Flying Southwest Inter-island in Hawaii? Here’s What to Expect

Are you thinking about flying Southwest between Hawaiian islands (inter-island)? Do you know what to expect when it comes to the flying experience, boarding, carry-on rules, and ticket prices?

In this article, I’ll share a breakdown of my past experience and also some helpful data points when it comes to things like the routes and pricing.

Flying Southwest Inter-island

Southwest’s HNL hub

Southwest Airlines effectively runs a hub at HNL so if you’re flying out of Honolulu you can get to pretty much all of the major airports in Hawaii with non-stop flights.

OGG in Maui also has a very limited number of nonstop flights to the Big Island.

This means that if you’re flying to an island other than Oahu, you’ll likely have to do a connection through HNL to get where you want to go.

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Southwest Inter-island Hawaii route map
Southwest Inter-island Hawaii route map. Image via Southwest.

Checking your bags in Hawaii

You’ll get two free checked bags whenever flying between Hawaiian islands just like you do on the mainland and your weight limit will be 50 pounds per bag.

Checking your bags might work a little bit differently at some airports, though.

At some of the smaller airports you may have to get your luggage tag and then bring your bag over to a TSA screening area where you will then drop it off.

In some instances, some TSA agent or airport personnel may come over to assist you and take your luggage over to the screening area but even if they don’t it should be pretty close to the check-in area.

Getting through the USDA

Even whenever you are flying between islands, you may have to go through the Department of Agriculture screening station in order to access your gate.

Basically, you’ll just put your carry-on items on a conveyor belt and then they will scan the items and then you can proceed to where you need to be.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations prohibit certain fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers in carry-on items when traveling between Hawaiian islands.

Typically, you need to just watch out for things like:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • berries of any kind
  • fresh flowers, plants or plants in soil
  • seeds
  • live insects
  • cotton or cotton bolls
  • sugarcan

I don’t know if every Hawaiian Airport does this but I always thought this USDA screening was only reserved for flights between the mainland and Hawaii. However, that’s not the case.

Boarding Southwest in Hawaii

The Southwest boarding process on our flight at LIH was a little bit different from any other Southwest flight that I have boarded.

Instead of having posts that you use to lineup when it is time to board, the “posts” were located alongside rows of seats.

So you essentially could find a seat for your boarding position rather than stand.

I’m not sure how it is at other airports but this is something you might run into at some of the smaller airports in Hawaii.

It was actually pretty nice although I’m not sure how many passengers were actually picking their seat based on their boarding position.

Short flights

Just in case you’re not aware just how short the flights are between the islands, they are very short. For example, according the FlightAware the flight time between HNL and ITO is 40 minutes.

That is the longest route that Southwest flies between Hawaiian islands right now.

According to Southwest, the flight times are a little bit longer but still pretty short.

Here are the flight times according to Southwest:

  • Kona (Island of Hawaii) (KOA) to Kahului (Maui) (OGG): 40 minutes
  • Lihue (Kauai) (LIH) to Honolulu (Oahu) (HNL): 42 minutes
  • Honolulu (Oahu) (HNL) to Hilo (Island of Hawaii) (ITO): 58 minutes
  • Kahului (Maui) (OGG) to Kona (Island of Hawaii) (KOA): 40 minutes
  • Honolulu (Oahu) (HNL) to Lihue (Kauai) (LIH): 49 minutes

So you just have to be prepared for really short fights which may affect your willingness to buy Business Select tickets or pay extra for EarlyBird.

Business Select fares are usually just a little bit more expensive than Anytime fares but they offer the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding
  • Fly By lane access
  • Free premium drink
  • 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent
  • Fully refundable fare

Because the flight is so short you may not need or even be able to enjoy all those benefits.

EarlyBird automatically checks you in 36 hours before check-in and therefore helps you get a better boarding position.

But again, because the flight might be so empty, you may not need this.

Even if your flight doesn’t end up having a lot of passengers, the worst case scenario is you get stuck in a middle seat for a 40 to 60 minute flight. It could be a lot worse.

Also, because the flights are so short you may not be able to receive the full Southwest treatment with drinks and snacks.

According to Southwest, complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic drinks are available on flights over 250 miles.

The longest flight that they currently fly between HNL and ITO is like 216 miles, so they may not offer beverage and snacks on these inter-island flights.

Lower occupancy?

The other thing I noticed on my Southwest Hawaii flight was the low occupancy.

It had been a very long time since I had flown on a Southwest flight with about 50% occupancy.

In fact, the vast majority of my Southwest flights over the past few years have been full or extremely close to full.

Once again, this made the need for EarlyBird or an upgrade to Business Select nonexistent.

We were able to find a seat wherever we wanted and did not have to worry about sharing a row with anybody else. It was actually very refreshing and a bit nostalgic.

The lower occupancy also made it easy on us when we needed to make a last-minute change. We changed our flight the evening before our scheduled departure and we did not have to deal with any type of meaningful price change.

Obviously, the occupancy rates will depend on routes/timing but it’s something to be looking out for.

You’ll likely be flying on a Boeing 737 MAX 8.

No shuttle at HNL

When flying Southwest, if you are renting a car, you won’t have to take a shuttle to get to or from the rental car center from HNL.

I found it odd that flying Hawaiian Airlines did require a shuttle but Southwest did not. Nevertheless, this is a nice little timesaver although the shuttle bus is not that bad.

Southwest Inter-island prices

Island hopping with Southwest can be extremely economical.

We looked at all of the different routes that Southwest flies in Hawaii and got some data points for the different Southwest fares in both cash and points for one-way flights.

We found that the price to island hop on both nonstop flights and also flights with a connection ranged from about $40-$49 for one-way tickets about one month out.

That’s not bad at all and it makes getting around to different islands very doable for a lot of people.

I also noticed that you can choose from a handful of flights each day, which makes it pretty easy to get to your island exactly when you need to.

Below, you can check out all of the specific data points for pricing.

All pricing is for nonstop flights (the flights that are not nonstop are only a couple of dollars more).

$59 was the most expensive Wanna Get Away I could find.

For the most part, the Southwest tickets were cheaper than the economy class tickets that we compared on Hawaiian Airlines (but we’re doing a full comparison later).

I will say that some of the planes that Hawaiian flies between islands are set up in a 3-2 configurations in economy.

So if you pick your seat, you can guarantee yourself a two-seat row while with Southwest you are just relying on a low occupancy to get you a seat like that.

Business Select fares remained north of $200 for all of the flights that we looked at.

Considering that Hawaiian Airlines has an actual first class cabin and their first class rates may be similar, I would rather fly first class with them than fly Business Select with Southwest.

Hilo, HI (ITO) to Kahului, HI (OGG)

  • 6 flights
  • No Nonstop
  • All change planes in HNL
  • Wanna Get Away – $49 / 2,626 points + $5.60
  • Anytime – $206 / 14,747 points + $5.60
  • Business Select – $223 / 16,060 points + $5.60

Hilo, HI (ITO) to Honolulu, HI (HNL)

  • 4 flights
  • All Nonstop
  • Wanna Get Away – $40 / 2,240 points + $5.60
  • Anytime – $202 / 14,747 points + $5.60
  • Business Select – $219 / 16,060 points + $5.60

Hilo, HI (ITO) to Lihue, HI (LIH)

  • 5 flights
  • No Nonstop
  • All change planes in HNL
  • Wanna Get Away – $49 / 2,626 points + $5.60
  • Anytime – $206 / 14,747 points + $5.60
  • Business Select – $223 / 16,060 points + $5.60

Kona, HI (KOA) to Kahului, HI (OGG)

  • 7 flights
  • Only 1 Nonstop
  • 6 flights change planes in HNL
  • Wanna Get Away – $44 / 2,240 points + $5.60
  • Anytime – $206 / 14,747 points + $5.60
  • Business Select – $223 / 16,060 points + $5.60

Kona, HI (KOA) to Honolulu, HI (HNL)

  • 6 flights
  • 4 Nonstop
  • 2 flights change planes in OGG
  • Wanna Get Away – $40 / 2,240 points + $5.60
  • Anytime – $202 / 14,747 points + $5.60
  • Business Select – $219 / 16,060 points + $5.60

Kona, HI (KOA) to Lihue, HI (LIH)

  • 6 flights
  • No Nonstop
  • All change planes in HNL
  • Wanna Get Away – $49 / 2,626 points + $5.60
  • Anytime – $206 / 14,747 points + $5.60
  • Business Select – $223 / 16,060 points + $5.60

Kahului, HI (OGG) to Honolulu, HI (HNL)

  • 7 flights
  • 6 Nonstop
  • 1 flight changes planes in KOA
  • Wanna Get Away – $40 / 2,240 points + $5.60
  • Anytime – $202 / 14,747 points + $5.60
  • Business Select – $219 / 16,060 points + $5.60

Kahului, HI (OGG) to Lihue, HI (LIH)

  • 8 flights
  • No Nonstop
  • 6 flights change planes in HNL
  • Wanna Get Away – $49 / 2,626 points + $5.60
  • Anytime – $206 / 14,747 points + $5.60
  • Business Select – $223 / 16,060 points + $5.60

Honolulu, HI (HNL) to Lihue, HI (LIH)

  • 4 flights
  • All Nonstop
  • Wanna Get Away – $40 / 2,240 points + $5.60
  • Anytime – $202 / 14,747 points + $5.60
  • Business Select – $219 / 16,060 points + $5.60

Final word

Flying Southwest Airlines in Hawaii does feel a bit strange the first time you do it. But for the most part everything is the same. The biggest difference may be the reduced occupancy of the flight and adjusting to the short flights if you’re not used to such quick trips.

Dole Plantation Review (Worth it or Tourist Trap?)

When you travel to Hawaii you’re bound to run into at least one attraction where you’re not sure if it’s a tourist trap or actually worth your time and money.

The Dole Plantation definitely falls into that category for a lot of people.

In this article, I want to clear up a lot of the confusion by giving you the full picture of what you can experience here.

We tried out all of the different Dole Plantation activities so that we could give you an accurate assessment of what to expect.

After reading this article you should have a very good idea of whether or not visiting the Dole Plantation is worth it for you.

What is the Dole Plantation?

The Dole Plantation is one of the major tourist attractions in Oahu, Hawaii. It’s the site of the original Dole Plantation and today it is home to a gift shop/restaurant and activities like the Pineapple Express train ride, Garden Maze, and Plantation Gardens.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Dole Plantation entrance

Where is the Dole Plantation?

The Dole Plantation is located at: 64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa, HI 96786.

That’s about a 40 minute drive away from Waikiki, Honolulu.

It opens up at 9:30am but if you plan on doing some of the tour activities you can walk to the right of the gift shop before 9:30 and you will see some of the little huts where you can purchase tickets for your activities.

(You cannot purchase your tickets in advance online as of February 2022.)

My advice would be to line up for your tickets shortly before 9:30am so that you could be one of the first people on the Pineapple Express train because the lines can get quite long for that attraction.

When you purchase your tickets you can purchase them for individual activities or you can buy them for multiple activities.

If you don’t want to partake in the attractions you can just line up in front of the gift shop.

You’ll notice that there will be some jewelry stations outside and perhaps other vendors, which you’ll also see in other parts of the plantation.

Related: Flying Southwest Inter-island in Hawaii? Here’s What to Expect

Dole Plantation history

One major reason why a lot of people visit the Dole Plantation is the history, which (no surprise) is mostly centered around the pineapple.

Contrary to what many think, pineapples are not native to Hawaii and instead likely came from South America.

Nobody knows exactly when pineapples first arrived in Hawaii but they were probably around at least 100 years before James Dole showed up (possibly much longer).

However, it was Dole who first capitalized on the huge commercial opportunity that pineapples offered and he’s responsible for the meteoric rise in popularity of the pineapple.

Who was James Dole?

James Dole, a Harvard graduate, arrived in Hawaii in 1899 and he founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company in 1901 (while his cousin Sanford Dole served as the President of the Republic of Hawaii).

