Spend a glamorous day at the ‘Hollywood of Hawaii’
Kualoa Regional Park on Oahu’s windward coast is next-door to the darling of Hawaii attractions, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and for that reason gets overlooked by most tourists. But locals are hip to this place, and so are Hollywood directors, who have shot dozens of movies here.
The park’s signature landmark is tiny Mokoli’i Island, which was known affectionately for a century as ‘Chinaman’s Hat,’ since its profile is similar to the head gear worn by Chinese sugar cane workers who came to Oahu in the 1800s. This stretch of beach at the park is called Secret Island, a strip of sand backed by large Moli’i Fishpond, making it feel like an island. Snorkel tour companies bring people here, but it’s an easy walk from the park’s camping area.
Mokoli’i is just over a quarter-mile offshore, a destination for adventure snorkelers. Sea caves add interest to the shoreline and waters on the way are five- to ten-feet deep. A rugged trail climbs 200 feet to the top. (When the surf is up, currents make this a difficult swim.)
The ridge line just inshore, at Kualoa Ranch, has been the backdrop for may films, including 50 First Dates and Jurassic World.
The ranch is private, but they offer several ways to see the country. You can ride open-air vehicles, or go old school and travel horseback.
The cafe at the Kualoa Ranch is the best choice for lunch on this coastline, and the gift store will entice souvenir seekers. You are free to roam the immediate grounds to look for remnants of the historic sugar cane plantation.
Another underrated attraction is just on the outskirts of the ranch: Tropical Farms. Macadamia nut samples and free coffee are on hand, along with a remarkable selection of artwork and crafts.
Oahu Trailblazer has more details on the discoveries to be found along this coast.