Preservation, Paleontology & ‘Pono’: Hawaii’s Kualoa Shares Keys to Success

Kualoa has unparalleled commitment to their land, their employees and their guests. Here’s how.

Kualoa Rainbow
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Even if you have never been to Hawaii, you’ve likely seen the awe-inspiring 4,000-acres of unblemished beauty that is the Kualoa Private Nature Reserve, located on the island of Oahu. The Jurassic Park series brought this lush native landscape to hundreds of millions of viewers, as Kualoa has been the site of filming for over 170 feature Hollywood movies and T.V. shows.

Kualoa is a nature and culture preserve, an education center, a tour operator, a local community organization, a farm and ranch, movie set, and much more with its many branches all united in the purpose of environmental preservation.

Kualoa’s farm and ranch host 600 head of cattle (100% grass-fed, no hormones, antibiotics or steroids), 120 horses, 250 sheep, 200 hogs, and a quarter-million oysters.

Kualoa Horseback ridingAs tour operators, they have a megalithic roster of offerings, such as jungle expedition tours, horseback riding, ATV tours, trolley tours, kayaking, culinary tours, and more. Kualoa even highlights their Jurassic Park connection by offering a tour that takes paleontology enthusiasts and cinephiles alike to iconic filming locations. (Cue the signature Jurassic Park music.) 

Diving deeper into the heart of Kualoa, you’ll find an unparalleled commitment to sacred ancestral values, deep love of the land, and a commitment to bring both to the world in a way that enhances their client’s experience while protecting their lands. “Our guests appreciate our efforts and the educational aspects of all of our guided tours,” says Frank Among, director of sales and marketing for Kualoa. “We are all very fortunate to work in such an awe-inspiring environment and even more fortunate to work for a family-run business that has its priorities straight and preaches doing business in a ‘pono’ way.” (More on “pono” later.)

After working for major corporations for years, Among is grateful to be at Kualoa. As he explains, “We are fortunate that through Kualoa’s success and the Kualoa Ranch Foundation, we have been able to support many great causes and neighbors in our “kaiaulu” or neighborhood. From our own 4H Club, our own Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, to support for our neighboring Ka’a’awa Elementary School with their Jurassic Valley Fun Run, to the State Farm Fair, our certified Blue Zones Healthy eating initiative, our support to coral reef monitoring, our community classes in the Hawaiian language, hula (dance), and so much more, our success has enabled us to give back to the community in many ways.”

Kualoa is a tourism hotspot. But also it is a leading voice in conservation, cultural celebration and producing enriching experiences through tours and activities. Here are three keys to Kualoa’s ongoing success as a destination, operator, and nature preserve that you can employ in your own business.

Follow the “Pono” Way 

Kualoa believes that doing things “pono,” or the right way will enable everything to fall into place. 

Pono means living with a conscious decision to do the right thing in terms of self, others, and the environment. Living pono is Kualoa’s mantra and guiding force that encompasses all they do. It’s a guiding light that empowers Kualoa’s 400+ employees to look at decisions from myriad angles.

Kualoa WaterAn example of how pono plays out is expressed in hourly employee pay. Kualoa minimum pay starts with entry-level positions at $16.50, which is more than $6 per hour above Hawaii’s state minimum wage of $10.10 per hour. Tour guides and other skilled positions start at even higher rates. Kualoa is starting its own preschool to assist employees with daycare and has many other benefits that keep employees happy and in the right frame of mind to give guests the best experience possible. 

“This is an integral part of the responsible and sustainable tourism puzzle, and also allows Kualoa to attract Disney-quality employees, which we strive for,” says Among.

Sustainable Recreation Starts with Traveler Education

Sustainable recreation at Kualoa means managing the guest experience as well as its effects on the ‘aina (land), the natural resources, wildlife, and the fragile native plant life.  

“We teach guests about our three ‘ahupua’a (valleys and land divisions),” says Among. “In old Hawaii, an ‘ahupua’a stretched from the very top of the mountains at the back of a valley … all the way down to the coastline and actually out into the first break of the reef in the ocean. The inter-relationships of how all parts of the land and ocean are affected by each other was evident thousands of years ago to the first Hawaiians. It was understood that exploiting the rivers upstream would have a detrimental effect on the rest of the valley and to the ocean that a stream feeds into.”

When travelers are educated about Kualoa’s delicate ecosystem—particularly during tours—they are more apt to respect it while participating in the many activities the area provides.

Staggering Guests & Managing Tour Size

To Kualoa, part of sustainable recreation means limiting the tour guide-to-guest ratio. For example, there is one guide to every six ATV’s, and one guide to every eight horseback guests. “We could easily buy a hundred more ATV’s if making money was the only focus, but to us, the best possible guest experience means limiting the number of guests on a tour to a manageable number so everyone can enjoy themselves,” says Among.

Additionally, Kualoa strategically staggers tour times to help guests feel as though they are alone out in the valleys, exploring them solo. Despite Kualoa’s many visitors, each person feels valued and experiences the natural surroundings without feeling like they are part of a crowd. Minimized tour size encourages tranquility—a type of peacefulness Kualoa can uniquely provide now and for future generations.

Frank Among

Want to learn more about paleontology cinema, preservation and “pono”? Meet Frank Among at Arival Orlando 2019, held October 28-31 at the Gaylord Palms Resort. Register Now to secure your conference badge!

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