It’s always nice when you can combine stunning scenic views with enriching experiences where you learn about the history and culture of a location. The Kualoa Ranch Fishpond Ocean Voyage is a perfect opportunity to do just that.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Kualoa Ranch Fishpond Ocean Voyage trip so that you’ll be fully prepared for your visit and be able to make the most of it.
What is the Kualoa Ranch Fishpond Ocean Voyage?
The Fishpond Ocean Voyage consists of two parts: a boat tour of the historic Molii Fishpond and a catamaran ride that takes you out into the ocean where you can take in awesome views and perhaps get greeted by sea turtles. The total experience is approximately 90 minutes long.
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Kualoa Ranch overview
The Molii Fishpond is part of Kualoa Ranch, which is a location that offers many popular tours and experiences.
Earlier in the day we got to enjoy the Jurassic Adventure Tour which was awesome and a must do for Jurassic Park and Jurassic World fans.
After the tour, we had a little bit of time to grab a quick bite and then we were ready to begin the Fishpond Ocean Voyage.
Fishponds are integral to the history of Hawaii and were not constructed anywhere else in ancient Polynesia.
The unique geography of Hawaii with abundant streams, shallow reefs, and the right tides made it a perfect place to create these ponds which provided fresh fish for survival, trade, and ceremonies.
Sources differ but it seems hundreds of these ponds were made across the different islands of Hawaii.
There are different types of fishponds but one of the most popular was the loko kuapa, which consisted of stone walls (kuapa) that enclosed a shallow bay or inlet or in other cases, extended out into the ocean.
These walls would be built above the height of the highest tides to properly take advantage of changing tides and currents. They also were designed with consideration to the impact of crashing waves so that they were built to last.
The loko kuapa ponds would also have one or several sluice gates (makaha) made of vertical slats, which served the purpose of allowing small fish to enter while retaining the bigger fish.
They also helped with circulation to reduce stagnation.
Once the pond was functioning, there would be one or more people who would be responsible for maintaining it and preventing poachers from stealing their fish. In exchange for the service, they would be offered fresh fish from the pond.
In these ponds, the water is brackish as the seawater mixes with fresh water from springs or streams. It’s said that the content of the water can dictate the flavor of the fish in a distinct way.
The Molii Fishpond is one of the largest in Hawaii covering 125 acres and ranging from 4 to 30 feet in depth. It’s estimated to be between 600 and 960 years old.
According to local legend, the pond was built by Hawaiian Menehune. These were mischievous, cliff-diving dwarves standing only two feet tall and capable of major engineering feats (like building a 4,000 foot fishpond wall overnight).
This fishpond is special because it is one of the few royal fishponds that still function today, raising Moi (threadfish), ‘ama’ama (mullet), and awa (milkfish). You’ll also spot a lot of jellyfish as you take a look at the pond.
Placed on the the National Register of Historic Places, the fishpond and surrounding scenery has also been featured in a lot of movies including Jurassic World, 50 First Dates, Mike & Dave, and many more.
Experiencing Kualoa Ranch Fishpond Ocean Voyage
You’ll arrive at the Kualoa Ranch and proceed directly to the check-in desk where you can verify your tickets. You can head over to the waiting station that will be marked for the ocean voyage.
Boarding the bus
From there, you will be ushered to one of the Kualoa Ranch tour buses.
It’s your classic school bus which may conjure up good or bad memories depending on your childhood. It’s a short drive to where you need to go so either way you won’t be in here very long.
Boarding the boat
Once you arrive at the fish pond you will head over towards a dock but on your way you’ll see a location that was used in the show Lost.
I’m currently watching that series for the first time so I did not look into that scene very deeply but I believe it involves a submarine.
You’ll then head over to the dock where your boat is and it is in this little area where you can spot a lot of jellyfish.
You’ll then board a very interesting looking boat. It’s fully exposed to the sun so make sure that you have a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen if you need it.
This boat is only used to take you across the fishpond so don’t worry, you will have shade on the catamaran.
