• Image about Hawaii
Photo Resource Hawaii/Alamy

It’s seen the likes of dinosaurs, an oversized reptilian monster and numerous epic battles. It’s represented South Korea, Africa — even Purgatory. When it comes to needing a blockbuster setting, Kualoa Ranch on Oahu is Hollywood’s darling.

The script for an episode of Hawaii Five-0 last year called for actor Daniel Dae Kim to gun a dirt bike down a path on scenic Kualoa Ranch on Oahu. There were concerns, of course. Kim had to steer clear of Godzilla’s deep footprint.

“Yeah, we had to be careful,” he says, laughing.

  • Image about Hawaii
Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett in the original Hawaii Five-0. With a few exceptions, it was filmed entirely on location in Hawaii.
Everett Collection
Indeed, the 4,000-acre landscape on the eastern side of the Hawaiian island is seemingly populated by as many familiar movie and television landmarks as palm trees. The privately owned Kualoa Ranch, established in 1850, has become an increasingly popular destination for production companies looking to take advantage of its disparate terrain, from a verdant rain forest to sprawling valleys to sparkling white sand beaches — all situated against the backdrop of soaring cliff faces fronting green mountains. Most recently, the ranch, which is roughly 25 miles from Waikiki, has served as the shooting location for notable television shows such as Lost, Off the Map and the aforementioned Hawaii Five-0, along with movies such as Godzilla, Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates and You, Me and Dupree — just to name a few.

In the pilot episode of Hawaii Five-0, which aired on CBS last year and emerged as a top-rated new show, a flat, grassy stretch of the Kualoa Ranch’s Ka’a’awa Valley was also able to double for Pohang, South Korea, during an explosive opening chase scene that saw actor Alex O’Loughlin, as commander Steve McGarrett, come under attack as his military convoy is transporting an arms dealer.

“We really had to make it feel as if we weren’t in Hawaii in that particular scene — and it worked because of the terrain and everything [that Kualoa Ranch] has to offer,” says Hawaii Five-0 executive producer Peter Lenkov. “It’s very production-friendly. It’s been seen, but I don’t think it’s overexposed because there’s so much there.”

As a star first on Lost and now Hawaii Five-0, Kim, 42, has explored nearly every corner of Kualoa Ranch, either on foot or motorcycle, during his nearly eight years of filming in Hawaii. For the South Korea native who was raised in Easton, Pa., it has been an experience that has affected him as much personally as professionally.

“It’s a place where I’m reminded of the grandeur of nature. You see how majestic the mountains are, how green they are. It truly looks like it’s from a different era,” he says. “It’s no surprise that when [directors] want something of an epic scale, they shoot here. The [way the mountains] are juxtaposed with this incredibly blue ocean, it’s just magical. ... I feel like there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”