Dole realized that in order to scale his business he would need to can pineapples so that they could reach destinations throughout the mainland (while still fresh).

People had tried to can pineapples in Hawaii before but they also had to deal with US import tariffs.

Annexation of Hawaii in 1898 now made selling agricultural products to the US mainland much more profitable, which made Dole’s timing excellent.

Initially, Dole built a pineapple cannery at the plantation in Wahiawa but later it was relocated to Honolulu Harbor, where the signature pineapple water tower would stand for decades.

Benefiting from new technology like the Ginaca machine that could process up to 100 fruits per minute, the Honolulu cannery saw a lot of success and at one time was the world’s largest cannery.

Dole also purchased the island of Lānaʻi (aka Pineapple Island) in 1923 and developed it into the largest plantation in the world, producing over seventy-five percent of the world’s pineapple at one point.

In the 1950s, Hawaii was leading the world in pineapple production but that would soon change.

Production overseas was growing and Hawaii plantations struggled through the 70s and 80s to compete with the labor costs in places like the Philippines and Thailand, where wages were 1/10th of those in Hawaii.

By 1992, Dole phased out its pineapple operations on Lanai and just a year prior had closed the Honolulu cannery.

Today, only a tiny fraction of the world’s pineapples come from Hawaii and those that do mostly serve local needs.

As production of pineapples at the plantation slowed down, the focus turned towards tourism.

Dole had already opened a fruit stand here in 1950 (pictured below) to give the public a taste of what the plantation had to offer but as the canneries and plantations closed they needed to do something bigger.

Dole Plantation (@DolePlantation) / Twitter
The original fruit stand. Photo via Dole Plantation.

In 1989, the Dole Plantation opened to the public as Hawaii’s “Pineapple Experience,” which is what you can experience today.

As for the old Honolulu cannery… it’s now been repurposed to a mixed-use center with a movie theater.

So the Dole legacy lives on today in Hawaii but in a much different form than it did in its prime in the 1950s.

Dole Plantation: What to expect

There are five different attractions at the Dole Plantation that you might consider visiting.

  • The Dole Plantation gift shop
  • Plantation Grille
  • The Pineapple Express Train Tour
  • Plantation Garden Maze
  • Plantation Garden Tour

The Dole Plantation gift shop

The Dole Plantation gift shop is free to enter and many people come all the way to the Dole Plantation just to buy things from the gift shop.

Inside, there are a lot of different items to browse.

You’ll see a lot of the typical touristy stuff like T-shirts, hats, bags, magnets, etc. but to me the real interesting stuff is the snacks.

When it comes to snacks, it’s actually pretty cool to see all the different varieties you can choose from and it sort of reminds me of a Hawaiian Buc-ees experience with an overwhelming number of tempting options.

You’ll come across things like pineapple salsa, pineapple pancake mix, the list goes on.

It is truly heaven for any pineapple lover but they also have other flavored treats like coconut, banana, mango, and others.

And they also produce their own chocolate which could be another great gift idea.

I don’t know many people who would not appreciate some tasty pineapple treats from Hawaii, so if you’re looking for edible gift ideas for friends and family back home the Dole Plantation gift shop is a great destination to take care of that.

It is worth noting that you can buy some of these items online.

Shipping to the mainland can be expensive, though.

For example, I priced out a $30 order of white chocolate pineapple crunch to Arizona and the shipping was $42. They do ship food and chocolate via UPS so that will hopefully mitigate any melting.

The other thing that I will say is that you can find some of the treats at other stores in Hawaii so you don’t necessarily have to go to the Dole Plantation for things like pineapple gummy bears.

The restaurant: Plantation Grille

Another major reason why people come here is for Plantation Grille.

It is here where you can order the “world famous” Dole Whip.

Now once again, you can find Dole Whips in many different places in Hawaii, so you don’t have to drive all the way out here to give it a try.

Dole Plantation Dole Whips

In my case I had never tried a Dole Whip before and I thought it was cool that my first Dole Whip experience was at the actual Dole Plantation.

You can get a Dole Whip served up with different toppings or in different ways like in a waffle cone, bowl, etc.

Personally, I went with the waffle cone and was not disappointed.

Eight dollars was a little steep but considering this is Hawaii, that wasn’t that bad.

I also appreciated the container they served it in so that it was (mostly) mess free.

Dole Plantation Dole Whip

They also serve real food here like teriyaki chicken, barbecue pork, hot dogs, pineapple chili dogs, pineapple chili bowls, and french fries.

The Pineapple Express

Ticket prices:

  • Adults – $12.00
  • Children (4-12) – $10.00
  • Kama’aina/Military – $11.25
  • Group Tours (25 or more) – $10.50

The Pineapple Express Train Tour is basically a miniature vintage train that takes you around the plantation on a 2-mile journey of about 25 minutes.

You’ll see signs pointing you to where to go but it’s really easy to find your way to the train.

Pineapple Express Train Tour entrance

They actually use four different trains and only one of them is technically the “Pineapple Express.” However, I’m pretty sure they all offer the same or a very similar experience.

Once you have your tickets, you head to the line and there will be an attendant waiting to take your ticket stubs.

Pineapple Express Train Tour tickets
Pineapple Express Train Tour line

Since we arrived right at opening, we were able to breeze through the line and we were actually the last two to board our train which was great because we also had an entire section of the train to ourselves.

It’s a pretty relaxing experience on the train and if you pay attention to the pre-recorded narrated tour, you’ll learn a few things about the history of pineapples in Hawaii and how the plantation came about.

Pineapple Express Train Tour

Some of the exhibits like the cut outs of the workers are, let’s say interesting and they look like bad tattoo portraits…. But try not to get completely turned off by some of the cheesiness.

You’ll see different areas of the plantation growing things like bananas, coconuts, coffee, macadamia nuts, cacao, and of course many pineapples sprouting from the ground.

Pineapple Express Train Tour banana tree
Pineapple Express Train Tour coconuts
Pineapple Express Train Tour coconuts
Pineapple Express Train Tour pineapple plants plantation
Pineapple Express Train Tour pineapple plants plantation

Seeing all of the different types of plants is interesting but you see many of them from a distance so you don’t exactly get a close look at all of them.

For example, take a look at the cacao trees that are pretty much hidden behind some shelter trees.

And here are some macadamia nut trees but it’s hard to get a good look at the macadamia nuts.

Pineapple Express Train Tour macadamia nut trees

Same with these coffee trees.

But sometimes you will get a close-up of some of these interesting trees.

I was excited to finally see cacao pods!

Overall, I thought the Pineapple Express Train Tour was an okay attraction for the price of $12 but that is also largely because we arrived right whenever it opened and we did not have to wait in line to board the train.

By the time we were leaving, the line was already starting to back up pretty far and I don’t think I would’ve been as pleased with the experience if I had waited as long as some people do which could be like one hour.

Pineapple Garden Maze

Ticket prices:

  • Adults – $8.25
  • Children (4-12) – $6.25
  • Kama’aina/Military – $7.25
  • Group Tours (25 or more) – $7.25
Pineapple Garden Maze entrance

The Pineapple Garden Maze at the Dole Plantation is the world’s largest maze or at least it was at some point.

It was built in 1998 but it soon lost its largest maze in the world status and so they decided to add onto it so it now covers 137,194 square feet!

Pineapple Garden Maze

This is a pretty interesting attraction if you’re like me and you’ve never actually been in a maze before much less a garden maze.

I like that it’s grown entirely out of Hawaiian plants.

Pineapple Garden Maze

They have it set up so that the Garden Maze can be interactive.

In order to partake in the interactive experience you first need to download the Dole Plantation app.

The way that it works is that as soon as you enter the Garden Maze you need to scan a QR code with the app and that “activates” your maze scavenger hunt.

Pineapple Garden Maze

Then you can use the map on the back of your Garden Maze ticket to find eight secret stations (named after the eight major Hawaiian Islands) where you can scan your QR code until eventually you find all of the different hidden stations.

You’ll then head back to the original station and scan the QR code to close out your session.

The app will automatically track your time so I guess you can keep track of your PR for your next visit? Or simply use it for bragging rights?

Pineapple Garden Maze secret maze station
Pineapple Garden Maze app

We did a couple of them just to test it out and while it is mildly satisfying to find these things, I was kind of over the experience relatively quickly.

To me, this is the type of thing that if you have the time and the right spirit to just goof around with your friends or family, it could be fun.

You could also get competitive with this and try to get one of the best times.

Either way, my advice would be to go to the bathroom before you attempt the maze.

Speaking from experience, there is nothing worse than dealing with a full bladder when you’re trying to navigate your way out of the world’s largest maze!

Plantation Garden Tour

Ticket prices:

  • Adults – $7.25
  • Children (4-12) – $6.50
  • Kama’aina/Military – $6.75
  • Group Tours (25 or more) – $6.75

The Plantation Garden Tour begins close to where the Pineapple Express begins.

If you’re doing this right after your train ride you’ll basically walk in a small circle back to where you started but you’ll head to the garden instead of the train.

Plantation Garden Tour

The Plantation Garden Tour is a series of eight gardens that introduces you to a lot of tropical plants. It’s basically a mini botanical gardens.

Plantation Garden Tour
Plantation Garden Tour

This is cool because it allows you to get up close to plants like coffee, bananas, and others that you may not have ever even seen growing in real life before.

Plantation Garden Tour banana
Plantation Garden Tour coffee

Some of the plants are just really interesting to look at.

Plantation Garden Tour
Plantation Garden Tour

During the right season (April through September), you’ll be able to get a nice whiff of lei flowers including plumeria, pikake, and pua kenikeni.

This tour is a nice complement to the Pineapple Express because you can actually get up close to some of the plants you saw from the train.

If you downloaded the app you can also scan QR codes to learn about different parts of the Garden. It’s easy to miss the QR codes but they will be in the corner of the interpretive panels.

When I tried scanning the QR code for the audio tour, it pulled up the media player but no sound was produced so I’m not sure what is going on with the app.

Plantation Garden Tour ti leaf

The gardens are beautiful but it’s not exactly as interesting as something like the Allerton Botanical Gardens.

Still, for seven bucks you basically get to discover a lot of plants that you’ve probably never seen before and that’s worth something.

Is the Dole Plantation controversial?

Like many entrepreneurs and industrialists of the early 1900s, there’s criticism on how James Dole built his empire.

People feel that he exploited the culture of Hawaiians (largely through ads) in order to attract mainland Americans to his product and that he exploited foreign laborers who worked in very harsh conditions.

Dole also did some questionable things like the Dole Air Race in August 1927 where he created a prize for the first people to make the flight from Oakland to Hawaii.

10 people lost their lives during the fatal contest.

I think there’s validity to a lot of the criticism on James Dole but I’m also not big on judging people who lived 100 years ago by the standards of today.

Lessons can surely be learned, both good and bad, when we look back on people like James Dole.

Personally, I partially used my experience visiting the plantation as a way to learn more about James Dole and what went on at the plantation.

I do think the Dole Plantation could do a little more to shed light on how lives were affected by the pursuit to expand the Dole empire.

But at the same time, there’s a time and place for everything and this tourist attraction has more of a Disney/family vibe, so I wouldn’t expect to find a whole expose on the Dole family here like I would at a museum.

Final word

I feel like it’s hard for me to call the Dole Plantation a tourist trap because I didn’t think the main attractions were way overpriced which is usually the hallmark of a tourist trap.

I’d describe the activities as “mildly interesting” for the most part but how much enjoyment you’ll get out of these really depends on the type of person you are and the people you’re with.

Also, there are some legitimate tasty items that you can purchase at the Dole Plantation that are perfect for gifts and for indulging in the moment.

While it’s possible to get some of those at other locations, there’s still something to be said about trying out tasty treats at the Dole Plantation.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki Review [2022]

Waikiki is filled with hotels that are suitable for all budgets.

One of the hotels that stick out for people looking to not break the bank on a hotel stay is the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki.

After staying there a couple of nights, I was pleasantly surprised by the hotel in a lot of regards but also a little underwhelmed in a couple of areas.

