Way back in December (yeah, I’m a little behind…so sue me), we got a chance to visit Kualoa Ranch in Kaneohe. This had been on our Hawai’i Bucket List, but it’s not cheap. And we really wanted to ride the ATVs which meant in addition to being not cheap, it was also not kid-friendly.

So in December, my dad & stepmom came to visit and gifted us cash for our birthdays, Christmas, and anniversary all at once. The cash came with clear instructions that we must spend it on something fun, so we took full advantage of it. Money for the date day and free babysitting? Can a couple get luckier?

The answer is no. No, a couple can not get luckier.

We did a little research on the Kualoa website, but we sort of went to the ranch with no real clear idea of what we planned to do. Thankfully, the nice people there helped us sort it all out, and we decided on a half-day adventure complete with a one-hour ATV ride, a jungle expedition tour, and lunch at the Ranch House. That effectively spent our whole allowance, and we were crazy excited about the adventure!

First up was the ATV ride. And although James had ridden one when he was a kid, I can’t remember ever having the same experience. I’m not so good with things like this. I don’t really have a wild streak about me – I enjoy being in control at all times. But that’s half the fun right? Loosening the reigns on life and taking chances. I’m trying to learn to let go, and trust myself to handle whatever comes my way.

So it was time to ride some ATVs. And we could not have picked a better day, because there only ended up being four of us in our group.
DSC01109 If there was a downside to this adventure, it was that I couldn’t stop 173 times to take pictures like I absolutely wanted to. So I’m apologizing because I can’t share with you the true experience that we had. I had to fight back tears as we rode through the valley and up the hill. First, I was kicking some serious butt on my first ATV ride, and two, I’ve never seen a scene as beautiful as the one there. It was absolutely magnificent.

We did stop at the top where, if memory serves, a wedding scene from LOST took place. Our guide gave us plenty of time to take pictures, and we really enjoyed chatting with the other couple. I know that having such an intimate tour group contributed to our fantastic experience, but it would have been great either way.DSC01113 This image does Ka’a’awa Valley no justice. None. But, it’s the best I can do. Can you see the cattle free-ranging it down there? And this valley has been home to many movie scenes, and we actually got to watch a car chase being filmed during our tour. Possibly for Hawaii 5-0?DSC01114DSC01116e2 We hopped back on our ATVs and headed back down into the valley. I struggled a bit with some of the steeper and rockier sections, but the guide did a great job of slowing a bit when he saw me doing the same. (I was bringing up the rear.) We wound around the paths and just tried to soak in the experience the best we could.DSC01123 DSC01121

And before we knew it, it was all over. (We may have to come back for the two-hour tour.)

But then it was time for the Jungle Expedition tour!DSC01125 DSC01128 This one took us to the other side of the ranch, and it was an entirely different experience.DSC01151But the views of Kaneohe Bay were equally incredible. And see that stretch of sand? That’s Kualoa’s Secret Island Beach. I’ll have more on that in a future post.
DSC01158 DSC01159 DSC01172 That little island in the left of this image is called Mokoliʻi or Chinaman’s Hat. Checking that place out is also on our list. And I believe the area just below the island is Kualoa’s ancient Hawaiian fishpond.DSC01173e If I’m being totally honest, the ride was bumpy. Very bumpy. And jarring. It was beautiful though, and halfway through, we stopped so everyone could get pictures.DSC01183e


The ride back down was equally bumpy, so I didn’t get many great shots of the scenery. But trust me when I say it was gorgeous.DSC01196 And we came across some more cows. Just chillin’. Some with their calves. And I guess it’s sad to know they’ll become dinner at some point, but I’m happy to see them living good lives before then!
DSC01206 The expedition was narrated by our tour guide, but it’s been four months and I don’t remember much of what he (she?) said. I was lost in the beauty.DSC01218 DSC01227 DSC01228 DSC01244And when the ride was over, we enjoyed some lunch surrounded by wild chickens. Because that’s normal here.

It was a really great (half) day, and I’m already trying to figure out when we can go back with the kids. In addition to the two tours we participated in, Kualoa offers horseback rides, catamaran trips, ziplining and more. But what’s on my personal to-do list is their 90-minute movie tour. Besides LOST, Godzilla, 50 First Dates, and the new Jurassic World movie were all filmed there. It should be a really good time for the whole family, and I’m hoping to rope some friends into joining us too. You know I’ll share all about it when it happens!

I want to give one more shoutout to my dad and stepmom for pushing us to go that day, because I’m still buzzing about it all these months later. Thanks guys!


Kolekole Trail
Hapalua: Hawaii's Half Marathon - 2015