Guide to Movies Filmed in Kauai
By Viator, July 2015
In more modern times, classic titles such as Jurassic Park, The Descendants, and Blue Hawaii all feature scenes from the island of Kauai. For those who want to experience the beauty of the famous Hollywood backdrops, there are a number of Kauai filming tours which can place you in the scenes of some of your favorite films.
In the meantime, the following is a brief guide to movies filmed in Kauai.
Even though Kauai was the site of at least 15 movies prior to Blue Hawaii, this 1961 generational-classic largely put Kauai on the national radar. Largely shot along the “Coconut Coast”, many of the east-side locations are accessible today at places such as the Wailua River and Opaeka’a Falls, although the iconic Coco Palms hotel was destroyed in Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
Perhaps the most famous of all the movies shot on Kauai, viewers of Jurassic Park seem to love the tropical setting nearly as much as the raptors and dinosaurs. While the film was shot across various locations in Hawaii, some of the most recognizable scenes were filmed on Kauai at areas such as Manawaiopuna Falls and the Olokele Valley—both of which are only accessible as part of a helicopter or air tour.
Seeing as the movie is set on Kauai, it should come as little surprise that much of the movie was filmed on location. Nevertheless, many of the locations used for The Descendants are on private property only accessible by a tour. At Kipu Kai Beach—a remote stretch of shoreline on the southeastern coast—tours can bring you to this rugged outpost that was also used in blockbuster hits such as Hook, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Six Days/Seven Nights. In addition to Kipu Kai, there are filming locations on the North Shore which are much more accessible such as Tahiti Nui restaurant and the St. Regis Princeville Resort.
Another movie with a Kauai-themed storyline, Soul Surfer follows the true story of Kauai surfer Bethany Hamilton who loses her arm in a terrifying shark attack. While Hamilton is a native of the North Shore of Kauai, much of the film was actually shot on the neighboring North Shore of Oahu. Nevertheless, a few scenes were shot at Kauai locations such as Tunnels beach, Hanalei Pier, and the Hanakapiai section of the Kalalau Trail.
Even though Kauai is often used to portray a tropical paradise, it’s been used in a few films to double as Southeast Asia. In the 1983 film Uncommon Valor, Hanalei Valley was used to depict the rice fields of Vietnam, while Lumahai Valley on a remote part of the North Shore was used to film a Laotian prisoner of war camp.
Finally, even films which take place on a mythical planet have been shot in part on the island of Kauai. Parts of the blockbuster film Avatar were shot inside of the Keahua Arboretum, which is located on the island’s lush eastern shore in the area of the Wailua River.
While many of the filming locations on Kauai have been recycled and used in numerous different films, there are still a handful which are completely unique to a single scene of a movie. Even though you could technically set out on your own and try to pinpoint the exact camera angle, the best option is to take a tour of Kauai filming locations to let those with access to restricted areas place you in the scenes of many of your favorite films.