Check out the full review below and I will tell you everything you need to know about this hotel so that you can make the most out of your stay.


On a recent 10-night trip to Hawaii we decided to start things off with two nights at the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki. We had a free night certificate and also IHG points so that we could cover 100% of the stay.

This was a worthwhile booking because we got some really great value ($300 in value per night) for the free night and the points, especially whenever we factored in the upgrade we got due to IHG Platinum Status.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Location overview: North Waikiki

The Holiday Inn Express Waikiki is located on the north side of Waikiki. So it’s about a 15 minute walk to Waikiki Beach.

While it is a bit of walking distance to the heart of Waikiki, it’s nice because you can just step out and walk down Kalakaua Ave to get to the central area.

You’ll be just a block away from Luxury Row where you’ll find many of the luxury shops like Gucci and you’ll also be just a few minutes from quite a few restaurants.

On the other hand, if you need to go to the Hawaii Convention Center it’s a pretty short walk since you are on the north side of Waikiki.

If you need any quick snacks or random items, ABC Store #49 is directly across the street.

So while you don’t have prime beach location at this hotel, it’s still centrally located enough so that many things are still in reasonable walking distance.

Related: Dole Plantation Review (Worth it or Tourist Trap?)


We arrived via Uber in the late evening and our check-in experience was great.

The personnel checking us in was very friendly and professional and made sure that our two itineraries were properly linked which is something that tends to be problematic at a lot of hotels.

She notified us about a room upgrade and after we showed verification of our safe travels, we were able to make our way up to our room on the 35th floor.

I should also mention that because of our IHG Platinum status they offered us late check out all the way until 2 PM! That was a nice surprise and definitely a major plus for this property.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki lobby

By the check-in area there is a little lobby area that’s perfect for waiting for your tours or Uber rides.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki lobby

Be aware that there are two separate driveways for this hotel so if you are waiting on a ride you may want to specify which side of the hotel you are on.

Most of the time, the drivers appeared at the driveway below which is the one farthest away from the check-in desk.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki lobby

The room

The only major negative of this hotel is the room size.

Our king room was one of the smallest hotel rooms we’ve stayed in in a very long time. It reminded me of the rooms we used to get when we would stay in cheaper London hotels.

When you finally sit down your luggage the room gets even tighter. After visiting the tight quarters of the USS Bowfin we joked that we were staying at the USS Holiday Inn Express.

So I feel like this type of hotel room is better for people who plan on being out and about more than people who like to spend more time relaxing in a spacious hotel room.

With that said, I found the bed to be pretty comfortable but with the AC unit so close to the bed, the person on that side of the bed might be freezing throughout the night.

The good news is that they also have a ceiling fan so you can play around with your AC and fan settings to get the temperature just right.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki bedroom

Each side of the bed will have multiple outlets including USB ports for convenient charging.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki bedroom

One of the night stands came with a tissue box which I thought was interesting as I have not seen that at many hotels.

The hotel room does not have a working station (desk) and instead just has a standing blue table that you could use to eat or work on. You can move it around the room to wherever you’d like.

It’s not a very big table though so your space will be limited.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki bedroom

While the room is small, they do have a large TV monitor which is really nice.

You can try stacking your luggage beneath the TV to give yourself a little bit more room.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki bedroom

The room is well equipped to handle your leftovers and comes with a microwave, coffee maker, and mini fridge.

You’ll also have a little bit of room to hang up your clothes in the closet where you also will find the iron and iron board.

As for the view, we had a really nice view from the 35th floor. I don’t believe there are any balconies on this property so it’s just a window view but I did enjoy looking out to the ocean and all of the green park space below.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki view

The ocean toward the left tended to be more picturesque.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki view

Even though the hotel room is small, the bathroom was not that bad.

The sink area is pretty confined with limited counter space but the shower was pretty decent and you didn’t feel too cramped getting between the toilet and shower.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki bathroom
Holiday Inn Express Waikiki bathroom
Holiday Inn Express Waikiki bathroom

5th floor Terrace (Sky Deck)

One of my favorite features of this hotel was the outdoor terrace sky deck on the 5th floor.

This is something that makes this hotel unique and provides you with a way to leisurely pass time or get some sun while remaining on the hotel premises.

There’s quite a few things you’ll find outside on the terrace like table tennis, a foosball table, and weekday yoga classes.

There’s also one of those giant chess boards.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki chess

They had some type of other floor game set up but I’m not sure what it was.

Then there is my favorite: the 9-hole miniature golf course.

The par numbers on these little greens don’t really make sense to me as far as how they relate to the difficulty of the hole.

But it’s pretty fun to get out and do a little bit of rooftop putting on a nice Hawaiian afternoon.

Talk to the desk located near the entrance to the terrace and you can check out golf balls and putters for free (although remember you are likely paying a $25 resort fee for these).

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki putt putt golfing


The pool area here is surprisingly very nice.

There is a deck with several lounge chairs that you can relax on and even a couple of shaded cabanas that I imagine you will need to ask the hotel about if you want to rent.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki pool

They have one huge hot tub that is almost the size of the pool that you can relax in.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki pool

Then there is the pool which surprisingly gets down to 6 feet deep. The pool is not that big but for a two/three star hotel, the overall pool set up is actually pretty solid.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki pool

It’s also really nice to have some views to look out to from the terrace.


The hotel had a strict policy where you had to reserve time in the gym due to Covid.

We were able to get a quick peek at it though and it looks like a really equipped gym with views looking out to the terrace.

Holiday Inn Express Waikiki gym
Holiday Inn Express Waikiki gym
Holiday Inn Express Waikiki gym


The hotel was serving a grab and go style breakfast during our stay.

Basically you could grab a selection of yogurts, fruits, and hot items like sausage and eggs. We tried it out but this was your standard two-star breakfast experience.

Basically nothing special and unless you’re just trying to save money or just get by with some fruit or cereal, you may want to consider picking up breakfast somewhere else.


Surprisingly, the hotel did have “room service” although it is basically just an Italian restaurant Giovanni Pastrami that is partnered with the hotel from what I could gather.

We did give it a shot the first night we were there and decided that we should try out a pineapple pizza while in Hawaii.

The pizza actually was high-quality and I really enjoyed it, so if you’re in a jam trying to figure out where to eat this could be a solid option.

Final word

Overall, I was a pretty big fan of the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki.

The biggest drawback was definitely the size of the room as it made it really hard to move around in there without having to work around furniture or luggage.

Breakfast was mehh but pretty much what you would expect.

However, we received great service and for a hotel at this tier level, they had some pretty cool amenities to enjoy.

I would have to say that this was actually a great use of the IHG free night certificate and our IHG points.

USS Oklahoma Memorial Guide (Pearl Harbor) [2022]

There’s a lot to take in and reflect on when at Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii.

There’s the USS Arizona Memorial (one of the most visited sites), the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin Museum, and a plaza full of other worthwhile sites.

But one moving site that often goes overlooked is the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

Below, I’ll talk about what this memorial is and how you can visit it.

What is the USS Oklahoma Memorial?

Dedicated on December 7, 2007, the USS Oklahoma Memorial is a memorial to all of the sailors and marines who lost their life aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attacks of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

It is free to visit but you will have to board a shuttle bus from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial & Visitor Center or have an escort to get to it since it is located on a military base.

USS Oklahoma Memorial

Where is the USS Oklahoma Memorial?

The USS Oklahoma Memorial is located on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. It’s found just before you arrive at the entrance to the USS Missouri but it can be easily missed.

That’s because on both of my bus rides to Ford Island, none of the drivers mentioned the memorial and sort of just ushered everyone towards either the “Mighty Mo” or the bathrooms.

I’m not sure if that was just the standard procedure or if they do that to avoid having too many tourists wandering off but if you’re not aware of this memorial you may not even realize it exists when you make your trip to Ford Island.

The way to see the USS Oklahoma Memorial is to exit the tour bus and then basically walk in the opposite direction of the USS Missouri. You’ll see the white posts of this memorial on your right which is really hard to miss.

Notice the USS Missouri in the background of the image below. That’s how close it is.

Related: Pearl Harbor Ultimate Guide

USS Oklahoma Memorial

USS Oklahoma background

The USS Oklahoma was launched March 23, 1914 and over the years she served in many important capacities.

She protected allied convoys in Ireland during World War I, transported President Wilson to and from Paris during the Paris Peace negotiations, and helped evacuate refugees during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

After that, she made her way to the Pacific where she would spend the rest of her time in service.

The USS Oklahoma passing Alcatraz in the 1930s. Image via public domain.

On December 7, 1941 during the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, the USS Oklahoma sustained at least eight torpedo hits within the first 10 minutes of the bombardment.

A ninth would probably later hit the battleship as she completely capsized, trapping over 400 crewmen inside.

At the time of the torpedo hits, the USS Oklahoma was moored in the location of where the USS Missouri is currently berthed, which is why the memorial is located where it is.

The USS Oklahoma capsized in the foreground. Image via public domain.

On the day of the attacks, there were 2,402 US deaths. 1,177 occurred on the USS Arizona but the ship with the second highest casualty count was the USS Oklahoma with 429 deaths.

Illustration showing USS Oklahoma damage during the attack. Image via WFI Research Group.

The damage to the USS Oklahoma was so bad after the attack that the Navy realized they could not salvage the entire ship and would have to settle for salvaging individual parts.

But even that process would be a massive undertaking.

The USS Oklahoma being righted. Image via NPS.

For 15 months, the ship remained capsized until in March of 1943 when she was righted.

The hull was then sold in 1946 to a private buyer in California who wanted to salvage it but shortly after the ship was being towed its tow line broke and the ship sank about 500 miles away from Oahu to its final resting place.

Later on in 2006, a mast leg from the USS Oklahoma was found at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and it’s on display in Oklahoma at Muskogee War Memorial Park.

The ship’s bell and two of her screws are also on display but at the Kirkpatrick Science Museum in Oklahoma City.

As for all of the crewmen remains in the ship, those were collected from December 1941 through June 1944.

Only 35 men were identified out of the 429 killed.

The nearly 400 identified remains were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (“the Punchbowl”) in Honolulu.

However, recent efforts to identify many of those unknown remains were successful and it’s reported that 388 individuals have now been identified, which is 86% of the crew that was aboard the vessel at the time.

Unknown grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Experiencing the USS Oklahoma Memorial

Unlike the USS Arizona Memorial where you will need to schedule a time on the shuttle boat and deal with a much busier tourist scene, there’s a good chance when you visit this memorial, you’ll be all by yourself.

That’s how it was for me and I think that’s why this memorial hit a little bit harder for me than the Arizona Memorial — there were just fewer distractions.

At first glance, the memorial looks like rows of white picket fence randomly placed near the road leading to the USS Missouri.

But then as I approached the memorial and took a moment to read one of the interpretive panels, I realized what those white posts, called “standards,” actually were.

The white marble standards are symbolic of sailors “manning the rails” or standing at attention along the ships railing and superstructure as it passes through Pearl Harbor. It’s a sign of both honor and respect.

USS Oklahoma Memorial white standards

Each individual white standard represents one of the sailors lost on the USS Oklahoma Memorial.

USS Oklahoma Memorial white posts

Their name and rank is inscribed along with a designation of whether they were a part of the Navy or Marines.

Two of the standards have a special star designation indicating that they were medal of honor recipients.

USS Oklahoma Memorial white posts

The best way to experience this memorial is not to view it from the roadside but to walk through it.

These posts form several walkways and as you quietly roam through this memorial, it’s kind of impossible for the 429 white standards to not impact you in someway.

Each one of those is a tribute to a story that was cut short the day of the attacks and that sticks with you as you make your way through the memorial.

USS Oklahoma Memorial

There’s a reflective black wall of names that is reminiscent of the Vietnam Memorial that took me back to our time in Washington DC. The black granite is meant to be symbolic of the ship’s hull.

USS Oklahoma Memorial wall of names

You’ll also find lots of relevant quotes on different sections of the memorial from various sources including President Lincoln, the Bible, Shakespeare, and a survivor from the attack, George Brown.

