Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch

Located about 45 minutes north of Honolulu, Kualoa Ranch is a working cattle ranch that has seen some varied transitions since it was established in 1850. Today Kualoa’s owners have diversified the ranch’s activities to keep its 4,000 acres unspoiled and its landscape intact—protected from development. Kualoa means ‘long back,’ referring to the spectacular ridge that towers above the lush valleys below, where at one time up to 1,000 cattle roamed.

Always considered a sacred place, Kualoa Ranch has a rich history, full of folklore and myths. One of those myths is that the Menehune, Hawaii’s legendary little people, built its Moli`i fishpond in only one night. Created over 800 years ago, the fishpond boasts a 4,000-foot rock wall with a series of gates at various intervals. Small fish enter the ponds to feed, and then grow too large to escape. Fishermen then can easily harvest them either by spear or with nets.

When the first Polynesians landed their canoes on Oahu more than 1,500 years ago, many of them established themselves in the fertile Hakipu`u Valley near the foothills of the Kualoa Mountains. It was a place of refuge and sanctuary. Royalty were instructed here in the arts of war, history and social traditions.

Early in the 1800s, missionaries brought religion to Hawaii and began to establish schools. They arranged for a doctor to come from the eastern U.S. to care for the Hawaiian people in 1828. Dr. Gerrit P. Judd became a personal advisor to King Kamehameha III, who eventually allowed Judd to buy 620 acres of land—Kualoa--for $1,300 in 1850. Judd’s son Charles bought the adjacent valleys of Hakipu`u and Ka`a`awa 10 years later and started a sugar plantation. He built the Kualoa Sugar Mill together with his brother-in-law Samuel Wilder in 1863. However, the sugar plantation failed because of a lack of water, and the mill closed only eight years later.

Cattle ranching was the next venture on the combined lands, and it thrived for a number of years. Then the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought a new challenge with the entrance into World War II. The federal government seized a good portion of the property to build an airfield, where large monkeypod trees provided natural hangars for some small planes. Giant bunkers and other installations appeared at the base of Kualoa Ridge.

Many years later when the war was over, the rebuilding of the ranch began. It was a long process to reintroduce cattle, replant pastures and remove the military hardware. Times had changed, and cattle- ranching was no longer profitable. It was a struggle to survive. On top of that, Government tried to seize parts of the property to create public parks.

To keep the lands intact and supplement the cattle and farming businesses, Dr. Judd’s descendants, the Morgans, have developed low-impact recreational activities and educational programs. Fruit and flowers are still grown, as well as fish and prawns for the local markets. Ancient Hawaiian villages have been faithfully recreated, and school children come to camp, hike, mountain bike, and ride horseback. It’s also become a popular film setting for television and movies. Some familiar titles that feature Kualoa’s perfect landscape are Godzilla, Mighty Joe Young, George of the Jungle, Jurassic Park, and most recently, the popular TV show, Lost.

With the careful stewardship of the Morgan family, Kualoa remains as it has for centuries, well-preserved and pristine.

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