The Fish Pond
As the boat takes you around, you’ll learn some of the basic information about the fishpond. Personally, I thought it was cool to ride around in an area with so much history dating back hundreds of years.
You’ll also start to catch some of the amazing views looking back at the Island. The views only get better.
Soon you’ll arrive at Secret Island. This is a beach that you have to pay to visit and it also is where they host special occasions.
As you stroll through the shaded path, keep your ear out for lots of birds singing in the trees. It’s a cool little place.
You’ll only be walking across Secret Island for a very short walk until you arrive at the beach where you will find your catamaran.
The catamaran is a pretty good sized boat and is a double-decker. There’s plenty of room for everybody.
Most of the passengers decided to head to the top where you can have unrestricted panoramic views.
The bottom will give you all the shade you need and you’ll still have large windows to take in the view. Your belongings should be able to remain dry in the cabin pretty easily.
The front of the boat is known as the “wet zone.”
As you start to pull away from the island, the views of the Koolau Mountains get even more impressive.
Usually, when we do a catamaran tour it is to get to something like a snorkeling destination so the experience is a bit more adventurous.
But this type of boat ride is just for people who want to get out and admire some beautiful scenery and enjoy some time on the water.
You’ll no doubt be able to get some great photos.
You also get a good view of the island Mokoli’i also known as the “Chinaman’s Hat.” Apparently, during low tide you can walk all the way out to the little island.
At some point, you’ll probably stop at this little reef area that is known for sea turtles. We ended up spotting one juvenile sea turtle which was pretty cool.
But it was only so exciting because the day before we had an awesome encounter with large sea turtles while scuba diving.
And that’s something I would point out about the tour. It’s not really catered toward people looking for more adventurous things to do and I feel like it’s better for those looking for low-key experiences or for families.
Still, if you have not had a lot of close experiences with the turtles in Hawaii then they can be fun to spot from the second level.
If you happen to be on a honeymoon then it’s said that the number of turtles you spot will determine the number of kids you have. So be careful looking too hard for those turtles!
Even though the turtles were not coming out in full abundance, the views from this area are pretty amazing.
Back at the Fish Pond
After you arrive back at Secret Island, you’ll head back to your boat and then you will have your official tour of the Fishpond.
You’ll be taken around the shore and learn more about some of the movie scenes and the vegetation including the invasive mangroves. Nothing really blew my mind but it was still interesting to learn a few things about the pond and how it worked.
And once again, those views just never get old.
The one clearing area with the palm trees is a spot used in a lot of movies. It’s the spot where Owen set up his bungalow in Jurassic World.
The one major drawback I had about the tour is that I called ahead of time to see how to get access to this area used in Jurassic World.
I was told that this tour would give me access and I booked this tour solely because of that since our main goal heading to Hawaii was to capture all of the Jurassic Park filming sites.
We did not get access though and instead just got a view of it while passing by.
Kualoa Ranch initially pushed back on my complaint but after going back and listening to my phone call (which I didn’t know was recorded) they admitted that they messed up by telling me this tour would give me access to that area.
It wasn’t a huge deal but it did throw off my plans for getting lined up movie shots which was my main goal for this tour.
It also ate up a couple of hours of our day that I could’ve used to get other more useful shots.
This would probably be less of an issue for your average tourist but for a travel blogger meticulously planning out visits for content, it becomes a pretty big nuisance when things like this happen.
I was glad they eventually came around to understanding where I was coming from but I felt like they did very little initially which kind of put a bad taste in my mouth, especially because I really do love this place.
After the fishpond we arrived back on the dock and then took the bus back to the ranch.
Overall, I enjoyed the tour because I thought it was cool to actually ride around in a historic fishpond and learn about the role that these ponds played in ancient Hawaii. The scenery is also pretty stunning so you have the opportunity to get some fantastic photos.
I was bummed that I wasn’t able to get the photos I was primarily focused on getting for our Jurassic World piece and that the customer service seemed to not be very customer friendly. But they did later get with me and make things right so it does seem like they wanted to make customers happy in the end.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.