Kauai, the charming island known for its spectacular natural beauty and idyllic landscapes, has captured the hearts of filmmakers from around the world. It comes as no surprise that this tropical paradise has served as the backdrop for numerous popular movies, leaving audiences in awe of its breathtaking scenery. From lush green mountains to pristine beaches, Kauai offers a diverse range of locations that have attracted filmmakers looking to create unforgettable cinematic experiences.
One such film that graced the shores of Kauai is the timeless classic Jurassic Park. Released in 1993, this Steven Spielberg masterpiece took advantage of the island’s lush rainforests and towering cliffs to bring the prehistoric world of life.
As you watch the movie, you cannot help but be captivated by the awe-inspiring landscapes that perfectly complement the thrilling storyline. Kauai’s rugged terrain and majestic waterfalls add a sense of adventure and wonder, making it an ideal setting for this iconic film and the blockbuster sequels to follow. Steven Spielberg filmed the opening scenes on the Huleʻia River and Kipu Ranch, just south of Lihue. The original Jurassic Park features breathtaking shots of the Napali Coast and Manawaiopuna Falls in Hanapepe Valley. Jurassic World is set on the fictional Isla Nublar off Costa Rica, but the movie crew used the Mount Wai’ale’ale, Nawiliwili Harbor, Kealia Valley at the old “Valley House” and other Kauai locales for filming. Raiders of the Lost Ark is another Lucas-Spielberg production, filmed on Kauai in 1981 featuring Huleʻia River, Kipu Ranch, Anahola Mountains, and the Napali Coast.
Another notable movie that showcases the beauty of Kauai is the heartwarming tale of The Descendants. Starring George Clooney, this Academy Award-winning film tells the story of a man reconnecting with his family while navigating the challenges of life on the island. Kauai’s serene beaches and tranquil palm trees supply a serene setting for the emotional journey portrayed in the movie. The film beautifully captures the essence of Kauai’s laid-back lifestyle and highlights the islands unique cultural heritage. Hanalei Bay and the Napali Coast are featured heavily in this film, with a glimpse of the impressive Kipu Kai Beach.
The island’s appeal as a filming location extends back into time as the first movie filmed on Kauai, White Heat, dates to 1934. South Pacific was filmed in 1958 at Lumaha’i Beach putting Kauai on the map, setting the way for the world-famous film, Blue Hawaii in 1961. Elvis Presley filmed Blue Hawaii on location at the Lydgate State Park and the now closed Coco Palms Hotel as a backdrop and the settings of, Opaeka’a Falls. In 1965, Elvis also filmed the cool flic, Paradise Hawaiian Style on Kauai, showing off the north shore. The renowned John Wayne, filmed Donovan’s Reef in 1963 on location at Nawiliwili Harbor, Waimea Canyon, Hanamaulu beach and Wailua river. The famed TV Show Fantasy Island aired in 1977, highlighting the majestic Na Pali Coast and the incredible Wailua Waterfall and most widely known set is the home of Ricardo Montalban, at the Allerton Gardens in Lawai Valley.
Kauai has everything on Hollywood’s location checklist: white sand beaches, lush rainforests, magnificent coastlines, stunning waterfalls, breathtaking vistas, clear blue skies, tranquil rivers, and beautiful year-round climate. Disney has taken to Kauai’s world-class destination for film, television, and animating parts of Kauai. In 2020 they built a massive set at Kapaia Reservoir for the movie, Jungle Cruise to make the entire area look like 1916 Brazil. Behind the scenes of Disney’s live-action Castaway Cowboy, filmed in 1974, you will find locals to the Hawaiian Islands as featured actors. Filmed in Mahaulepu and Kilauea, featuring the old natural waterslide and parts of Pila’a in the northeastern end of Kauai.
The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark, Disney filmed at Lawai Valley, while Dinosaur in 2000 and Lilo and Stitch in 2002 were put together by an animation team inspired by Hanapepe Town, Kilauea’s Lighthouse, Waimea Canyon, Anini Beach Park and “Tunnels” beach. In 1998, Mighty Joe Young pictures Kalalau Valley and George of the Jungle features the westside of Kauai at Olokele Valley in 1997.
Kauai is home to the beautiful, iconic Napali Coastline to breathtaking natural vistas, rivers, picturesque ranches and farmland, and small towns seemingly frozen in time. Kauai’s resumé of over sixty blockbuster movies and tv shows, stands alone among the most popular locations of the world. Just six hours from the west coast, it is easy to see why Kauai has served as Hollywood’s tropical back lot since 1934.