USS Oklahoma Memorial

Final word

The USS Oklahoma Memorial could easily be missed but it’s a must visit when in Pearl Harbor.

It’s a well done memorial and because of the nonexistent crowds, it offers a more intimate experience when reflecting on those who lost their life in Pearl Harbor.

Jurassic Adventure Tour Review (Kualoa Ranch) [2022]

Kualoa Ranch in Oahu is one of the most beautiful spots in Hawaii and it’s been home to blockbuster movie after blockbuster movie. They offer several different tours for enjoying the ranch but there is one specific tour that is designed specifically for Jurassic Park fans: the Jurassic Adventure Tour.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Jurassic Adventure Tour.

I’ll show you what to expect and give you some pointers on how to get some photographs that line up with scenes from different Jurassic Park movies.

What is the Jurassic Adventure Tour?

The Jurassic Adventure Tour is a special tour of Kualoa Ranch that takes you to several filming sites for Jurassic World, Jurassic Park, and a host of other blockbuster movies and hit TV shows like Kong and Lost.

The tour is approximately 2.5 hours long and admission for each adult is $139.95 and $69.95 for children (ages 3 to 12). These tours run pretty small so my advice would be to book these as soon as possible to ensure that you get a spot.

This is a must-do attraction for Jurassic Park fans when in Oahu, especially if you are a big fan of Jurassic World and some of the other movies filmed here.

Related: Jurassic Park Filming Sites in Hawaii Ultimate Guide (Full List)

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Jurassic Park log Kualoa Ranch

Checking in

When you first arrive at Kualoa Ranch, you’ll be in awe of the surrounding backdrop.

Located on the east side of the island about 40 minutes from Waikiki, Honolulu, it’s just a visually stunning place all around and it becomes immediately apparent why so many movies have chosen to film here.

If you are driving in, they have ample parking so finding a parking spot should not be an issue.

For those without a vehicle, you can arrange transportation from Waikiki for about $30 depending on the type of tour you have booked.

Related: Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure Helicopter Tour Review

Kualoa Ranch parking

Once you’re ready, you head up some stairs and venture through the gift shop/cafe on your way to the ticket center which is just outside the gift shop.

It’s there where you can verify your booking and receive your tickets (although I don’t believe we actually had to show them to board).

The staff was very friendly and helpful and actually helped us consolidate our tours for the day a little bit more efficiently which was greatly appreciated.

Kualoa Ranch ticket office

From there, you’ll enter the Kualoa Ranch courtyard.

Kualoa Ranch

Each tour will have its own little waiting area. In this case you will head towards the Jurassic Adventure Tour waiting area which is a cool little building with benches and a TV.

You can go for a photo op with the dinosaur head on the wall and hopefully your tour vehicle will be arriving soon.

Related: Kualoa Ranch Fishpond Ocean Voyage Review

The Jurassic Adventure Tour experience


Kualoa Ranch asks you to arrive 45 minutes prior to your tour which in my opinion is too big of an ask.

Time is precious in Hawaii and while I understand they want people to arrive on time, there’s nothing unique about the tour that requires you to arrive more than 15 minutes early.

I love Kualoa Ranch but the 45 minute requirement feels like more of an excuse to get you to buy food in their restaurant than a way of ensuring everyone gets there on time.

To make matters worse, on our tour they had a mechanical issue (rock in the tire) that they did not decide needed to be fixed until minutes before our tour which meant that we would be starting ~25 minutes late.

I would not have cared that much about waiting but we were doing back to back tours so that put us in a time crunch with lunch.

My issue was: how can you ask customers to arrive so early and eat up precious vacation time when you’re not ensuring your vehicles are ready to go on time?

Again, I absolutely love this place but that’s something that needs to be addressed.

On the bright side, at least they don’t sacrifice customer safety for efficiency?

Anyway, the delay did give me a little bit of time to practice with Google’s augmented reality.

If you want some cool pictures and video, try out the dino augmented reality on Google.

Use the Google Chrome app to search for something like “Tyrannosaurus,” tap “View in 3D,” and then “View in your space.”

You can then portray a dinosaur in a real life setting which is perfect for a tour like this.

Tip: Be sure to check out my augmented reality video at the bottom of the article to see how you can really bring this experience to life.

For the delay, they did give us complimentary chocolates which was a very nice gesture but you can imagine how carrying around chocolates for hours on a sunny day turned out….

Eventually we boarded and we chose to sit in the very back because it would allow us to be the first to explore some of the sites and get photos without people in them which just worked out better for the blog.

Most of the vehicles seat 16 but ours was the one that seated 20 which is why it was such an issue to fix it (I think they only have one 20 person vehicle).

As far as what side of the vehicle is the best, that’s hard to answer. I think both the left and the right side are good in their own ways.

(All of our photos below were taken from the right side.)

On the tour

Although the tour started off a little rocky, we quickly got rolling once the vehicle was ready.

We started off by climbing up the hill and checking out some interesting World War II bunkers that still exist today.

Then we made our way inside one of the bunkers that in addition to some war memorabilia, houses a bunch of memorabilia from different movies and shows that were filmed on Kualoa Ranch.

It’s a really cool experience to see some of the props and promotion materials used for these movies. It’s also insane at how many big-budget movies have been filmed in this location.

To enhance your experience, I would recommend you checking out some of the films before you visit which include:

  • 50 First Dates
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Journey2
  • Jumanji

And of course there are shows you need to watch like:

  • Lost
  • Hawaii 5-0

It’s also really cool because whenever you get back home you can re-watch these and it’s super easy to recognize a lot of the Kualoa Ranch scenery from your tour.

Kualoa Ranch Lost

Jurassic World tour vehicle

When you come out of the bunker, you can get a close look at one of the tour vehicles used in Jurassic World.

This was the vehicle that was heading through the field when the herd of Gallimimus was running through – an homage to the original Jurassic Park.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World tour vehicle

At this spot, there’s also some really nice views of the ocean and if you’re lucky you might be able to spot whales off in the distance.

Jurassic Park Gallimimus stampede

From there we stopped at one of the first major sites which is the location from Jurassic Park where the Gallimimus stampede took place and Dr. Grant and the two kids hid behind a piece of driftwood.

This is actually the only shot filmed on this island from Jurassic Park as the vast majority of them were done on the island of Kauai.

Related: Jurassic Park Gates & T-Rex Paddock Hike & Off-Road Guide

It’s a great photo opportunity and it’s really cool to stand in that same location.

The buzz kill is that this piece of wood is not the original since dead wood simply can’t last that long outdoors in a climate like this.

Still, the log gives you an opportunity to line up a photograph with a real scene from Jurassic Park.

It’s kind of difficult to do because if you take a photo straight on with the log the background is not the same.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic Park log

Instead, you need to focus on the background towards the right. If you stand far enough to the left of the log you might be able to incorporate some of those jagged mountain ridges seen in the background of the movie.

You can see those in the wide angle shot I took below. (Unfortunately, I did not notice this until after.)

Whether or not you choose to line up that shot, it’s still a lot of fun to mess around and your tour guide will help you out with getting some spectacularly cheesy photos of a dinosaur wreaking havoc.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic Park

Jurassic World entrance gates

Towards the end of Jurassic World, the two boys are driving back to the park in one of the jeeps and a flock of Dimorphodons is flying towards visitor center.

The guides did not point this out, but I believe they used the back of the valley for this scene and then simply modified the landscape to look a little bit more interesting.

You can see the “scrapes” in the hilly ground which further make me think it was shot from around the Lost golf course area which is by the Jurassic Park log.

Other movie sites

On the way to your next Jurassic Park location, you’ll swing by some pretty iconic spots like the golf course from Lost, foot prints from Kong?, the hill used in the four wheeler jump from Mike and Dave, and one of my favorites, the road from 50 First Dates where Adam Sandler resorts to all sorts of roadside shenanigans.

Other scenes include those from Jumanji, Mighty Joe Young, and plenty others.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom bunker

Eventually, you get to view a bunker used in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

This was the bunker at the beginning of Fallen Kingdom that they entered into to track down Blue. Eventually, a dinosaur makes its way inside and lava starts to pour from the roof as the two have to escape via a ladder.

There are actually two separate bunker sets that were used to film these scenes (one is just the roof and the tower while the other one is the entire structure).

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom bunker
Movie scene from Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom bunker
Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom bunker

Jurassic World Gyrosphere

Next you’ll take a short walk over to where the Jurassic World Gyrosphere scene was filmed.

This is where the kids boarded one of those gnarly looking clear spheres that took them all around the park to admire dinosaurs from close up.

They still have the platform set up which I believe is still used for events these days such as small weddings, parties, etc.

You’ll notice in the still from the movie below that you can’t see the ocean and that’s because they extended the length of the mountains for dramatic effect.

If you want to get a shot that lines up with the movie just head up the hill and you’ll be able to get roughly where the camera was.

Jurassic World Gyrosphere movie scene
Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World Gyrosphere

The scene where the Indominus Rex attacks the kids in the Gyrosphere is also another site you can see but on our tour we did not go through that.

Skull Island

After that, we turned through the valley and passed through a few more movie scenes including one with skeletons from Kong: Skull Island.

Unlike some other tours we were not able to get out and play with the bones because I think they were getting some touchup work done.

Kualoa Ranch Kong: Skull Island props

At that point, we ventured out of the valley and started to head to the other section of Kualoa Ranch which is known to be the bumpy side.

While things did get a bit bumpy, I honestly thought it was going to be a lot worse, especially sitting in the back but it wasn’t bad.

(I don’t think they recommend this tour if you have a back issues or are pregnant though).

Jurassic World Helipad

We then made our way to the Jurassic World helipad. The helipad pops up several times throughout the Jurassic World movie. Unfortunately, they have dismantled the helipad structure so there’s nothing really there except for a cleared dirt area.

We did not stop at this location unlike some previous tours but it didn’t really matter because there was so much CGI used on the scene that it would have been basically impossible to match up a scene looking out over the ocean.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World Helipad

Although you don’t get an exact look based on what was in the movie, it’s a really nice view of the Fish Pond from up in this area.

Kualoa Ranch fish pond

Camouflaging I-Rex

After the helipad, you’re on your way to the signature attraction which is the I-Rex paddock. Before you get there, you’ll pass over a creek which is where one of the most interesting scenes from Jurassic World was filmed.

After the I-Rex got on the loose and crew from the park was after it, they located its tracking device in a wooded creek area.

Then, to their surprise the perfectly camouflaged I-Rex appears and ends up feasting on someone. It’s easily one of the coolest scenes in the movie in my opinion.

The thing is our guide did not point out the scene and I only knew about it from watching prior tours so you may have to be on the lookout for yourself. When you’re going to the I-Rex Paddock, it’s going to be on the right.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World Camouflaging I-Rex

I-Rex Paddock

The crown jewel of this experience is getting to visit the I-Rex Paddock.

This is where they kept the in Indominus Rex in Jurassic World and where it escaped from before it unleashed fury on a lot of other dinos and humans in the park.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World I-Rex Paddock

Your first get to go upstairs in the control room which is honestly one of the coolest things I think I’ve ever done related to movie sets.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World I-Rex Paddock

You’ll have the chance to grab several shots from the movie at this site.

The claw marks on the walls are deeper than in the movie but it’s still pretty cool to stand in the same spot.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World I-Rex Paddock claw marks

It’s interesting to see some of the deterioration of the styrofoam. I’m wondering how long they plan on keeping that and what the expected lifespan of this set is.

If you’ve been putting off seeing this you may not wanna put it off that long….

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World I-Rex Paddock claw marks

You can also check out and even walk in some of the dinosaur crates.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World I-Rex Paddock cage

This one right here was from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, when Owen tries to get the blood transfusion from the T-Rex.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World I-Rex Paddock cage

And remember that augmented reality I was talking about at the beginning of the article?

This paddock is the perfect place to bust it out.

After you’ve spent some time in the paddock, it’s time to head out and you’ll get one last look of the paddock through some overgrown grass which just adds to the appeal of this place.

