By Tony Bartlett
Reed Travel Features
HONOLULU -- If there is any doubt about Kualoa Ranch &
Activity Club's reputation as Hollywood's Oahu back lot, 1997's
record should settle it. Many of the movies shot in Hawaii this
year used the 4,000-acre working ranch and activities attraction on
the Windward Coast as a location.
Most outdoor filming for Disney's "George of the Jungle" was
done at the ranch. When the 1960s cartoon hero (played by Brendan
Fraser) rides the elephant, it was at Kualoa. Last spring, a ranch
site became a Papua New Guinea village for Touchstone Pictures'
"Krippendorf's Tribe," a comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss as an
anthropologist. In July, Disney's "Mighty Joe Young" finished
filming at Kualoa (where an African shanty town was the main set).
On its heels came the stars of television's "Beverly Hills 90210"
to do a segment. Later in the summer, TriStar Pictures' filmed
scenes for "Godzilla" (the Japanese sci-fi creature) at the ranch,
the site of a Panamanian village set.
For the ranch, 1997 will probably be the best year ever for its
movie-location sideline. The Hawaii Film Office forecasts that
filming, including commercials, will bring $65 million to $70
million to the state this year. This will make 1997 second only to
1994 as the best of the past dozen years (1994 was boosted by more
than six months of "Water World" filming on the Big Island).
Kualoa, with two deep valleys into the Koolau Mountains, has the
open space, varied scenery and rugged mountainous backdrop for
movies. One of its many activities is a ranch trolley adventure
tour. Visitors will see the fallen tree behind which Sam Neill's
character and his young friends hid from a herd of galloping
galliminus in "Jurassic Park." The last days of filming in
September 1992 were at the ranch after Kauai, where the outdoor
scenes were shot, was hit by Hurricane Iniki.
Weather-beaten buildings remain at Kualoa from television movie
shoots. They include the home used for exterior shots in the 1994
television series "Byrds of Paradise," which was dropped by ABC
after a short run. Also, there are the ranch-building props from a
long-forgotten Tom Selleck television pilot.
Kualoa Ranch, a 45- to 50-minute drive from Waikiki, is off the
main Kamehameha Highway, which fronts ranch land for six miles. It
is known as a site for rock concerts, international mountain bike
events, weddings and theme parties. It diversified into tourism in
1985, concentrating mainly on the Japanese group market until two
years ago. Then, with additional facilities and activities, Kualoa
expanded into the North American FIT market.
Activities include horseback trail rides, mountain biking, a gun
range, helicopter tours, jet skiing, scuba, snorkeling and the
adventure tour. Packages providing various activity choices,
include round-trip transportation from Waikiki (picking up at 7:30
a.m. and returning at 3 p.m.) and a buffet lunch.
For example, the Deluxe Activity Tour features a pass for up to
five activities for $149.
Part of the ranch's land is composed of a peninsula in Kaneohe
Bay, reached by shuttle boat from the ranch across a lagoon, which
the ranch calls its Secret Island. Packages designed for beach
activities on the island are:
* The Secret Island and Activity Tour, which features two
activities and a half day at the Secret Island, for $79.
* The Secret Island and Snorkel Tour, with a full day at the
island and a snorkel tour, for $69.
Discounted children's prices are available. The ranch also has
such free activities as a petting zoo, Hawaiian cultural exhibits,
botanical gardens and tennis. To book, call (800) 231-7321; fax