When I started planning our trip to Hawaii, there were two things on my “must-do” list: an ATV tour at Kualoa Ranch and a luau. I also have a life goal to visit every Disney theme park and resort, so a stop at Aulani was a priority. From our home base on the North Shore, we were able to drive to all of these destinations in under an hour. As the title suggests, these are some of our favorite things we experienced in Oahu. More coming in the next post!
I first learned about Kualoa Ranch from the movie “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.” The hilarious ATV scene was filmed there. Many television shows and movies have filmed scenes at the 4,000 acre reserve, including the “Jurassic Park” franchise. It’s also a working cattle farm. They offer a variety of tours, many of which book a few weeks in advance. I made the mistake of not calling to make a reservation until we were already in Hawaii. Luckily, they had a cancellation and could accommodate us on a one-hour ATV tour.
Even in the rain, Kualoa Ranch was one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen. My photos do not do it justice. The tour took us through the woods, up the trail, and into Jurassic Valley. We weren’t allowed to take photos while driving our ATVs, but we stopped in the valley to explore before continuing the tour. Near the end, our guide took us on a trail full of mud puddles just for fun. Eight months later, I am finally washing the mud out of my sneakers.
While we were at the ranch, we also picked up some fresh ground beef to make burgers for dinner. Grilling burgers on a warm February night at our Airbnb in Hawaii, listening to NEEDTOBREATHE, was a highlight of the trip. And it’s one of my favorite memories of my life.
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
Brandon and I drove over to the west side of the island one morning to explore Aulani. We are continually impressed with the high level of theming, cleanliness, and attention to detail at Disney resorts—and Aulani was no exception. It’s beautiful. Day visitors do not have access to the pools or lazy river, but we enjoyed walking around the resort for a few hours.
We picked up two snacks at Aulani: a Mickey Mouse-shaped shave ice and my favorite Disney treat, a Dole Whip. We also had Dole Whips at the Dole Plantation, and I thought the ones at Aulani were better!
Paradise Cove Luau
I conducted extensive research before choosing a luau to attend in Oahu. After checking with friends who have attend luaus before, I got the impression that they are largely the same and we’d have a similar experience anywhere. Price was another factor in the decision making process, because they’re all pretty expensive!
We chose the Paradise Cove Luau and selected the base-level tickets, which were around $100 per person. I was anxious about what kind of return we’d get on our investment, but we had a great time! The gates opened at 5 pm and there were Hawaiian games, arts and crafts, and performances to enjoy for two hours before dinner was served and the main show began. We each received a welcome mai tai, a shell lei, and a $12 “Cove card” to spend at the bar or on souvenirs.
We picked up drinks; played some of the games; and Brandon, Josh, and Chelsea got fake arm tattoos. We stood in line to have our pictures made holding parrots, which was both ridiculous and fun. The luau was right by the water, and I was thankful for beautiful weather as the sun went down.
The luau was crowded, but well-managed. The dinner buffet was very good, and the show was entertaining—the fire dancer was a highlight! I’m really glad we went, but don’t feel like we need to go to another luau on a return trip. Instead, I’ll save my money for something we weren’t able to do—a helicopter tour of the island!