Kualoa Ranch Jurassic World I-Rex Paddock cage

Aunty Pat’s Cafe

After our tour, we had a little bit of time to get something to eat before our next tour so we tried out the café. This is probably the only real problem I had with the tour.

We paid $14 for two small slices of pizza that looked like this.

This is such a cool tour and experience that I didn’t like to see it watered down with tourist trap food.

If you’re gonna charge seven dollars a slice, at least give us something remotely fresh and maybe not use such an oversized pizza slice box?

Perhaps if I had been able to try the main menu the quality would have been better but we did not have time because our tour had been running so late.

Final word

Overall, I really enjoyed this experience and would have to recommend it to Jurassic Park fans, especially those who really like the newer Jurassic World. It’s just such a fun experience to see where so many big movies were filmed and the scenery is simply stunning.

The only things I didn’t care for were that 45 minute time requirement and the low quality food, which both give off tourist trap vibes.

Hoopii Falls Trail Review | Kauai, Hawaii (Amber Mine) [2022]

There are endless trails to do in Kauai, Hawaii and one of the more popular trails is the trail to Hoopii Falls, a site that also has connections to Jurassic Park.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the falls including how to get there, where to park, and what to expect while hiking.

What is the Hoopii Falls Trail?

The Hoopii Falls Trail is a short and easy to moderate trail that takes you to a beautiful waterfall which pours out into the wide Kapaa Stream. It was the site of the amber mine in the 1993 classic movie, Jurassic Park.

The trail is just under 3 miles roundtrip if you go all the way to the bottom of the falls and also check out the upper falls on one of the side trails. The elevation gain is approximately 230 feet.

Plan on this trail taking about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on how fast you hike and how long you want to linger.

Related: Jurassic Park Filming Sites in Hawaii Ultimate Guide (Full List)

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Where is the Hoopii Falls Trail?

Hoopii Falls trailhead is located at: 5936 Kapahi Rd, Kapaʻa, HI 96746.

It’s found on the east side of the island near Wailua which is where we did the hike to the Jurassic Gates/T-Rex Paddock.

At the Hoopii Falls trailhead, they allow you to park on the side of the street next to the trailhead which is what we did and didn’t have a problem.

But it does look like this trail gets pretty busy so you may have to find somewhere else to park at times and just walk to the trailhead.

Just do your best to stay out of the way since this is a residential area.

Hoopii Falls Trail Head parking

I noticed a cone and a log marking the trail entrance but there actually are a few different entrances that you could choose from.

Hoopii Falls Trail

As mentioned, there are a few different entry points for the trail.

You can choose whichever one you’d like but be prepared for an initial steep descent on some. Nothing too bad but it could be slippery.

Initially, it will feel like you are still very close to a residential area but soon it will feel like you’ve just been transported into the heart of Isla Nublar.

If you’re like me, you’ll be very impressed by all of the jungle scenery.

The vegetation is so lush that you should have a lot of shade which makes this hike very doable even on warmer days. Still, I would bring at least one bottle of water.

Bug spray and sunscreen would also be a good choice.

Hoopii Falls trail

From your entry point you’ll be following the trail down and at about .3 miles you’ll hit the Kapaa Stream.

You’ll hike along the stream so don’t feel the need to get wet and cross it. You might be tempted to get in the water but keep reading below for why that may not be a good idea.

At around half a mile into the hike, you’ll hit the turn-off on the left to the upper falls.

This is a short but somewhat steep descent down to a mini canyon where you’ll find the upper falls. I think this is a popular cliff diving spot but I can’t personally vouch for the water depth level so you want to check it out yourself.

Even if you don’t jump in though, it’s a nice spot to just sit down and relax. Just keep in mind that because these falls are closer to the trailhead, it might be a lot more busy here.

Hoopii Falls trail

Once you’re back on the trail, you have more beautiful jungle scenery to admire as you stroll through this heavily shaded area. Seriously, I could not get enough of this picturesque jungle vegetation.

Hoopii Falls trail

Watch out for all of the roots and hanging branches because it’s very easy to knock into something here.

Hoopii Falls trail

While much of the trail is easy to navigate I would recommend using AllTrails just because it is easy to get turned around in a couple of spots.

You’re not hiking in a very vast area so you will probably find your way back to the trail relatively quickly but just to make things easier, I would use an app to help you navigate.

Just over 1 mile into the hike you should arrive at Hoopi Falls.

If you’re looking to get that Jurassic Park scene of the guy coming across the stream you can see that from the top of the waterfall but you’re going to have to continue ahead and scramble down in order to line up the shot. (I’ll explain how to do that below.)

if you’re looking down the waterfall, there’s an area to the right side where you can relax and take in the scenery.

One couple even posted up with reading material and lawn chairs in the perfect position.

As mentioned, if you want to get down to the bottom of the stream you’re going to have to get back on the main trail and proceed a little bit farther down and then scramble to the stream below.

If you’re standing near the top of the waterfall, you can take a shortcut by scrambling up the rocky area pictured below or you can backtrack a little bit to get back on the trail.

(I’m headed back down the shortcut in the picture below.)

Once you’re back on the main trail you go down stream just a little bit (probably a few hundred feet) and then you should see an offshoot of the trail on the left.

It’s a little bit difficult to detect but you will know you are on the right path if you look down and see some rope tied to the trees to help you get down.

Make sure that you test out the rope before you use it because there is no telling when the last time it was replaced.

You can use the branches and logs to help you get down as well. It’s a pretty steep area and while it is very doable, you just want to take your time.

You’ll head down about 30 feet and then back toward the direction of the waterfall and eventually you will see the trail open up to the rocky area below the falls.

The falls itself is nice although I wouldn’t necessarily rank it as one of the most impressive waterfalls I’ve seen, especially when compared to waterfalls like Jurassic Falls.

Hoopii Falls

Once you get to the base of the falls, you will be in prime position to line up your Jurassic Park shot!

Towards the beginning of the movie, Donald Gennaro, the lawyer sent to inspect Jurassic Park, is transported across a stream to the Mano De Dios Amber Mine located in the Dominican Republic.

That stream is the stream directly beneath the Hoopi falls.

You’ll be walking across a bunch of rocky pools to get to the edge of the stream, so don’t slip (like the lawyer did in the movie).

Because the vegetation (and likely the stream bank too) has changed over three decades, it’s a little hard to line up the shot directly but you can get approximately where the filmmakers were at the time they shot it by approaching the edge of the rocky bank.

Directly behind the stream is where the amber mine was located.

Do you notice that the waterfall on the right does not quite look like the waterfall pictured below?

That’s just because the waterfall flows differently now than it did three decades ago, probably due to erosion or flash floods.

For that reason, it’s a little bit harder to line up this shot but if you focus on the rocks at the top of the ledge, it’s a bit easier to line it up.

Also note that the cave/mine they go into was not really there.

Hoopii Falls

I had to bust out my dino DNA shirt for this one considering this was the spot to find dino DNA!

While you are down there you can also check out the rope swing.

Personally, I was very tempted to get into the water but after hearing about the septic tank leaks in the area and all of the potential bacteria in the water, I decided it just was not worth it.

You’ll head back the exact way you came.

Since the elevation gain is only a few hundred feet it’s not that bad going back but again it’s more about navigating the terrain without slipping or banging your head on a branch.

And again I think a GPS would be helpful. We ventured down one of the wrong trails at one point (although I do think that trail probably connected back to the main trail).

Final word

This is a fun shorter hike that is definitely not too strenuous although you need to be ready to deal with some of the steep and potentially slippery jungle terrain.

I’d highly recommend this hike for Jurassic Park fans as you get the check out one of the cool scenes tour the beginning of the movie.

Allerton Garden at Sunset Tour Review (Kauai, Hawaii)

Allerton Garden is one of the prime attractions to see when visiting the island of Kauai. It’s home to some exotic plants and a number of notable water features as well as a lot of local history. It’s also where a lot of big movies have been filmed such as Jurassic Park.

Allerton Gardens offers a number of different tours you can choose from but one of the popular tours is the sunset tour.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the sunset tour so that you know exactly what to expect whenever you arrive.

What is the Allerton Garden Sunset tour?

The Allerton Garden Sunset tour is a special tour of Allerton Garden that takes place in the late afternoon and during sunset.

In total, the tour lasts about three hours and takes you through all of the main garden sites as well as the historic Allerton House where you can enjoy dinner and take in the sunset.

Admission for each adult is $80 and reservations are required. These do sell out so you may want to book in advance.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Allerton Garden (brief history)

If you’re doing the sunset tour, it helps to have a grasp on the Allerton Garden history because you’ll be encountering a lot of it.

The entire area surrounding present-day Allerton Garden, known as the Lawa’i Valley, was once owned by Queen Emma, the wife of King Kamehameha IV.

She received all of the land in the late 1800s and during that time she resided at least part time in a cottage above the valley.

The Queen spent time planting rose apples, laurel, mangoes, bamboo, and ferns up on the valley cliffs and some of those still exist today.

Queen Emma and Kamehameha IV.
Queen Emma and Kamehameha IV.

The McBryde family, who already owned a crap ton of land in Hawaii, eventually purchased the property outright from the Queen’s estate in 1886 and they cultivated sugarcane and rice in different parts of the valley.

In 1899, one of Queen Emma’s cottages was lowered to the valley floor and Alexander McBryde lived in it for several years. During that time he carried on the tradition of planting things in the valley and introduced many palms, gingers, plumerias, and ferns along the beach.

Then about four decades later Robert Allerton entered the picture.

Robert Allerton was the son of an ultra-wealthy Mayflower descendant who had made his fortune in Chicago in livestock, banking, and real estate.

Allerton initially tried to become an artist in Europe but after failing (and throwing his artwork into a fire) he came back to the US and became an avid art collector and patron.

Fascinated by natural landscapes, he created a series of gardens and settings for statues at “The Farms” in Monticello, Illinois.

Eventually, he met his life partner, John Gregg, who he also adopted likely because homosexual relations were so taboo at that time and they needed a sort of “cover.”

Robert and John.

The two traveled the world together collecting artwork and getting inspiration for their gardens.

On one trip in 1937, they visited Kauai and were blown away by the Lawa’i Valley.

It only took them one year but they soon purchased the lower portion of the valley and in 1938 moved in to their home which was designed by John.

They carried on the tradition of planting exotic plants in the valley and they also added many statues, fountains, and waterfalls as they expanded the gardens.

The beauty of this place attracted a lot of celebrities and notable figures like Jacqueline Kennedy and Georgia O’Keefe who would come through to visit.

In the 1960s, Robert lobbied for the creation of a national tropical botanical garden and in 1964, the last year of Robert Allerton’s life, the charter was granted to establish the Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden, which was later renamed to the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Today, there are multiple National Tropical Botanical Garden sites in Hawaii and the one at Allerton Garden has achieved a lot of notoriety becoming one of the ’50 Places of a Lifetime’ by National Geographic Traveler.


A part of Robert and John’s costume collection.

Where is Allerton Garden?

The Allerton Garden visitor center is located on the south side of Kauai at: 4425 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756.

Be careful about relying on your GPS to take you to the right spot because our GPS took us right past the entrance.

The good news is that there is a pretty big sign indicating that you have arrived at the gardens.

You simply need to enter the gates, park, and then follow yet another sign that will take you to the entrance of the garden where you also find a visitor center and gift shop.

Simply check in at the visitor center and then you’ll be ushered to where you can wait for your tour to begin.

Tip: Bring sunscreen and bug spray because you will be in the sun for a good amount of the tour and bugs can become an issue.

Allerton Garden Sunset experience

Kicking off the tour

There will be a little shaded area for you to wait for your tour to begin and once the time is ready your guide should round everybody up and load you on to the shuttle bus.

You have about a 20 minute drive down to where you will begin the walking portion of the tour and on the way your guide will point out some interesting plants and history about the gardens.

Tip: If you are unable to walk that long you can talk to them about getting assistance with a golf cart.

