Popular Filming Locations in Kauai

Popular Filming Locations in Kauai

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Kauai, the smallest and, arguably, the most beautiful Hawaiian island, has had a strong relationship with Hollywood since decades. Filmmakers’ love affair with Kauai continues to this day as the island offers distinct locations to suit all kinds of scripts.

The first movie shot in Kauai was ‘White Heat’, in 1993. More than Seventy movies and television shows have been filmed on the island since then, making Garden Isle an unrivaled location for filming compared to other tropical locations in the world.

Be it a deserted island type movie, or a sci-fi fantasy one, Kauai has the setting for it. The romantic beaches, imposing mountain ranges, tropical jungles and rugged coastline are too hard to miss for a location scout.

While the landscapes here are unparalleled, Filmmakers are also lured towards Hawaii for the sizeable tax incentive offered for a minimum spend of $200,000 per production. The incentive gained for filming in Kauai and other islands is on a higher side when compared to Oahu.

With this blog post, we will be taking you through locations used for filming five of Hollywood’s highly successful Movies. We derive immense pride from the fact that these movies were shot in Kauai and want to help you explore these locations to relive some of your favourite movie scenes.

1. The Jurassic Park Series

Kauai Filming Location 2

Anyone who has seen Jurassic Park movies cannot help but awe at the locations used for portraying the legendary dinosaur world on screen.

The movies were predominantly shot in Kauai, featuring the NaPali Coast, Allerton Garden on the south shore (discovery of raptor nest), along with other locations from different corners of the island. Visuals of the world famous Napali coast, located on Kauai’s far west to north shore, were used to portray the fictional island ‘Isla Nublar’ when the cast first approaches the island. Manawaiopuna Falls and the densely forested Hanapepe Valley are used in the movie.

The scene where a T-Rex breaks the electric fence was shot in Okalele Valley in Waimea. The Jurassic park gates were constructed near the base of Mount Waialeale, the wettest region on earth.

During the shoot of Jurassic Park, the island was tattered by the powerful ‘Iniki’ hurricane and most of the sets were damaged. Fast forward 25 years, the franchise still continues strong, with technological advances but the same old evergreen location.

2. Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides

Kauai Filming Location 1

Remember the awe-inspiring setting in the movie where captain Jack Sparrow discovers the ‘Santiago’ on his pursuit of the Fountain of Youth?

The scene was filmed at the Honopu Arch, a secluded paradise along the Napali Coast on Kauai’s west to north shore. This 90 feet tall, 124 feet wide Arch connects two beaches and is only accessible via boat (If you’re wondering how Johnny Depp arrived on the set, he came by helicopter.)

The grotto leading to the fountain of youth in the movie is Waikapalae, also located on Kauai’s north shore. The scene where Jack Sparrow is held captive was shot on the grounds of Coco Palms Hotel near Kapaa. This is the same location where Elvis Presley filmed Blue Hawaii in 1961.

3. The Descendants

In 2011, Kauai got a lot of screen space as the island featured in Four movies released that year. One such movie was the Descendants, which garnered 5 Oscar nominations at the 2012 Academy awards.

In the movie, George clooney plays a Hawaiian lawyer and land baron, Matt King, who along with his cousins, is a steward of a large, valuable piece of land. The frame capturing Matt King overlooking the spectacular family owned land along with his two daughters is actually Kipu Ranch, bordered by KipuKai beach and the Kawaikeli point. It was filmed from the Honopu Ridge, a rugged area with steep cliffs, separating Lihue and Poipu area.

To suit the script, the movie was mainly filmed in Oahu and Kauai. Other prominent Kauai locations used in the movie are Lihue airport, Hanalei Bay area, Nalu Beach Cottage and Tahiti Nui Bar.

Owing to the director’s (Alexander Payne) deep bond with Hawaii, the film did an excellent job capturing the local way of life and its essence, especially through its heartwarming Hawaiian music.

4. Tropic Thunder

Back in 2007, this was the largest film production in the island’s history, despite hosting large scale movies like Jurassic Park series and other blockbusters. The satirical action comedy involves an acting crew who are dropped amidst a jungle for the purpose of shooting a Vietnam war movie.

The dense forests in Wailua Falls region served as a perfect setting for portraying Vietnam. Parts of the movie were also shot at Keahua Arboretum, which is home to the famous Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees and The family-friendly Kuilau Ridge Trail. Kauai Ranch and Kipu Ranch were also used for filming. While Kauai Ranch is an exclusive filming location, Kopu Ranch is available for public access.

5. South Pacific

This romantic musical movie filmed in 1958, transformed Kauai into a popular romantic destination. The natural locations featured in the movie still look the same today as they looked back then.

Haena Beach plus Allerton Garden were shown as the ‘Bali Hai’ Island, where most of the action takes place. To be specific, the movie featured the pyramid shaped Mount Makana as the forbidden island of ‘Bali Hai’. Tunnels beach located nearby, was also used for many scenes in ‘South Pacific’.

Lumahai beach is where Mitzi Gaynor washed that man right out of her hair. You can also see the crown jewel of Kauai’s north shore, Hanalei Bay, in the opening sequence of the movie. The sequence was shot at Black Pot beach, at the mouth of Hanalei River.


On your next visit to the Garden Isle, relive some of your favourite movie moments by visiting these locations and seeing them for real. Not all locations are accessible by car, and you’ll have to depend on a helicopter tour or boat tour.

The good part about taking a tour is that you’ll be accompanied by knowledgeable and experienced guides who will enrich your movie knowledge and also share some behind-the-scenes secrets.

If you wish to see the World’s Most Famous (Napali) Coastline, take a look at our Ultimate NaPali Cruise and get a discount of 10% with online booking.

Popular Filming Locations in Kauai
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Popular Filming Locations in Kauai
Kauai, the smallest and, arguably, the most beautiful Hawaiian island, has had a strong relationship with Hollywood since decades. Filmmakers' love affair with Kauai continues to this day as the island offers distinct locations to suit all kinds of scripts.
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Makana Charters
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