Blissful beaches, lush forests, dramatic mountains…the moment you set foot on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, you will be blown away by the ethereal scenery. Many vacationers comment that they feel as if they’re starring in their own movie. This makes sense, as Kauai’s best views can be seen in several of the most famous scenes from blockbuster films. This picturesque island has also made its way into several TV shows.
Whether you enjoy musicals, action movies, or romance, you’ll find your vacation to Kauai that much more rewarding if you explore the island’s top filming destinations. To help you create your movie buff itinerary, we’ve highlighted a few of the most noteworthy productions that include glimpses of Kauai.
Blue Hawaii: Coco Palms Resort
It may no longer be operating, but Coco Palms is as relevant as ever to lovers of Elvis Presley’s films. The resort was the famed filming site for a beloved scene from Blue Hawaii: this is where Chad Gates (played by Elvis) tied the knot with Male Duval (played by Joan Blackman).
Sadly, the resort suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Decades later, the site is scheduled for auction — but how that land will be used once it’s under new ownership remains to be seen.
South Pacific: Lumahaʻi Beach
The musical South Pacific brought hundreds of cast members to Kauai, where they faced their fair share of challenges for over two months. Chief among these: heavy rains and a tidal wave. This didn’t stop filmmakers from capturing some truly remarkable footage.
Lumahaʻi Beach was featured prominently; fans of the movie may recall Mitzi Gaynor singing “I’m Going to Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair.” To this day, some people refer to Lumahaʻi as Nurse’s Beach. This stretch of sand is also commonly featured on postcards, and, more recently, Instagram pictures.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge
The set for Raiders of the Lost Ark was intended to reflect a Peruvian jungle, but the opening was actually filmed on Kauai. The iconic boulder chase was filmed at the Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge, where the mysterious atmosphere continues to deliver a sense of excitement decades later.
Accessing the Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge is as difficult as ever, but this is exactly what lends it such secluded beauty. Some vacationers have reported success viewing the refuge from the vantage point of the Menehune Fish Pond. Beautiful in and of itself, this hidden gem of a spot is included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Jurassic Park: National Tropical Botanical Garden
Steven Spielberg was clearly fond of Kauai, for, after a successful shoot with Raiders of the Lost Ark, he returned for Jurassic Park. The movie is always a great watch, but it’s especially enjoyable shortly after a trip to Kauai, as many scenes were filmed at top destinations. The island was also used to shoot follow-up films, such as The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World.
One of the most noteworthy filming sites for Jurassic Park? The National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Allerton Garden, where Dr. Alan Grant discovered hatched eggs from a nest. The garden is also home to the gorgeous Moreton Bay fig trees made famous by the Jurassic Park series. These days, garden tours are available, so you can see this cinematic scenery for yourself.
The Descendants: Kipu Kai and Hanalei Bay
Often, Kauai’s diverse scenery is called upon to depict locations such as Peru, Australia, or Vietnam. Some movies, however, take the scenery to a whole new level. This is certainly true of The Descendants, where the location played as important of a role in the end result as movie star George Clooney. Based on a book by a native Kauai resident, the movie (like the book) provides an intimate glimpse at Kauai’s slice of paradise.
A private cattle ranch known as Kipu Kai played a key role in filming for The Descendants. A decade later, this spot can be viewed while taking an ATV tour with one of the multiple adventure companies. Other key scenes from The Descendants were filmed at the gorgeous Hanalei Bay, which the movie’s co-producer referred to as “very raw and mostly untouched.”
Gilligan’s Island: Moloa’a Beach
While the cinematic appearance of Kauai works wonders on the silver screen, the island has also seen its share of screen time in multiple TV shows. The most notable of these is easily Gilligan’s Island, which was filmed in many Hawaiian locations during the 1960s. The very first episode was filmed here, with rumors suggesting that Natalie Schafer only agreed to her role in the show because she was able to score a trip to Hawaii.
During their time in Kauai, the film’s crew stayed at the previously mentioned Coco Palms Resort before spending some time at the Hanalei Plantation Resort. Filming took place at the pristine Moloa’a Beach, which remains a great place for anyone seeking a relatively secluded outing.
Kauai’s many filming sites may be gorgeous in the movies and on TV, but these scenes only offer a small glimpse of this island’s stunning scenery and mystique-filled atmosphere. Set aside some time to relax with a few Kauai-based films before you discover the appeal of the island for yourself.