At first, I have to be honest, I thought our tour guide was a little bit too much for me. If you have the same guide you’ll probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

But after a little while he grew on me and I actually really enjoyed his goofiness and it added to the tour.

Kicking off the walking tour

Your guide will take you through a series of different stops on the tour.

At each stop, you’ll get to learn a little bit about the different plants and water features and ask any questions you might have.

Personally, I’m not a huge plant lover in the sense of caring about every little facet about the plants but I did find it interesting to see so many new things.

Some of the flowers are super beautiful and it’s really cool to see so many plants you’ve never seen before.

Other times, it’s just fun to explore the amazing scenery that the plants provide.

It’s no wonder that some big movies like Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean have chosen this spot for their filming. It’s beautiful at pretty much every corner.

There are a number of interesting water features to check out on the tour as well.

Each of them has a different backstory but they have some cool elements to them especially when it comes to reflections.

I’ll spare you some of the details so that I don’t spoil all the fun but here are a few photos of some of the water features.

Jurassic Park scenes

Checking out some of the different plants and water features was cool but my primary motivation for visiting the gardens was to see the Jurassic Park filming sites since that was our overall mission in Kauai to begin with.

There are a handfull of different scenes that you can check out and I’ll break them down below.

By the way, if you want to see the full list of Jurassic Park sites in Hawaii check out this guide here.

The raptor egg discovery

When Dr. Grant discovers that there are raptor eggs on the island, he is sitting in the massive tree trunks of a Moreton Bay fig tree — a tree that is actually native to Australia.

Your tour guide should be able to point this location out to you if you can’t spot it yourself. But the dead giveaway will be the “eggs” that should be in there when you arrive.

Allerton Garden Jurassic Park tree

Here’s a look at the movie still:

Allerton Garden Jurassic Park tree

Clever Girl

When Muldoon, Jurassic Park’s game warden, and Ellie are in the jungle and realize that they are being hunted by raptors, that scene takes place among the palm trees in the back of the mermaid water feature.

You come across this directly after the fig trees on the sunset tour but on the standard tour this will be seen right before the fig trees.

Allerton Garden Jurassic Park scene

Maintenance Shed

When Ellie is running to the maintenance shed, that scene takes place on the other side of the fig trees in an open grassy area.

This will be directly adjacent to the space where the clever girl scene was filmed, which makes sense because the two scenes were related in the movie.

Allerton Garden Jurassic Park scene

Dilophosaurus paddock

When they first arrive at the island and they start their tour, they are taken by the Dilophosaurus paddock which is that little Sour Patch Kid of a dinosaur that spews out the ink in the movie all over Dennis Nedry (and then feasts on him).

During the scene when they first arrive and drive past the paddock, the dinosaur is MIA but the area included in the paddock is the space next to those fig trees where the eggs were discovered.

In other words, when you’re standing next to the huge fig trees, you are standing in the Dilophosaurus paddock.

I tried to match up the trees but it’s a little bit difficult because the scene was shot from the other side of the Lawa’i Stream. Plus, you never know how much a tree can change in 30 years or what trees may not have made it.

Still, there are a couple of trees that look very similar to the one featured in the movie.

Allerton Garden Jurassic Park scene Dilophosaurus paddock

Two more scenes?

I’ve heard from different sources that when the Ford Explorer falls out of the tree and almost smashes Dr. Grant and Timmy that this scene was filmed in one of the fig trees.

This would be the first or third tree that you encounter.

However, I don’t think these trees were used for that scene for a few reasons.

I took a really close look at all of the fig trees but struggled to find roots that lined up with the still below. I didn’t see a single tree with such a wide open space for a car to fall in the roots.

I don’t think that they would use one of the fig trees for that scene considering the damage that a prop car (and all the attached equipment) could do to them.

This was a night scene and most of the night scenes were done in studio.

Finally, if you take a close look at the roots used in the film they don’t really look like the roots found on any of the trees because those tend to be much longer.

I also heard that they filmed some of the scenes when Dr. Grant climbed up the tree with the kids in one the fig trees.

Again, those scenes look like they were done in studio because the tree trunk/branches were wayyy too thick in the movie to be these trees.

Even though a few of these shots were done in studio, you still get to experience at least a handful of sites used in the Jurassic Park movie when you visit these gardens which is really cool.

The Allerton House

Once you finish up with the Jurassic Park sites, you’ll walk along the stream until you get to some of the more historical parts of the tour including the Allerton House.

Allerton House

You’ll be able to go inside and check out all of the rooms and see some original artifacts including photos of Allerton himself. They also have a working bathroom inside.

Allerton House interior
Allerton House interior

Hurricanes have wreaked havoc on the structure so it has been rebuilt over the years but it’s still able to maintain a lot of its original look based on photographs and original plans for the house.

It’s pretty cool to think about all the noteworthy individuals who have come through this house including people like Jackie Kennedy.


After you tour the house you can pick up your dinner box which should be marked with your name on it.

You can then choose to eat inside at one of those set tables or you can head outside and eat on the patio which is what we chose to do because it felt so nice outside.

I was a little bit suspect about the dinner because I had seen a couple of reviews that were not exactly a full endorsement of the food.

But despite that, we really enjoyed both the shrimp and the Ahi tuna.

Allerton Gardens Dinner shrimp
Allerton Gardens Dinner tuna

You also get a full selection of juices and water and you can take as many cans or bottles as you need to stay hydrated.

Allerton Gardens Dinner drinks


After dinner, you have about 30 minutes to wander about and check out the sandy shores of Lāwaʻi Bay.

Once everyone is done exploring, your guide will round everyone up.

A few people will have the chance to drive one of the golf carts back over to where the shuttle bus will be waiting.

This was a cool opportunity because a couple of the golf carts have Jurassic Park decals on them which was the perfect touch to the tour, especially considering what we were there for.

Allerton Gardens Jurassic Park

Once you’re back on the bus, you’ll make a couple of stops to admire the sunset and hopefully it will be a memorable one for you like it was for us.

Allerton Gardens sunset
Allerton Gardens sunset

Final word

This tour at Allerton Gardens ended up being one of my favorite attractions in Kauai despite me initially not being super thrilled about visiting a botanical garden.

For any Jurassic Park fan, it would be almost impossible to not enjoy seeing these original sites from such iconic scenes.

And even if you’re not in it for Jurassic Park, it’s still a beautiful setting and interesting to hear about the different plants and history rooted in the space.

Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure Helicopter Tour Review [2022]

One of the most iconic scenes from Jurassic Park is when Dr. Alan Grant et al. first arrive on the island and they land a helicopter at the base of a huge waterfall known as Manawaiopuna Falls.

Today, the waterfall is also referred to as “Jurassic Falls” and you can actually book a tour that will take you right to the base of this magnificent waterfall.

Below, I’ll give you a full review of the Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure. I’ll also show you how to line up some of your photographs so that you can get exact replicas from scenes in the movie!

What is the Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure?

The Jurassic Falls Landing adventure is a scenic helicopter tour that takes you to the base of Manawaiopuna Falls which is a waterfall featured in the 1993 hit film, Jurassic Park. It is the only tour that has permission to land at the falls making it one of the most unique helicopter tours you can do.

Related: Jurassic Park Filming Sites in Hawaii Ultimate Guide (Full List)

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

The Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure experience


Each seat on the Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure will cost you $362. There is a cheaper option that does not land at the falls and will only cost you $214.

Just be sure you are aware of the weight requirements, which state:

Any passenger over 250 lbs. may be required to purchase an additional seat. For parties of two traveling together, that do not exceed 250 lbs. individually, but have combined weights exceeding 420 lbs., may be required to purchase an additional seat.

So two people of just over 210 pounds would have to pay for an extra seat. That’s one of the lower weight requirements I’ve seen on helicopter tours so be prepared for that.

Note: there is no doors off option for this tour.

During booking, they should tell you to wear dark clothing on your tour which is designed to reduce the glare on the windows. You can wear black or any kind of dark color like dark gray or navy.

Try to wear something long sleeve to further reduce the glare but be aware that other people on the helicopter may be causing your glares so there is only so much you can do to prevent it from happening.

They also have other rules like no selfie sticks, no camera lenses larger than 4 inches, etc.

Arriving at the airport

Your experience will begin at the helipad area of Lihue Airport.

As you arrive at the airport you will see a sign indicating you to go left to get to the helipad area so it’s very easy to navigate.

Related: Doing A Doors-Off Helicopter Tour in Kauai, Hawaii?

The airport has a section with several helipads and luckily for you this company occupies the first one and actually has a building on site.

Other companies require you to check in at other facilities nearby so this makes it really easy to check in for your tour.

Once you arrive at the building, you’ll head inside and you’ll need to sign a waiver and also step on the scale.

Once you hop on the scale, your weight will be read out over a PA system and if you are under the weight requirement, you’ll get a thumbs up.

Okay, I’m kidding they are very discreet about your weight and they do not even tell you what your weight is.

From there, you can just hang out in their building where they have some T-shirts and other things on sale.

Related: Helicopter Tour Review Over Cape Town, South Africa

They also have two bathrooms which is very nice because the other companies will require you to utilize a portable toilet if you have to go.

Once it is time to go you will be ushered out through the gate and into a little covered area where you will be told where to sit.

It is here where you will receive your safety briefing and also get your little belt containing a life jacket since you will be flying over water.

The tour also requires you to put on some shoe coverings so that you do not bring anything unwanted into the soil surrounding the falls.

Make sure you put your shoe cover on the right way because otherwise you might end up ripping it much like I did. Oh well.

The helicopter will board up to six passengers which is where I had a problem with the tour.

If you are given one of the two middle seats in the back, you are going to struggle to get any kind of quality photos as your views will be very restricted.

Compared to the people sitting up front, you really have a subpar experience and it’s kind of weird that you are paying the same price that they are.

Even sitting on the end in the backseat where I was it it is a bit tough, too.

For one, you have reflections to contend with which are not a factor on a doors off helicopter tour.

And then there are the people upfront.

Their heads will be in your way and they will no doubt be raising their arms to get shots with their phones or cameras which will further obstruct your view.

You’ll be able to utilize the side window but that requires you to contort your body and it is considerably more difficult to get photos from that angle then if you were up front.

The seat directly behind the pilot is much better since you have a much larger window to work with (the pilot’s seat is pushed forward).

Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure Helicopter Tour
Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure Helicopter Tour

I knew that we had booked a doors off helicopter tour to take after this one so I was not too disappointed.

But if you are looking to get some cool shots with your camera/phone and you get placed in the back row, especially in the middle, you are going to have to work extra hard to get decent shots.

It can actually turn into a pretty frustrating experience.

The other thing that made this difficult is that they had the microphones zip tied so that passengers could not use them.

Typically, on a helicopter tour you can speak to the pilot and ask them things like, “can you turn so that I can get a better view of the falls.”

Unless it presents a major complication, pilots usually happily accommodate your request.

This is very much needed for passengers in the back who are working with very limited views but because the microphones were locked up, there was no way to communicate with the pilot.

Because of this, many people would be better off booking a doors off helicopter tour where they can secure a better view.

The tour

The tour is basically going to take you on a clockwise route around the island.

The first big stop is of course Manawaiopuna Falls which is known as Jurassic Falls .

As you may already know, this is the only helicopter company licensed to approach the falls so close and to land near it which makes this tour special.

In fact, this is why you are paying so much for the tour in the first place.

The pilot will play some Jurassic Park theme music as you approach the falls and it’s a really cool moment although for the people in the back the views are somewhat limited on the approach.

Jurassic Falls helicopter view

You won’t land exactly where the helicopter landed in the movie because that helipad does not exist anymore.

Instead, it’s a very short walk over easy terrain to get to the falls so you don’t have to worry about any kind of crazy hiking or anything.

After you land and get the okay from your pilot to step out, you can remove your life jacket belt and proceed to the falls.

Once the falls is coming to view it’s a really special moment.

In fact, it’s so special that on our tour I witnessed someone propose.

It was a pretty cool moment to witness something like that as I’ve never seen anyone make a surprise proposal in real time and thankfully she said yes.

