The second part of Sunday ended up being the day I thought we were gonna have with the Roots on Tuesday, but that’s OK because it allowed us to all do our own thing on Tuesday! Originally I was a little bit anxious about planning a group trip with the Roots because I really really did not want them to get sick of us, and I wasn’t sure that our commando style of touring was up their alley. So what I ended up doing was putting everything Patrick and I planned to do in TripIt, which I use to keep track of all our travel info, and shared the trip with the Roots. That way, they could see what our schedule was for each day and then decide on the fly whether or not they wanted to join us for one or more activities.
They liked the sound of the Kualoa Ranch movie sites tour we were doing Sunday afternoon, so after Patrick and I finished the site tour with our vow renewal coordinator, we met up with Nate & Jensey, or “Nathensey,” as I continually try to get somebody besides me to call them…
The first order of business was to grab some lunch on the way, so we stopped at a nearby outpost of the Zippy’s, a Hawaiian chain that’s a combination of fast food and sit-down family restaurant. We decided to sit down, but here’s the fast-food menu, which runs almost the length of the building and features seemingly infinite combinations of meat, starch and Spam (Spam being its own food group).
For those of you who can’t read the tiny print, here’s a transcription of the menu:
- Egg and Bacon
- Egg, sausage and Bacon
- Egg and Spam
- Spam Egg Sausage and Spam
- Egg, Bacon and Spam
- Egg, Bacon, sausage and Spam
- Spam, Bacon, sausage and Spam
- Spam, Egg, Spam, Spam, Bacon and Spam
- Spam, Spam, Spam, Egg and Spam
- Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam
- Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and a fried egg on top and Spam
We were so hungry we forgot to take any pictures of the restaurant (which is to say, I was so hungry, I forgot to nag Patrick and/or Nate to take pictures of the restaurant)! It looks sort of like a Burger King with an IHOP attached (wait, I think… I haven’t been in a Burger King or an IHOP in years. They could have crystal chandeliers in ‘em now for all I know!). Here’s a photo I found online, which looks more like a Wolfgang Puck than the Zippy’s we went to…
The menu was surprisingly thin for basically being a folded-up version of the display board on the fast-food side. They even had room for photos….
The menu was so overwhelming, I still haven’t decided what I want. But here’s what I got:
Here’s what everyone else got:
Pretty much everything but the saimin also came with “choice of white or brown rice, real mashed potatoes, or french fries and choice of macaroni salad or potato salad, tossed greens or corn.” So if Aulani’s food prices have got you looking for a place to fill up on a lot of salty-rific food for cheap, Zippy’s is the place for you!
Kualoa Ranch is on the opposite side of Oahu from Aulani, so we took the H-3, an elevated highway that goes straight through the Ko’olau mountains and which Oahu Revealed calls “the next best thing to taking a helicopter ride along the mountains.” It was indeed breathtaking, and I can only hope that someday I get to see the photos Nate shot as we drove (the trouble with being a professional photographer is that your vacation photos fall to the bottom of a VERY long list of other people’s photos to edit!).
In the meantime, here’s a shot of the H-3 that I found on a nifty blog called Exploration Hawaii.
The H-3 deposits you near Kailua, and then you take Highway 83 (Kamehameha Highway) north along the coast toward Kualoa. This highway is also not too shabby in the looks department.
Kualoa Ranch is an enterprising, uh, enterprise offering tours (by horseback, ATV or beat-up old school bus), hikes, boat trips, hula lessons, dinner and a show, and just about any other activity they can dream up to take advantage of the gorgeous scenery on this 4,000-acre cattle ranch. Its glossy website belies the funky charm of what is essentially a sprawling roadside attraction, complete with gift shop and lunch counter.
Although the ATV tour seems to be the most popular offering, at least among boozy-luau-seeking Yelpers, I wasn’t interested in spending the rest of the day a muddy mess, so I booked us for the standard Movie Sites & Ranch Tour. The website touts Kualoa Ranch as a filming location for such productions as Jurassic Park, Lost, 50 First Dates, Hawaii 5-0, Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, Windtalkers, oh, and did we mention Jurassic Park?
After you buy your ticket, you take it to your guide in this little booth and he tells you to climb aboard the derelict, windowless school bus behind him that you had assumed was sitting on cinder blocks.
It was a small group, so we all got our own seats, although I think Jensey and I would both have felt safer with our husbands’ arms around us! Instead, Nate and his Mini-Me scooted from one side of the bus to the other looking for the best shots around every bend.
The amiable fellow driving the bus introduced us with his backstory, one we’d eventually hear from every other transplant we talked to, all of whom gave up their workaday lives on the mainland to move to paradise. However, it was difficult to hear him sometimes over the roar of the engine and the rattling of the passengers’ teeth.
