So we’ve been in Hawaii for about a week, traipsing around Oahu to literally every corner of this island. Tomorrow we’re heading for Maui, and in a week we start the journey home.
Oahu is great, and I’ll try to put together a post with more details on what we’ve been up to while we’re on Maui, where we should have a little more down time. This post is going to be dedicated to talking about a sidequest I had when coming here.
Aside from my primary mission of finally completing my 50-state journey, my secondary mission for Oahu was to partake in another of my travel hobbies… namely to visit places from favorite movies or TV shows. My first entries on this blog were about our adventures across New Zealand, visiting multiple Lord of the Rings film locations, and specifically one quest to recreate one of my favorite internet memes of all time.
On this trip I wanted to try and find as many LOST locations as I could get away with, without my family abandoning me in a subterranean hatch. We didn’t get to all of them, so this isn’t a comprehensive list, but I wanted to talk a bit about each location and some of the other stuff to do there. Most importantly, like with my various Lord of the Rings quests, it’s important to note if it’s worth going on its own merits.
1. The plane crash site – aka the famous “LOST beach” (Mokulē‘ia Beach)
This was the first place we visited and probably the nicest (although not my personal favorite). Mokulēʻia Beach Park is really really easy to get to. It’s right across from Dillingham Airfield, which is where they used to keep a bunch of props from the show, including the plane wreckage. That’s long gone now though. One thing to note, I’m pretty sure the Google Maps location labeled “Lost Survivors Beach Camp” is a little off. You can see the picture of the place I took – that’s about a quarter of a mile WEST of that marker. When I got out of the car at that marker initially, I couldn’t get a good view of the beach because a portion of the coast line sticks out a bit and blocks your view. In any case, this was a beautiful beach, just like on the show, when I used to watch it and wish I could be there without the smoke monster and the Others to terrorize me… well here it is! Wonderful beach to spend some time at, and way less crowded than nearly every other beach in Oahu we visited. One thing to note – the beach is definitely rocky so bring water shoes if you’re planning to go into the water.
2. The “Others” camp – aka Dharmaville (YMCA Camp Erdman)
Ok so this is just a YMCA camp that’s right down the road from the plane crash beach. I didn’t take pictures or go in. I really didn’t think it was right to disturb kids and workers to get a silly picture of a show that hasn’t been on the air for 10 years. But you can see it all right from the road, and possibly from the beach if you walk out far enough. It was cool! But please, leave them kids alone.
3. The bamboo forest where Jack wakes up and [redacted for spoilers] (Lulumahu Trail, off the Pali highway)
This was definitely my favorite location. I’ve always loved bamboo forests… and let’s face it the very best scene in LOST is the very first one. Jack wakes up in a jungle, the bamboo is blowing above him in the wind, there’s a tennis shoe, a dog, that crazy eerie music plays… it’s all just SO WEIRD. And they spent the next 6 seasons basically unfurling from this moment (with mixed results). To this day, anytime I’m in a bamboo forest I can’t help but looking up at the sky through them, but it’s never like this. The wind was blowing too (as it always does around here) and the bamboo shoots were kind of clanging into each other – it was really moody. It was also really quiet, not a lot of people here. Also very easy to walk into the forest itself, and really immerse yourself. Just be careful because it’s really thick and easy to get lost (haha) if you go more than a few steps.
One thing to keep in mind – the entrance to the location is actually not the entrance to the trail itself (which is carved through the forest and very wide/covered with gravel). Rather, you’re going to want to go through the hunter’s entrance (there is a sign about in the middle of the parking area, to the left of the gate). Take a right at the first fork and you’ll be in same spot I was. You can even continue on through and eventually you’ll hit the main trail to a waterfall hike. We didn’t have time to do the hike, but it seemed easy enough and the pictures I’ve seen look nice. When you’re done you can get back on the Pali highway and continue to the next location (below) – but don’t forget to stop at the Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout for some truly spectacular views. It’s a $7 charge to park there, but you can probably get away without paying if you’re going to just be there for a few minutes. Still, your money goes towards maintaining the site, and when you see how amazing it is you’ll feel like it was worth the money anyway.
Anyway, this place was fantastic and ultra-easy to get to.
4. The temple where Jin marries Sun (the Byodo-In Temple in Ahuimanu)
We went to this place right after the bamboo forest, as they’re not very far from one another and the Byodo-In temple was really on the way to our next stop, Kualoa Ranch. This is a real Buddhist temple, that’s a replica of the original, much older Byodo-In Temple in Japan. I never really cared much for the Jin/Sun relationship, and how that storyline ended was really terrible and indicative of the plethora of issues with Season 6. Having said that, this location is really a must-see for anyone on Oahu, even if the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42, mean nothing to you. Also, a Japanese temple, in Hawaii, that’s actually supposed to be Korea? Hollywood magic, baby! I highly recommend visiting here. It’s a beautiful building in an absolutely gorgeous valley, nearly surrounded by lush green cliffs. And visitors are encouraged to pull back a wooden log and use it to ring a 3-ton bon-sho bell when entering – awesome awesome awesome unique experience. Parking is very limited, and it does cost $5 per person to enter. But this is a no-brainer whether you’re into LOST or not.