The drawback was that we had a limited time at the falls.

They had hired an undercover photographer as the other passenger and that meant a good chunk of our time was eaten up by working around the photo session.

While I did feel a little bit rushed when it came to getting my own photos, I pretty much got all the photos I wanted, so it wasn’t a huge deal.

Speaking of photos, you have the opportunity to line up some photographs that will line up directly with the Jurassic Park movie scenes.

Related: Jurassic Park Gates & T-Rex Paddock Hike & Off-Road Guide

Here are the shots you can get:

As the helicopter approaches the falls, you can see where the helipad was located at the base.

As mentioned, this is not there anymore but you can still get an approximate view as you land or takeoff.

When they first land by the falls and Dr. John Hammond steps out of the helicopter you can easily get a direct lineup of that shot.

When they first arrive and the camera is looking up through the electric fence, there’s a glimpse of the upper portion of the falls. While the fence is obviously not there anymore it’s still pretty easy to line up.

When they are leaving in the Jeeps this is right along the path that you’ll be walking.

Of course, you also need to make time to take some selfies.

Note: If you’re wondering about the intro scenes where the helicopter first approaches the coast and zooms through the steep canyon walls, I believe those were shot in Maui and not in Kauai.

After spending about 20 to 25 minutes at the falls, we were ushered back to the helicopter where we would resume the tour.

From this point, we were taken over to Waimea Canyon which is one of the most scenic spots in all of Hawaii and is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

It’s a pretty stunning area and we were lucky enough to go hiking in there a couple of days later where we enjoyed some spectacular canyon views.

Waimea Canyon from helicopter
Waimea Canyon from helicopter
Waimea Canyon from helicopter

From there you’ll be taken along the Nepali coast which is one of the most stunning stretches of coastline in the world.

The full grandeur of this coastline is probably best appreciated farther away from the coast (or perhaps by boat) but you still get some sick aerial views from the helicopter.

During this entire time, your pilot will be playing all sorts of different music which depending on your taste of music may add or detract from the experience (I felt like it mostly added to the experience).

Nepali coast helicopter
Nepali coast helicopter
Nepali coast helicopter
Nepali coast helicopter

You’ll then cover some of the northern coast line near Princeville.

After taking in all that extraordinary scenery you’ll head inland toward the highest point of the island near Mount Waialeale.

It’s very common to have clouds and weather systems around the summit which offer some pretty dramatic scenery from a helicopter.

Prepare to be blown away by sheer cliffs and waterfalls falling from dizzying heights.

At a certain point, you’ll probably just lose track of the number of waterfalls you’ll encounter.

After that, you’ll head back to the airport, so that the total length of your tour is about 80 minutes.

I believe everything above is the standard route but depending on the weather, you could end up doing a slightly different route.

Jurassic Falls FAQ

Can you land at Jurassic Falls on a helicopter tour?

Yes, you can book a helicopter tour that will land at the base of Jurassic Falls.

Can you swim at the base of Jurassic Falls?

No, unfortunately you cannot swim at the bottom of the Jurassic Falls.

Can you hike (or walk) to Jurassic Falls?

No, you must take a helicopter tour to visit Jurassic Falls. Here’s how to book one.

Can you drive to Jurassic Falls?

No, you must take a helicopter tour to visit Jurassic Falls. Here’s how to book one.

Can you do a doors off-helicopter tour to Jurassic Falls?

No, unfortunately doors-off helicopter tours are not offered.

Is the helipad from Jurassic Park still at Jurassic Falls?

The original helipad was dismantled but you can still land pretty close to the base of the falls.

Final word

If you really want to land at the base of Jurassic Falls, this is the only tour in Hawaii that can offer you that experience. So from that perspective, it makes sense to go with the tour.

The problem is that if you get placed in one of the back middle seats you might end up having a pretty frustrating experience with admiring the views and getting photographs.

My personal preference is to do a doors off helicopter tour so that you can get great photographs and video of the stunning scenery with no glares and without dealing with other passengers crammed in a helicopter.

But if you are a diehard Jurassic Park fan, it can be worth dealing with the limited views for the ultimate reward of hanging out at the base of Jurassic Falls.

Jurassic Park Gates & T-Rex Paddock Hike & Off-Road Guide (Kauai, Hawaii)

The island of Kauai in Hawaii is full of locations from the original Jurassic Park movie that you can still explore today. Two of these iconic sites include the Jurassic Park Gates and T-Rex Paddock.

However, accessing these locations is not for everyone and can be quite challenging under certain conditions.

But in this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about getting to these sites including showing you a map with helpful way points and plenty of photos.

What are the Jurassic Park Gates and T-Rex Paddock?

The Jurassic Park Gates and T-Rex Paddock are two filming locations from the classic 1993 film Jurassic Park that you can still visit today.

There are two poles that supposedly mark the site where the Jurassic Park gates were located and there is a clearing by a river where the T-Rex Paddock was filmed. To see both of these locations it requires a 10 mile round-trip journey by foot or off-road vehicle.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Jurassic Park gates filming location
The site where the Jurassic Park gates were located.

Where are the Jurassic Park Gates and T-Rex Paddock?

The Jurassic Park gates and T-Rex Paddock are located in the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve — a remote area near Wailua in Kauai, Hawaii.

You’ll need to venture approximately 5 miles into the jungle on an off-road vehicle (or hike on foot) to access both the Jurassic Park gates and the site of the T-Rex Paddock.

The off-road journey begins near the Keahua Arboretum and you’ll know you’ve arrived when you cross this colorful little bridge.

Related: Jurassic Park Filming Sites in Hawaii Ultimate Guide (Full List)

Bridge at Keahua Arboretum.
Bridge at the Keahua Arboretum.

Side note: the Keahua Arboretum is a really cool spot to check out the rainbow eucalyptus trees which you can see below. I highly recommend (it’s free).

rainbow eucalyptus trees Keahua Arboretum

Getting to the Jurassic Park Gates (hiking and off-roading)

You’ll need to choose if you want to off-road or hike (or a combination of the two) to get to the gates/paddock.

We are avid hikers and so I initially wanted to hike this but due to time constraints we had to switch to off roading. And honestly, I think that is the best call.

From a hiking perspective, the trail did not look super interesting (by Hawaii standards) and there is something that just felt so right about taking a Jeep through this jungle terrain.

It took us about one hour and 45 minutes to complete the entire drive out and back. My husband did all of the driving and while he is not off-roading every week he is a very solid 4×4 driver.

If you don’t have any experience driving off road, this path is doable but you might easily get freaked out by water crossings and a few of the muddy/bumpy sections.

We saw one Jeep simply park before one of the water crossings, presumably because they did not want to risk it.

Also, I would advise you to only do this with a four-wheel-drive vehicle although there are reports of people making it with two wheel drive.

Note: If you have a rental car, you may be personally liable for damage when off-roading so keep that in mind.

To make things easy for yourself, I would recommend downloading the AllTrails app and then using my navigation map with way points which you can see below.

It will tell you where all of the major sites are and also where you will face obstacles along the way such as muddy areas and water crossings.

Note: I did get a little bit of service while we were out there but for the most part it was a pretty weak signal.

Beginning the drive or hike

When you arrive at the Keahua Arboretum, you may see a sign that says the road beyond is “temporally closed.”

This may bum you out to a major degree but don’t lose hope!

This sign was up when we visited but we proceeded anyway because I believe that sign only applies when the yellow gate is closed, which is your first real obstacle.

(The gate is located just a little bit past the sign on the dirt road.)

Sometimes it’s closed for whatever reason (weather?) and if that’s the case, your only option would be to hike in (assuming that is okay).

For that reason, you might want to prioritize this trip towards the beginning of your time in Kauai. That will give you more time to change your date if you need to.

Thankfully, this gate was open.

About half a mile into the drive you’ll come across a bridge crossing the creek.

Take a look at the photo below and it will give you a good indication of what safe water levels look like at this point.

If water is flowing over this bridge, I’d be very careful about the water crossings coming up as they may not be be passable.

Your next obstacle comes about one mile in.

It’s a water crossing that could be impassable after heavy rains.

Remember, this is near Waiʻaleʻale — literally one of the wettest places in the world.

If you’re not experienced with monsoon seasons or flash floods, remember that just because a stream is passable on your way in, that does not mean it will be passable on your way out.

It is gonna take you a good amount of time from this point to hike or drive to the gates and back and it’s very possible that if a storm moved in you would not be able to get back out until the water levels go down.

So just use extreme caution when dealing with weather systems on this little expedition.

Jurassic Park Gates water crossing

I got out and walked across so you can see how deep the water levels were on a good day for a 6’1″ human. (The picture below is facing the direction you’ll see when coming back.)

Jurassic Park Gates water crossing

If you’re hiking you’ll need to remove your shoes or possibly just wear water shoes.

The cold water will probably be clear enough for you to see where you’re stepping which helps but the crossing is filled with large, smooth river rocks which can be tricky to cross. I almost slipped a few times crossing without my trekking pole.

Jurassic Park Gates water crossing

After that crossing you can relax a little bit and enjoy the green scenery but you do have another obstacle coming soon: a large puddle.

This one can be tricky because the water is not clear and it’s harder to tell how deep the hole is.

Jurassic Park Gates water crossing puddle

I got out of the Jeep and poked around this murky and slightly oily water with a trekking pole for hidden underwater potholes.

At that point, I was pretty much mentally prepared to step into a hole and end up waist deep in this gross water but luckily that didn’t happen.

While the water is kinda nasty, there was this little spot with a bunch of lily pads that I thought was mildly interesting.

Anyway, you can see how deep this section got based on the photos below.

It was deep but not that bad.

Jurassic Park Gates water crossing

After this crossing all of your major obstacles are done.

You’ll then come across a fork and make sure you head the correct way (which is to the left).

If you’re using GPS or have Alltrails and have downloaded my route above there is no reason why you should get lost or miss a turn.

It’s actually pretty darn easy to follow.

There will be a few bumpy areas to deal with and it’s these little sections that could be a problem for people with low clearance.

Be ready to take your time on a couple of spots. If you start moving forward and aren’t sure about your route just reverse back and then line it up again.

Jurassic Park Gates bumps in road

At around 3.5 miles in, there is another gate but it doesn’t look like this rusted gate has been used in a very long time so I would not worry about it being closed.

Right at around four miles in you’ll arrive at the famous Jurassic Park gates!

Jurassic Park gates poles
Walking up to the Jurassic Park gates!

Now here is the controversy, which you may or may not have heard about.

Some say the two poles are actually about 200 to 300 feet short from the original Jurassic Park movie entrance gates.

The main argument I have seen is that the road is different from what appeared in the movie.

I don’t know about that though because you would assume production altered the ground based on the fact that they also laid down a track on there.

There’s also the fact that 30 years have gone by and the road could’ve been altered dramatically by natural forces or by man.

People who believe these are the actual Jurassic Park gates question why these poles would be placed here if they weren’t from the original movie site.

Perhaps, years ago some people built them in a slightly misguided attempt to mark the location of the gates?

I tried to look at the backdrop from the Jurassic Park movie to see if I could line up any of the mountains, but it was nearly impossible to do using the scene with the gates closed due to the low-lying clouds.

Jurassic Park gates poles

But there is one shot where you can see beyond the gates and it reveals more details like a waterfall in the background and a specific tree behind the gate.

It also looks like there is a slight bend in the road towards the right which would line up with some of the photos below.

(I believe the palms were placed on site by production.)

Based on all of that, I believe the gates could very well have been located closer to the bend than the two poles currently are.

Assuming the gates are farther down, you can simply check out that view once you pass the poles.

Here’s what that view looks like:

Jurassic Park gates location
Jurassic Park gates location

Regardless of where exactly the gates were, if you drive along or hike along this path you have journeyed through the original Jurassic Park entrance gates which is a really cool feeling and honestly kind of a bucket-list adventure.

Once you have enjoyed your time at the Jurassic Park gates, you have the choice to keep going to the site of where the T-Rex Paddock was shot.