One of the first sights we saw was the ruins of a Civil War-era sugar mill. Oahu Revealed had me so prepared that I was able to elaborate on the guide’s cursory description for Patrick & Nathensey, describing how the co-owner’s young son was killed after accidentally being bumped into a vat of boiling syrup, and that the mill closed just 5 years later when they realized the area didn’t get enough rain to grow sugar cane. I am sure that Patrick & Nathensey LOOOOOOOVED having a know-it-all chirping in their ears at every stop…
The bus strained and swayed up a steep hill, flying by various remnants of WWII military installations. None of them were mentioned in my precious Oahu Revealed, so I don’t have anything to tell you about them. One thing I did learn by looking it up afterward was that the ranch was appropriated by the military during WWII and used as an airfield and a battery to keep the Japanese from taking the valley if they ever landed on Oahu. They even rigged the mountain to explode in order to block the narrow passage over to the other side of the island!
Our guide told us that the island you see here was part of a mountain chain connected to the one we were on that broke up millions of years ago and created a bay. Also, apparently a lot of sharks are born out there!
Don’t worry, we’ll be back to stop at this bunker in a bit…
…In the meantime, why don’t you bring up Netflix and stream Pearl Harbor so you’ll be impressed with it when I get to that part of the tour?
At last we came to the most famous spot on the tour, the site of the gallimimus stampede in Jurassic Park. It is really pretty and the only truly movie-famous thing we’d seen yet, so I’m including like a MILLION photos for you.
There was also a big tiki from some other movie there.
Long before CG dinosaurs roamed this valley, ancient Hawaiian kings were buried in the sides of these cliffs. Faithful servants (who were supposedly honored to be chosen for this duty) would be lowered by rope from the top of the cliff to bury the king in a cave they’d dug out of the mountainside. Then they’d cut the rope and plunge to their deaths so that no one would ever know the location of the body!
At this point the bus pulled over and we all filed out for a photo op with the ranch’s most famous site… this sign!
It was also a good chance to shoot a few more photos. Patrick got one of this natural formation that looks like a gorilla smooching a baboon.
After Jurassic Park, it’s all kinda downhill in terms of the quality and fame of the projects shot at Kualoa Ranch. Each subsequent site was less famous than the last (Krippendorf’s Tribe, anyone?) til we were scraping the bottom of the barrel with such D movie fare as Aztec Rex.
About the only other movie we’d actually seen was Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (what…? Who doesn’t love The Rock?!), but the tour doesn’t take you over to the remnants of that set—we only caught a glimpse through our camera’s zoom.
Further scraping the bottom of the barrel is this tour stop, a faux termite mound featured in a scene that got CUT from Journey 2!
These replicas of ancient Hawaiian huts are not part a movie set, and I wasn’t clear on why they’re there. Something picturesque to take a picture of, I guess!
Because Kualoa Ranch is really a ranch, there are a lot of cows hanging around “on-set”…
And then you see these longhorn cattle and it hits you that the Kualoa Ranch Movie Tour is like the safari ride at Animal Kingdom if it doubled as a filming location for all of Disney’s B movies!
From there we went back around the cliffside along the ocean toward the Pearl Harbor bunker.
This bunker, known as Battery Cooper, was used by the US military until about 1943 and then used again for something in the movie Pearl Harbor (I haven’t seen the film, but if I know Jerry Bruckheimer, that something was a ginormous EXPLOSION!!!).
We only had about 10 minutes to explore the bunker, but most of what’s in there is just posters from projects shot at Kualoa Ranch. Then it was back out to the cliff to contemplate the ocean again.
This uninhabited island is known as Chinaman’s Hat, and you can swim out to it when the tide is low. Oahu Revealed suggests such an adventure as a great way to become king of your own island.
On the way back we passed by some tikis used in some reality TV show (I wanna say The Biggest Loser, but it coulda been Keeping up with the Kardashians for all I know…).
Somewhere around here (again, it was kinda hard to hear), Michelle Obama once gave a speech. Or maybe it’s the site of a “shell diorama of the beach.”
Better views of Chinaman’s Hat (or “Chinese Person’s Head Covering,” as I prefer to call it)…
At the end of the tour we tumbled out of the bus and staggered on shaky legs over to the ramshackle animal enclosures behind the main buildings. These house the ranch’s llama and its elderly monkey. (No ranch is complete without an elderly monkey!)
Patrick didn’t get any shots of the llama, probably because he was busy regaling Nate and Jensey with his impression of the ranch’s 60-something-year-old monkey, who’d been swinging around like, well, a monkey when we headed over but decided to take his coffee break as soon as we got there.
Farewell to Kualoa Ranch!
OK, I’d better stop here or I’m never gonna get this posted…