5. Hurley’s golf course, The Tempest, The Pearl (I think??), and countless other locations (Kualoa Ranch)
This was kind of the big daddy of them all. Kualoa Ranch was used as film location for countless movies, including Jurassic Park, the Jumanji reboot, Kong: Skull Island, and loads of others. For LOST fans, there are tons of exterior areas that will take you directly to The “Eyeland” even if you can’t exactly place where you know them from. And because it’s a ranch, it’s pretty empty, except for you and your fellow tour-mates. You have to pay to take the tour if you want to get up close and personal with Hurley’s golf course or The Tempest. For me the highlight was The Tempest. Aside from being a cool looking location, this was a real World War 2 bunker that they let us wander around inside. This is very much my kind of thing. They had World War 2 stuff, and information/exhibits on what they did at this place during the war. They also had lots of movie props and stuff from LOST, including the submarine, a polar bear replica, the blast door map, and my favorite part of the show – the computer from the hatch!
The tour itself was pretty cool, although I didn’t care much about most of the movies that had been filmed there. Still, seeing “Jurassic Valley” in person was pretty cool. You could very easily imagine a T-rex come crashing through some trees and ripping through a Gallimimus at any moment. And they left a bunch of the props from Kong: Skull Island (including the ah, skull) and Jurassic World there so you can walk amongst some giant fake bones. It was really cool. Not cheap at all, and the tour was not very long.
Also for LOST fans, they don’t talk a whole lot about the show since, you know, it’s been off the air for a while and a lot of people are still mad about how it ended. But like our trip to Poolburn Dam (aka Rohan) in the Ida Valley, or Mt. Sunday (aka Edoras) this was about as immersive as you could get if you wanted to feel like you were one of the castaways. And the other movie and WWII stuff is pretty cool too! But again, it’s not cheap, and if you’re purely going for LOST stuff, it might be tough to justify the cost.
6. The crazy rock area where Desmond kills Kelvin and Jack/Locke/Man In Black have their final confrontation (Lanai Lookout)
Another very easy location to get to, you can feel free to relive the pivotal moment where Desmond, neglecting his number punching duties, accidentally brings down Oceanic 815. Just try not to kill anyone while doing it. No seriously, the rocks are sharp and slippery, and people have been seriously injured when they’ve gone places they weren’t supposed to go. It’s also where Jack and Locke (but not really Locke) have their big fight as The Island disintegrates around them. The Desmond/hatch lore stuff was my favorite part of the show so this was pretty cool. It’s also a really unique area that’s ALSO close to the Halona blowhole, which spouts up water from the ocean like a geyser every few minutes. Pretty cool – not as crazy as some other blowholes I’ve seen – but it’s literally right off the road. And there are lots of other great viewpoints nearby like Makapu’u Point Lookout. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can head down to the Spitting Cave overlook, which is more like Lanai Lookout, but higher, more secluded, and quite a bit more dangerous. I’m pretty sure they filmed more LOST scenes at some of these other areas, but I’m not exactly sure which ones. The point is the atmosphere and environment is very immersive, especially if you can have the place to your own (which you probably can at Spitting Cave, but not the others). Bonus tip – our favorite beach we went to on Oahu (nothing to do with LOST) was at Kailua Beach, just a short trip up the road from this area.
7. A whole bunch of interior scenes including Jin and Sun’s apartment (Ilikai Hotel)
Amazingly, the very hotel I’m staying at this week was the filming location for a whole bunch of interior scenes. It was also featured in the opening credits to Hawaii Five-O and a bunch of other Hawaii stuff. I actually did not know this until I started looking things up for this very blog post. The hotel is fine and all, it’s a pretty good value for what you get but uh, unless you’re really into hallways, you’re not going to recognize much here.
Anyway that’s pretty much it! LOST had a pretty big impact on me when it was on TV. It was on during a time in my life where I was a little bit lost myself, and the concept of these flawed, emotionally damaged characters getting a tabula rasa (clean slate) really resonated with me. My friends and I used to watch episodes together and then hang out for an hour discussing/debating what we had just seen. I used to lurk (and occasionally post) on The Fuselage, spending hours and hours going deep into various fan theories about what was really going on. It was around this time that I decided to effectively blow up my life and wipe own slate clean after leaving a job I hated for 10 years and going back to college. In fact, on my first adventure trip after I rebooted my own life, I went to South America alone in search of similar scenery to what I had seen on the show. And aside from all the weirdness of the Island and all its lore – LOST really captured the strange, disorienting experience of long distance air travel, and how everything about it just feels off. Like anytime I get on a plane, I kind of wouldn’t be surprised to end up transported to some magic mystery island instead of my destination.
Going back now and catching up on the iconic scenes from these locations really took me back to that part of my life, when I was frequently alone and going on epic journeys by myself. I’ve written before about how part of me can occasionally miss that freedom, but honestly it was not a great time in my life. Standing in these locations with my dad, and Ariel, and our amazing son Jacob, was really a juxtapositional moment for me. I’m never going back to that, unlike the Oceanic Six, who couldn’t escape the Island’s hold on them, or their own personal baggage.
Reliving these moments by visiting these locations, was really like reliving a part of my life that’s long gone at this point. There’s a bit of catharsis in that, that I wasn’t expecting, via a TV show I haven’t thought much about over the past 12 years or so, except for when ranting about the ending. Going to a place that brought me back to thinking about these broken characters really crystalized for me how LITTLE I have in common with them anymore at this stage in my life – and that’s a very good thing.
I just wish the showrunners had come up with a a satisfying conclusion to THEIR story, as I had for that period of my life.
But that’s the way it went.
Despite my feelings on the way they ended things, I still get chills when I hear the the theme song, and will forever look up at the sky when I’m in the middle of a bamboo forest. Like the show, that part of my life is a distant memory though. Like the events of the show (for the characters), that part of my life happened, I went through it, and occasionally something will mentally transport me back to it. But now it’s gone and I’ve moved on.
And that’s the way it should be.