This is where the daytime shots were taken as the Ford Explorer drove past the paddock (all of the night shots when s*** got crazy were done in studio).

The T-Rex Paddock is about a mile farther down the road and I highly recommend that you consider going to that spot because unlike the Jurassic Park gate, we know exactly where that location was filmed.

Beware that the road does get a little rougher once you pass the gates. We definitely had to deal with more muddy spots and more puddles in that section.

While there were a couple of sections that were slightly tricky, everything was still very manageable in the Jeep.

It seemed like there was a lot of gravel or rocks at the bottom of some of these puddles which made it easier for the Jeep to get through.

Still, try to use caution when venturing into the puddles because you may not be able to judge if you are dealing with rocks or mud.

Once you get past about three different sections of bumpy road/puddles, you’ll be very close to the T-Rex Paddock, which was about 4.8 miles from the start of the trail.

You’ll know that you arrived when you see a clearing which may already be where a couple of vehicles are parked.

If you take a look at the scene still from the movie, you can instantly make out the three humps in the background that tower behind the T-Rex Paddock. It’s one of the easier shots to line up.

(In the image below, the peak on the left is not visible in Jurassic Park because of the heavy clouds.)

T-Rex Paddock in Kauai Jurassic Park
Parked at the T-Rex Paddock in Kauai.
T-Rex Paddock filming scene Jurassic Park

It’s a really cool spot for Jurassic Park fans.

The area behind the paddock has a stream running through it which is the North Fork of the Wailua River and actually an incredibly scenic spot.

If you have some snacks with you this would be a great opportunity to relax and enjoy a lite lunch by the flowing water.

The spot is actually near the beginning of the trail to what is known as the Waialeale Blue Hole Falls Trail.

It’s a difficult trail that will require you to get wet and navigate river crossings but the pay off is that you end up at the Weeping Wall with stunning views of all the waterfalls.

If you can start early in the morning and dedicate an entire day, this could be quite the experience.

After that, you need to head out exactly the way you came.

We did not find going downhill to be any more difficult than going uphill and with the added confidence of knowing that we could make it through the water crossings, it was actually a pretty enjoyable and stress-free ride.

I will say that some portions of the road are too narrow to allow someone else to pass.

In several areas it does widen up so that vehicles could pass each other but in some situations you might find yourself in a tight spot.

Luckily, it doesn’t seem like there are a ton of off-roaders that use this path (at least not when we visited).

Final word

This was one of my favorite experiences while in Hawaii. It’s incredibly fun to head deep in to the jungle and while hiking this would be a fun experience, there’s just something about taking a Jeep through this area that feels more fitting for a true Jurassic Park experience.

What to Wear to a Luau in Hawaii (Men & Women)

Are you thinking about going to a luau in Hawaii or are you getting ready for one and not sure what to wear?

The good news is: there is not much to worry about and it’s super easy to wear something appropriate for a luau.

With that said, there are just a couple of considerations you might want to think about in order to make the most of your luau experience (and all of your luau photos).

Below is a guide to consider for both men and women when attending a luau that will have your wardrobe on point when you arrive.

Make sure you don’t miss my two essential tips at the end!

Luau dress code overview

Every luau is a little bit different when it comes to the food, performance, crafts, setting, etc.

But whether you are going to a luau in Oahu, Maui, or any other island in Hawaii, they all seem to have the same thing in common when it comes to creating a very laid-back, festive atmosphere.

Going with that same theme, you can pretty much wear whatever you want to wear and you likely won’t stand out or have any issues.

It’s really all about being comfortable.

So basic vacation attire with a t-shirt and shorts is perfectly acceptable.

With that said, a luau is also a great time to bust out some special attire that will get you more into the Hawaiian aloha spirit and allow you to take some better (and more memorable) photographs.

(A lot of luaus have a special photo spot where you can get your picture taken by a professional photographer for a keepsake so you might want to get a little fixed up for your photo.)

Below, I’ll drop some tips that will help you narrow down your options for your luau wardrobe.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

man fire dancing at luau Hawaii

What to wear to a luau (for men)

Hawaiian shirt / “Aloha” shirt

An “aloha shirt” a.k.a. Hawaiian shirt is probably the number one piece of apparel you want to sport at a luau.

You might feel like a Hawaiian shirt is “too touristy” for you but donning one is a simple and easy way to let loose a little bit and commit to your luau experience.

When we attended our luau in Hawaii, most men were wearing some type of Hawaiian shirt.

The good news is that you can get super creative and bold with these shirts.

A traditional Hawaiian shirt may have some type of floral pattern on it but you can find men’s Hawaiian shirts in all forms.

For example, you can find them designed with a sports team, college, and even destination-specific designs.

Have a favorite movie or favorite pet? I’d be willing to bet you can find a Hawaiian themed shirt just for that.

You can go as bright or as dark as you’d like — it really doesn’t matter.

You can also find men’s Hawaiian shirts everywhere including Amazon, Etsy, Target, Walmart, etc.

You’ll no doubt find some at souvenir shops or even ABC stores in Hawaii but a lot of times those will be lower quality shirts you may not want to get.

Feel free to go as bright and bold as you’d like but my advice would be to pay attention to the type of fabric and fit before you make your purchase.

Personally, I like the really light and somewhat stretchy-fabric Hawaiian shirts which are super comfortable and perfect for a cool and breezy luau setting.

You can also find fitted Hawaiian shirts which are a little bit more stylish but may not be as comfortable as a loose fitting button-down.

Related: Luau Kalamaku Review (Kilohana Plantation, Kauai)

Men’s leis

When you arrive at your luau, there’s a good chance you’ll be leid right as you enter.

My recommendation, which applies to both men and women, is to do some research to see if you will receive a lei and what it might look like.

Just call up the luau ahead of time and ask them if they provide leis and if so what type/color.

This will help you pick an optimal color for your Hawaiian shirt that will allow your lei to really “pop” in photos.

My advice would be to find a shirt color that contrasts really well with the lei. Going with a white-based Hawaiian shirt is usually a good idea because it will contrast so well with purple orchid leis, green leaf leis, black Kukui nut leis, etc.

Some luaus will give flower leis to women and smaller, more discrete leis to men. In our case, we received these thin, shell leis which did not really stand out (but were still pretty cool).

In those cases, when your lei isn’t really going to stick out, you might want to purchase a lei before you arrive at the luau. You can find those thicker shell leis and black leis at a lot of souvenir stores such as ABC stores.

I wouldn’t purchase the silk leis because they honestly don’t look great and chances are you can get a real flower lei at the luau.

However, the shell leis are cheap pretty much anywhere.

We saw quite a few people sporting two leis so this is just a way for you to stand out.

However, I would avoid stacking on lots of necklaces and leis so that you don’t look like those people at graduation ceremonies who just couldn’t help themselves.

Tip: If you are worried about your lei getting in the way during dinner, just pull it back so that it is hanging on your back rather than in front of you.

Men leis Hawaii luau

Shorts or pants

My number one recommendation for men would be to just wear a pair of khaki shorts. These could come in a traditional khaki color, a bright or dark color, or you could even go with white.

I would just choose the color of your shorts based on the color of your Hawaiian shirt.

Have a light colored shirt? Go with dark colored shorts and vice versa.

And if you don’t have any type of khaki shorts, don’t be afraid to get by with board shorts or something similar. Nobody is going to care.

If you want to look a little bit more formal then just go with a pair of khaki pants or white pants.

Just remember, it might be warm at the start of the luau because they typically begin before the sun sets. Pants may not be that comfortable, unless you have a nice breeze in the evening.


Luaus take place mostly in the evening with a large portion taking place after sunset so a hat is often more of a fashion statement than a necessity.

But as just mentioned, the first hour or two of the luau experience could be in the sun and so a hat could be useful.

Wearing the typical baseball cap is perfectly fine at a luau and does not look bad if paired with the right type of shirt.

You could try to get fancy with something like a Tommy Bahama straw hat but that is not necessary and I didn’t really see any dudes in straw hats.

If you don’t go with a hat (or even if you do), sunglasses can really come in handy, too.

Shoes or sandals

You can pretty much wear whatever type of shoe you would like to but some might look better than others at a luau.

A popular choice to go with is some type of sandal.

A leather sandal will probably look the best but you could go with basic flip-flops or perhaps even some type of running/hiking sandal and be just fine.

Some luaus even mention that you can go barefoot but I would not necessarily recommend that unless you are really comfortable with that idea and know the type of setting you are going to.

Luaus may have additional venues to check out like plantation train rides, market areas, etc. Some areas get crowded and there will be a lot of Mai Tais flowing. It’s probably best to have something covering your feet in those cases.

However, if you were going to a luau on the beach and you know that is where you will be located the entire time, the barefoot approach could probably work and makes sense.

What to wear to a luau (for women)

Floral dresses

I’m definitely not an expert on women’s apparel but I did notice women at the luau wearing a lot of the same items.

The most common item I saw was a floral sun dress (some even may have had a muʻumuʻu type of thing going on).

Unlike the men’s Hawaiian shirts that come in all sorts of different designs and patterns, the dresses worn by women were typically floral patterns.

It seemed like both long dresses and shorter (mid-length) dresses were common so it just depends on if you want to be a little bit more conservative or not.

I also saw some women just wearing pants, capris, or shorts, and some were even wearing Hawaiian print shirts. So once again, it really comes down to your personal preference and how much you want to invest in your attire.

My one bit of advice is to not be too revealing with your attire because these are very much family events and some people may not appreciate your outfit if it is too “provocative.”

Also, if you think you might be getting chilly consider bringing a light jacket or perhaps some type of scarf.

Women’s leis

The same advice above re: leis applies here.

You’ll likely receive a flower lei so consider trying to wear something that helps that lei pop in your photos.

Flower in the hair

A popular fashion choice for many women at a luau is to place a flower in the hair, just above the ear (pictured below). It’s a great way to stand out but there is just one major consideration you need to think about: the placement.

If you are taken (married or have a significant other) then you want to place your flowers on the left side of your head and if you are single your flowers go on the right side.

An easy way to remember this is that the flowers should be on the side of your wedding ring if you are married.


Most women I noticed did not have any type of headwear on. If they chose anything it was usually a single flower in the hair (some had more than one).

If you wanted to get really bold you might be thinking about arriving with a flower crown on your head but I don’t think I saw any women wearing those who were not performers so that might be a bit much.

I believe that is more appropriate for special occasions like weddings, etc., so I’d probably avoid wearing one.


High heels don’t seem like an optimal choice considering that some luaus take place in sandy or soft-ground areas. I noticed a lot of women (almost all) wearing sandals and flip-flops during our luau, so that’s probably the way to go.


Try to avoid bringing large purses or large bags with you as it will just make it easier to get around.

Matching as a couple or family?

Some couples or families like to match whenever they head out to a luau.

Personally, the matching look is not for us but you can find Hawaiian outfits that match for both men and women and obviously same sex couples, too.

If all-out matching is a little much for you, you could always do something a little more subdued like complimentary colors with matching patterns.

Two essential items

There are two things that you want to bring with you to your luau so that you don’t have a frustrating experience.

First, make sure that you have sunscreen because the first hour to hour and a half of your luau might be exposed to the sun.

While the temperatures are pretty amazing in Hawaii, direct exposure to the sun for that long can definitely burn some people.

Sunset times in Hawaii usually range from around 5:50 PM to 7:20 PM depending on the time of year.

The second thing you want to bring is bug spray.

There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy a luau while constantly swatting at bugs. Just be sure you spray it away from the crowds or tables.

And finally, if you get cold easy then you might want some type of light jacket or scarf to keep you warm.

Last tip on what to wear

Overall, I would just try to avoid being too gimmicky when dressing for a luau.

You can leave all of the outlandish outfits to the performers and just focus on being comfortable and stylish (if that’s what you’re interested in).

Final word

Unless you are attending some type of special event, there is little to no pressure to dress a certain way when you attend a luau. However, if you want to get a little bit more festive and really stand out in your photos, consider the tips above.

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