Were you surprised to find out that the latest movie critics’ favorite The Power of the Dog was filmed in New Zealand while perfectly depicting the secluded mountains of Montana?
Well, that happens all the time – filmmakers are masters of selling one place for another. And Hawaii is no different.
Whenever Hollywood folks need an exotic location, Hawaii’s Kauai is where they turn to for the perfect sets. And your cinephilic world will probably shatter when you find out which movies and TV shows had Kauai as their background set and, in some cases, a character of its own.
A Long-Lasting Love Story: Top Movies and TV Shows Filmed in Kauai
Hollywood’s love affair with Kauai has withstood the test of time — the very first movie ever shot in Kauai was filmed back in 1934. White Heat, a somewhat questionable and 6.6 IMDB-rated melodrama, paved the path to Kauai for Hollywood filmmakers.
As Joey from Friends once said: “What’s not to like?”. Perfect weather all-year-round — check; picturesque ambiance with your cliffs, red canyons, blue waters, and powerful waterfalls — check; and exotic feel and touch that translates through the screen — check.
Kauai hosted the filming of over 70 films and TV shows since then, and while not all of them were top-notch, these 10 you’ve definitely watched and enjoyed.
1. Jurassic Park (1993)
The very first installment within the Jurassic franchise actually took place in Kauai, featuring mesmerizing views of the Napali Coast and Manawaiopuna Falls.
Fun fact: During filming, Hurricane Iniki passed directly over Kauai, costing a day of shooting. Several of the storm scenes from the movie are of actual footage shot during the hurricane.
2. Jurassic World (2015)
The more recent Jurassic World also went back to the original set that perfectly depicted the fictional Isla Nublar. Rumor has it, film producers were actively hiring Kauai locales for some of the film scenes.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
With no actual pirates in view, you can feel safe traveling to Kauai. But make sure to visit the exotic estate at Allerton Garden or go up to the caves at Waikapala’e — these two locations can be spotted in the movie more than once.
4. The Descendants (2011)
Imagine strolling through the Napali Coast and bumping into George Clooney. That could totally happen back in 2010 when the Hollywood comedy-drama The Descendants was being filmed.
5. Avatar (2009)
Everything you need to know is that Avatar’s non-CGI scenes were filmed in Kauai. Breathtaking!
6. Tropic Thunder (2008)
This 2008 action-comedy featuring an ensemble cast that included Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, and Jack Black was almost entirely filmed in Kauai. So if you want a closeup of what you might see on the island, this movie would be a must-watch.
7. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
We know it’s an animated feature film, but just imagine — the tiny town of Hanapepe and the North Shore’s Kilauea Lighthouse served as the inspiration for everyone’s favorite cartoon.
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
It’s a quality stamp when one of Hollywood’s big masters Steven Spielberg picks your location for his film set. Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed in multiple locations, including Hawaii.
Fun fact: The Paramount logo dissolving into a natural mountain at the start of the movie was an improvisation done by Spielberg based on his own childhood habit of doing the same while making films. The mountain is Kalalea Mountain in Kauai.
9. King Kong (1976)
Kauai was also home to the oldie but goldie King Kong, the classical 1976 edition with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges.
10. Fast & the Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Not so long ago, Kauai saw Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham among its guests — all to create a perfect ambiance for their 2019 action-comedy.
Over to You
With so many popular movies having Kauai as their background set, you may feel like you’ve already seen it all and almost experienced the visit to the island yourself. Yes, filmmakers are that good.
But don’t fall for that deceitful feeling. Kauai is a place you should see for yourself – because movie folks don’t even translate half the precious sights on-screen, and every single angle (don’t confuse with camera angles) of Kauai is worth a watch.
Our post on 30+ things to do when you’re in Kauai will help guide your trip – so you never miss a thing when you’re in Kauai. And maybe when you spot someone looking suspiciously similar to George Clooney on the local market, chances are, it’s actually him!
Hollywood’s Love Affair: Movies and TV Shows Filmed in Kauai [Infographic]