Picture-Perfect Movie Locations To Visit on Your Next Trip to Hawaii
With warm trade winds, exotic landscapes, and dramatic sunsets, Hawaii is a dream vacation destination, and for the very same reasons it’s an ideal spot to film a movie, too. The picturesque Hawaiian Islands have been the backdrop for over 250 films, from classics such as From Here to Eternity and Blue Hawaii to more recent blockbusters such as Hunger Games and Jurassic World.
Most of these films use Hawaii’s tropical setting as a stand-in for somewhere else, and many have built sets on Oahu's Kualoa Ranch, Hollywood’s go-to backlot for remote jungle and far-flung paradise scenes. Hawaii’s less developed island Kauai has miles and miles of untouched rugged terrain (roughly only 10% of the island is even explorable by car) that has been the background for more than 50 films, including South Pacific and The Descendants. So pour yourself a Mai Tai, break out a bowl of popcorn, and settle in for our picture-perfect movie tour of Hawaii.
Manawaiopuna Falls, Kauai
The films: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World
Manawaiopuna Falls, or Jurassic Falls as it’s now known after it received the Hollywood treatment, gushes 360 feet down, deep in Kauai’s hidden jungles. So hidden that the only way to view this dinosaur-sized waterfall is hele-style. We recommend taking a Jack Harter Helicopters tour, no doors, for the most heart-racing, wind-in-your-hair, cinematic adventure on the island.
Kualoa Ranch, Oahu
The films: Jurassic World and others
Kualoa Ranch, a family-owned working cattle ranch in Oahu also doubles as Hollywood’s favorite tropical backlot. This 4,000-acre property’s exotic terrain includes rainforest jungles, rugged mountains, sweeping valleys, and white-sand beaches that look, well, straight out of a movie. The ranch is most known for its role as the real-life stand-in for dinosaur-roaming Isla Nubar in the adventure sci-fi films Jurassic Park and Jurassic World. Kualoa Ranch offers a 90-minute vintage bus movie tour where you can see dinosaur-sized clues from a fallen tree to clawed walls left over from the actual movie sets. The tour shows filming locations from other movies and TV shows, including Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates, LOST, and Hawaii-5-0, too.
Hanuama Bay Beach Park, Oahu
The film: Blue Hawaii
If there’s one film that has inspired not just filmmakers, but countless travelers over the decades to visit the island paradise, it’s Blue Hawaii. An iconic image of Hawaii will forever be one of music legend Elvis Presley donning a Hawaiian shirt and lei and crooning with a ukulele in hand. Hanuama Bay State Park, now a popular snorkeling spot for tourists, rose to cinematic fame in the 1960s after it made its appearance in this celebrated film.
Coco Palms Hotel, Kauai
The films: Blue Hawaii and South Pacific
In its heyday, this legendary hotel on the edge of a coconut grove in Kauai was frequented by Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Elvis Presley, and used as a backdrop in classics such as South Pacific and Blue Hawaii and the more recent Pirates of the Caribbean. The once grand Coco Palms Hotel is now abandoned after it was destroyed in 1992 after Hurricane Iniki. There are plans to rebuild the depilated hotel and you can taking a walking tour with Bob Jasper to learn the lore about the iconic 50-acre property.
The film: The Descendants
We can’t decide which is dreamier—watching George Clooney or Kauai’s rugged beaches on screen for two hours in The Descendants. Tahiti Nui, a genuine tiki bar and local hangout in the sleepy town of Hanalei, is just as famous for its mouth-watering Mai Tais and it is for its scenes in the Oscar-winning film. Feel like a celebrity for a night and book at night where Clooney and the rest of the cast and crew stayed at St. Regis Princeville, a five-star super luxe hotel sitting on the breathtaking Hanalei Bay.
Halona Beach Cove, Oahu
The film: From Here to Eternity
One of the most unforgettable beach scenes in film history was shot in Oahu’s Halona Beach Cove. The famous kissing scene in 1953’s From Here to Eternity heats up the screen with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr‘s roll in in the crashing waves. This secluded beach is a rocky, somewhat steep hike down from the Halona Blowhole. We suggest couples that want to reenact the amorous scene do so with caution; the cove has strong currents and dangerous rocks.
North Shore, Oahu
The film: Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The second installment in the Hunger Games trilogy used the banyan tree forests and remote beaches on Oahu’s North Shore to serve as the film’s otherworldly scenery. The battle-to-the-death scenes in Hunger Games: Catching Fire were filmed on the secluded Kawela Bay, near Turtle Bay Resort. This 880-acre resort on the northernmost tip of the North Shore is no stranger to Hollywood—Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed here and LOST episodes were shot in the banyan jungles surrounding the resort.
Windward Coast, Oahu
The film: 50 First Dates
While a lot of movies filmed in Hawaii use the island’s lush landscapes as a stand-in for somewhere else, the Aloha State, and all of its homegrown charm, is one of the main characters in 50 First Dates. The film shows an Oahu that is rarely depicted—no high-rise hotels, but miles of rural countryside. A world away from Waikiki, Kane’ohe Bay on the Windward Coast is a backdrop for a few scenes, as are the pineapple fields of the Dole Plantation. On the Kualoa Ranch Movie Tour you also can see the still-standing set for Hukilau Café, where Drey Barrymore and Adam Sandler’s character meet, again and again.
Huleia River, Kauai
The film: Raiders of the Lost Ark
You’ll feel like an intrepid Indiana Jones when exploring the far-flung and undeveloped island of Kauai (locals want to keep it that way so much that no building can be built that’s taller than a palm tree). Take a kayak tour of Huleia River or an ATV tour through Kipu Ranch, a 3,000-acre working cattle ranch, to see where the temple scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark were filmed.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, Oahu
The film: Godzilla
In 2014’s Godzilla, the King of Monsters demolished the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort’s iconic rainbow tower. The resort’s 35-story mosaic-tiled tower is a well-known landmark on Waikiki Beach and a welcome sign for those arriving by jet to Honolulu or sailing by via boat. The hotel also served as a backdrop in the Elvis Presley classic Blue Hawaii in 1961.
The film: Point Break 2
Point Break 2 (set for release in December) shot surfing stunts at Jaws, Maui’s legendary big wave surf spot that creates monster waves up to 70 feet high. The original 1991 cult classic filmed surf sequences on Oahu’s surf mecca—the North Shore. During the winter months of November to February, you can watch the pros tear up massive swells at these world famous surf spots: Pipeline Beach, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay. Come summertime, the waves subside and you’ll be able to swim and snorkel in the calm glassy Waimea Bay that just months before had swells up to 30-plus feet.