Over 80 years ago, Hollywood first set foot on the island of Kauai and discovered that its beauty was fit for the big screen. Since then, Kauai served as the backdrop for many movies that turned out to be blockbuster hits all over the world.
One incredibly fun activity to do on the island is to go around and see these movie locations for yourself. Visitors have had an amusing time visiting these spots and recreating famous movie scenes!
If that sounds like your kind of fun, here are 7 of the many movie locations on the island. Carry this list with you on your next trip to Kauai and you’re sure to have a scenic adventure ahead.
Seen in Blue Hawaii (1961)
The classic romantic comedy film starring Elvis Presley was filmed around the Wailua River in 1961. Lydgate Park and the now-closed Coco Palms Resort served as the film’s major sets, but it also showcased Kauai’s sparkling blue waters and scenic routes.
The tranquil Wailua River is Kauai’s largest and longest navigable river in Hawaii. To get there, drive towards Kauai’s East Side. You may want to stop by the various sacred landmarks along the way, including heiau (temples), historical sites, Opaekaa Falls, and the Keahua Arboretum.
Seen in Lilo and Stitch (2002)
The adventures of Lilo and Stitch didn’t really require filming, but its animation team has shared that the small towns of Hanapepe and Kilauea inspired the movie. A particular spot that appears in the animated film is the Kilauea Lighthouse, where Lilo takes Stitch for some sightseeing.
The lighthouse is an impressive 52-foot structure situated on a rocky area above the Pacific Ocean. To experience the breathtaking view the lighthouse offers, drive north on Kuhio Highway to the town of Kilauea. As the area also serves as a bird sanctuary and wildlife refuge, it will be hard to miss when you get to Kilauea.
Na Pali Coast
Seen in Jurassic Park (1993)
The original Jurassic Park features gorgeous shots of the world-famous Na Pali Coast. With towering sea cliffs, narrow valleys, and cascading waterfalls, the coast makes a splendid fictional playground for enormous dinosaurs.
There are many ways to explore the Na Pali Coast, but the safest access and best views are found by sea or by air. On a Na Pali Coast boat tour, you’ll get to hop on a grand catamaran and cruise through the area’s emerald waters. If you’re feeling more adventurous, raft tours are also available for different group sizes.
If you have the budget, a helicopter tour over Na Pali is also highly recommended. An aerial view of the area will give you front-row seats to scenic areas like the Manaiwaiopuna Falls, which was a major backdrop in Jurassic Park.
Seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Steven Spielberg clearly loves Kauai, as his Indiana Jones adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark features yet another gem on the island. The film opens in Anahola Mountain, a rounded, charming structure located on the northeast coast of Kauai.
Anahola Mountain also made a cameo in Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii. It is part of Anahola Beach Park, which is frequented mostly by locals. It’s a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and bodyboarding.
To get a glimpse of the mountain, turn towards the ocean on Anahola Road, 3 miles north of Mile Marker 13. It’s worth noting that some locals refer to the area as “Coconut Coast”, so you don’t get confused when you ask for directions to the place.
Seen in The Descendants (2011)
Kauai remains an ideal movie backdrop even in the 2000s. In the American drama film, The Descendants, Hanalei Bay provided the perfect backdrop for the parcel of paradise given to the story’s protagonist.
Perfect for a summer shoot, Hanalei Bay consists of nearly two miles of beach surrounded by mountains. Its calm and clear waters make it an excellent spot for stand up paddleboarding, swimming, and strolling on white-sand shores.
You can either drive to Hanalei Bay or take any of the bus routes that pass it. The closest bus station is Hanalei Neighborhood Center where the Lihue and Hanalei Mainline make stops. If you’re driving, Hanalei Bay will be an easy hour and a half drive from the town of Poipu.
Seen in Lord of the Flies (1990)
Lovers of the William Golding classic, Lord of the Flies, will recognize Ke’e Beach as the unmistakable island in the novel’s film adaptation released in 1990. Much of the film’s beach scenes were shot at Ke’e Beach, an idyllic sandy island beach protected by a reef making it an ideal location for snorkeling and swimming.
Ke’e Beach is also the beginning of the Napali Coast and the Kalalau trail that leads to Hanakapiai and Kalalau Beach. This beautiful spot is the perfect place to enjoy a movie-like sunset. The waters are calm and clear during the summer months, while the harsh winters bring about dangerous conditions such as high surf and strong currents.
The iconic Ke’e Beach has seen many visitors over the years, to reduce overcrowding the place now requires a reservation for parking or the island’s shuttle van service. When trying to access the beach, travellers must secure a reservation weeks in advance.
Seen in King Kong (1976)
The 1976 remake of the famed American monster movie, King Kong, was also set on an island. As the film is initially set in a luscious island teeming with life, the filmmakers agreed that there was no better location than Kauai’s Kalalau Valley.
The Kalalau Valley is located on the northwest side of the island of Kauai and offers a picturesque view of the beautiful island landscape. This tucked away location offers a breathtaking experience for travelers that are willing to partake in the arduous trail, an experience that is well worth the journey.
The only way to access the valley is either by boat or hiking the 11-mile Kalalau trail – there are no roads or airstrips here and only government helicopters are authorized to land. Throughout the year, the high surf usually prevents boats from accessing the shore, so a traveler’s best bet is to access the valley by foot.
Kauai is not only a beach lover’s haven – avid movie fans are also sure to have an interesting time on the island. If you’d like to experience these places like they’re seen in the movies, we recommend visiting Kauai on an off-peak season, so you can take as much time and space as you need.