Kualoa Ranch is consideringBy Jerry Tune
building a lodge to extend its
appeal to overnight guests
The 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch at Kaaawa on the Windward coast is considering building accommodations for visitors who want to stay several days to take advantage of its eco-tourism attractions.
"We're exploring the idea of an eco-lodge," said John Morgan, president of Kualoa Ranch & Activity Club Inc. "It could be tents or rustic cabins. We don't know yet."
Morgan said an application to the city could be made this year, and the lodge probably would start with accommodations for 25 to 30 persons.
"The lodge also would be an alternative for local residents who would (otherwise) be going to a neighbor island," he said.
Morgan is eager to expand eco-tourism and increase the 35,000 to 40,000 of visitors who come to the ranch each year.
"I'm totally bullish on eco-tourism," Morgan said. "It can mean a lot of things to different people. One objective is to provide eco-tourism to the average tourist."
Tourists already come from Waikiki for horseback riding, swimming, snorkeling, diving, canoeing, kayaking, off-road riding, jet skiing and other activities. Tours also are available for the film locations at the ranch used by "Jurassic Park," "Godzilla," "Mighty Joe Young" and many other movies and television programs.
Kualoa Ranch still has 600 head of cattle and more than 100 horses. It's also used for diversified agriculture and aquaculture.
The ranch sees local residents mostly on weekends.
"They come mostly to ride horses," Morgan said. But there are also special events such as concerts, corporate meetings, weddings, birthday celebrations and theme parties. A reggae concert will be held Aug. 15.
"We've had small birthday parties in our youth education area and big companies have had a couple thousand people here," Morgan said.
Any major expansion at the ranch most likely will come from a combination of eco-tourism -- events and attractions based on the natural environment -- and edu-tourism, which involves education on cultural history.
In ancient times Kualoa was considered one of the most sacred places on Oahu, and was used for training young chiefs in sports, fishing, swimming, and canoeing.
Morgan knows that most Oahu residents don't know much about Kualoa Ranch and what's available. But for the past 10 years, more visitors have been coming as the ranch expanded its offerings.
Morgan said there are two parts to the ranch: the Kaaawa Valley is 2 miles long and contains the movie locations and sets, and the ocean-side includes the fishing lagoon and the "Secret Island" sandy area. The fishing lagoons are stocked with tucanary bass, channel catfish and grass carp. The ranch also operates 12 ponds that produce a variety of prawns and fish species, and 15 tanks that produce about 500 pounds of Asian catfish a week.
Kualoa Ranch has been in the Morgan family for nearly 150 years. Dr. Gerrit P. Judd, the great-great-great grandfather of Morgan, bought 622 acres from King Kamehameha in 1850 for $1,300. Judd was an adviser to Kamehameha. A few years later, Judd's son purchased the valleys of Haikipuu and Kaaawa and a sugar cane plantation and mill were added.