Hawaii: Hollywood's darling

By Yvonne Tahana

Kualoa's mountain ranges are a scene-stealer, writes Yvonne Tahana.

The dramatic mountain peaks in Oahu, Hawaii have drawn film crews for movies such as 'Jurassic Park'. Photo / Getty Images
The dramatic mountain peaks in Oahu, Hawaii have drawn film crews for movies such as 'Jurassic Park'. Photo / Getty Images

Welcome to Africa," says our guide at Kualoa Ranch. He's a joker who reckons, don't worry about his name - just call him the No1 Stunner.

Kualoa is a 1620ha property on Oahu's northeast coast. Hawaii has been a scene-stealer for Hollywood ever since Elvis shot a film here in the early-1960s.

Our guide's name is actually Will, he's 28 and an American-born Tongan. He's got a million one-liners, is good fun and is driving our Pinzgauer, a Swiss army six-wheeler, up the side of valley. The mountain range sticks straight up, like the bony crest of a lizard. When it rains waterfalls cascade off the sides, but on a warm day it's a gorgeous character in its own movie.

Jurassic Park was shot here, as well as George of the Jungle, 50 First Dates, parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Lost and others. Upcoming instalments of The Hunger Games and Transformers will bring moviegoers here, too. "Hollywood loves to come here and film. All you need is a whole lot of money," Will jokes.

In 1850, King Kamehameha III sold 251ha at Kualoa to his adviser and missionary doctor Gerrit P. Judd. Land purchases on either side at Hakipu'u and Ka'a'awa grew the working cattle farm, still owned and run by Judd's descendants.

We've been rumbling up winding tracks and past gurgling streams for the last half hour. We've driven past a clever engineering feature built by Hawaiians 800 years ago - a massive fishing pond on the shoreline made from volcanic rocks. The fish would swim in at high tide and be unable to get out, making for easy pickings.

Then on past taro plants protected by electric fences because of the wildlife: "Pigs will be pigs," Will deadpans.

He said the caves, many of them lava tubes, were used by indigenous royalty to bury their dead, and the poor bugger who placed the remains in a secret location was expected to kill themselves or be killed.

We stop high on a ridge near native koa trees. The view opens out on to the blue-green bay below. Our group has been sitting in the back deck of the windowless six-wheelers, which aren't flashy but are good fun, and not too hard on the backsides even with the bouncing uphill.

We take a five-minute hike uphill to a ridge which looks over the Ka'a'awa Valley. There's still a temple prop below from a film starring The Rock. It's magical, like some god used their hands to scoop out this place, running fingers up the sides to get the mountains just so. A scene with its own built-in special effects.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Hawaiian Airlines flies three times weekly between Auckland and Honolulu and plans to add a fourth flight during the peak travel period of September 19 to October 11.

Further details: Kualoa runs tours by horseback and all-terrain vehicle. They also offer movie tours, ocean voyaging on a 49-passenger catamaran, dinner shows and hula lessons. It is located less than an hour away from Honolulu on Oahu's northeastern shore.

Yvonne Tahana travelled as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines.

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