Ranch UTV Tour.

Zipping along a dusty dirt road in Kualoa Ranch’s expansive property, we’ve only just begun this two hour journey through the ranch, which is located on Oʻahu’s east side and is where numerous Hollywood films, like Jurassic Park, Jurassic World and 50 First Dates, shot scenes. Our trusty steed, a UTV Raptor—imagine a souped up golf cart that can carry six individuals, hit speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, and has the shocks and chassis to easily handles all of the bumps and lumps in the road—carries us in to Kualoa Ranch’s massive property—roughly 4,000 acres in size—with ease.

The UTV Raptors.Photo: Thomas Obungen

After making our way through a few easy slopes and turns, we reach out first stop—a flat acreage with dozens of grazing cows, many of which are descendants of the first cattle brought to the ranch in the 1800s. Here, our tour guide explains to us the unique history of Kualoa Ranch and the surrounding ridges, which were once used as ancient burial grounds for aliʻi (high ranking Hawaiian royalty). He also shares with us moʻolelo (Hawaiian stories and legends) about the surrounding area.

After taking pictures with the cattle and the view, we get back into our UTVs and race off to our next grand adventure. The trail here starts getting a bit bumpier, which is way more fun. Guides in ATVs make sure nobody is going too fast—or doing donuts in the dirt—and while I’d love to be driving, the view from the passenger seat is truly stunning. Coming around bends and through light foliage, it seems like there’s a new, better vision of Kualoa Ranch around every corner, and I take copious amounts of video and pictures as we speed along to our next stop.

The cattle at the first stop.Photo: Thomas Obungen

Before we know it, I’m looking at a familiar scene. It’s the metal cage—or really, a “metal” cage made of well painted plywood—that a pack of velociraptors in Jurassic World were once contained in. And it’s one of the many movie props still on location at Kualoa Ranch. Now at our second stop, tour goers are treated to a panoramic vision of Kualoa Ranch but now looking makai (towards the ocean) as we’ve gone fairly deep into the valley of the ranch. More history lessons and moʻolelo are shared with us, and our tour guides do a great job interacting with everyone on the tour, making sure we’re having a great time while we’re under their care.

Back on the trail, it feels like we’re truly at the climax of our UTV driving experience. Making snaking turns, our driver holds down on the breaks as we descend a dirt hill before hitting the gas again to get us back up to speed. A series of stream crossings replaces clouds of dirt with splashes of water, and even though I’m riding shotgun, I feel the excitement of the drive building with each bump in the road. Looking over my shoulder, I see a downed helicopter prop from the 2005 King Kong movie, and I can’t help but to think that you really can’t get an experience like this anywhere but at Kualoa Ranch.

A movie prop from King Kong.Photo: Thomas Obungen

Our final stop on the tour is a without a doubt the best. We’ve parked our UTVs at a vantage point that perfectly looks out over Kāneʻohe Bay, with Mokoliʻi Island is plain view. As we take our round of pictures and get ready for the ride back to the ranch’s visitor center, I take a breath of the fresh air here and look out at the view one last time. Then I equip my goggles, helmet and bandana. It’s a dirty, dusty ride back—but that’s just part of the fun.