Kauai remains a popular film location
Kauai has been a favorite film location since it stood in for Bali Hai in the 1958 movie version of “South Pacific.” It has been Maui in the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy “Just Go With It” (released this year), and it played the Caribbean in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” the fourth of the Johnny Depp swashbucklers. Sometimes it even plays itself. In “The Descendants,” which is to open next month, a father (George Clooney) takes his children to Kauai after his wife is incapacitated. “Every location is the real place,” says co-producer George Parra. Here’s a guide to movie sites (some on private property), with tips on how to explore them from film location manager Angela Tillson, who has been guiding film scouts around the island for 23 years.
Na Pali coast
What it is: Rugged cliffs in northwest Kauai. Not accessible by car — only by boat, foot or helicopter.
What it starred in: “Hop” (as Easter Island in the opening of this year’s animated live-action movie); “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” (as a mythical island in the not-yet-released “Journey” sequel); “Six Days, Seven Nights” (as Tahiti, 1998); “King Kong” (as Africa in the 1976 film); “Tropic Thunder” (2008, set in Vietnam). “Just Go With It” used aerial shots of the coastline.
How to see it: “Try seeing Na Pali by boat or on a guided kayak tour,” Tillson says. “You don’t want to go on your own unless you’re an experienced kayaker because of the currents; you have to know how to land a kayak on the beach.”
Info: Tillson says there are several good companies that can get you there. (She suggests Googling “Boat tours down Na Pali” for a list.) The cost for seeing Na Pali by boat or sea kayak, based on checks with several supplies, ranged from $139 to $229 before tax (depending on length of tour and what’s included). Kayak tours generally are available from April to early September.
Hanalei Town, North Shore
What it is: Small, charming town in front of Mt. Namahana with waterfalls in the background.
What it starred in: “South Pacific,” “Lilo and Stitch” (2002) and “The Descendants.” In fact, the Tahiti Nui bar (5-5134 Kuhio Highway) plays itself in “Descendants,” and Parra says it’s a great watering hole, popular with locals.
How to see it: It’s west of Princeville across a one-lane bridge. As you arrive in Hanalei Town, you feel as if you’ve traveled back in time.
Info: See Hanalei Town under North Shore on https://www.gohawaii.com/kauai.
Hanalei Bay and Hanalei, Lumahai and Blackpot beaches, North Shore
What it starred in: Hanalei Bay appears in “South Pacific,” “Lilo” and “The Descendants.” “Hanalei Bay is unique just by the enormous size of it, very raw and mostly untouched,” Parra says. Two rental cottages belonging to the Hanalei Land Co. were used as locations in “The Descendants,” and Tillson recommends them for lodging. (Nalu Beach Cottage rents for $750 per night or $5,000 per week, and the Kauikeolani Estate (a historic house previously called the Wilcox Estate) rents for $15,000 a week with a one-week minimum. Hanalei Land Co., (888) 900-1454, https://www.hanaleiland.com.
“South Pacific’s” Nellie Forbush washed that man right outta her hair in nearby Lumahai Beach. Sailors sang “Nothing Like a Dame” at Blackpot Beach near the Hanalei Bay pier (adjacent to the St. Regis).
How to see them: From Hanalei Town, if you stay on Kuhio Highway, the next beach will be Lumahai Beach (a five-minute walk from the road). (Lumahai is unmarked, but you’ll see cars parked along the highway). To get to Blackpot Beach, Hanalei Bay and the pier, you turn right on Aku Road off Kuhio Highway, then go one block and turn right on Weke Road (which parallels Hanalei Bay). The road dead-ends into the parking lot for Blackpot Beach and Hanalei Pier.
St. Regis Hotel, Princeville
What it is: Luxury hotel
What it starred in: Cast and crew of “Just Go With It” and “The Descendants” stayed at the hotel. The latter filmed scenes in the lobby and at the Princeville Fountain, the focal point of the main entrance to the Princeville area.
How to see it: You pass the fountain to enter Princeville, which is about 32 miles northwest of Lihue airport.
Info: St. Regis Princeville, 5520 Ka Haku Road, Princeville; (808) 826-9644, https://www.stregisprinceville.com. Mountain view rooms usually start at $460 a night.
What it is: It’s a narrow family beach off a protected reef with shallow water that seems like a lake when there’s no surf.
What it starred in: “Honeymoon in Vegas” (1992). Tommy Korman (James Caan) showed off his Kauai home on Anini Beach to Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker). Tillson says Anini is great for swimming because it’s protected by a large coral reef.
Info: Anini Beach is four miles east of Princeville off Hawaii Highway 56.
Wailua River, Kapaa
What it is: The Wailua River traverses several ecosystems. You move from forested river banks and tall cliffs to lush green rain forest as you wind upriver. The Fern Grotto is downstream of where movies have been filmed.
What it starred in: Scenes for “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” were shot upriver from the Fern Grotto. Scenes from “Outbreak” (1995) and “Pagan Love Story” (the 1950 Esther Williams musical) were also shot here. Tillson recommends kayaking up the Wailua, Kauai’s only navigable river.
Info: Kayak Kauai rents kayaks and offers guided tours along the Wailua River year-round for $85 (pretax) and down the Na Pali Coast from late April through August for $185 (pretax). (800) 437-3507, https://www.kayakkauai.com.
Coco Palms hotel ruins, Kapaa
What it is: Elvis Presley made Coco Palms famous in “Blue Hawaii” (1961). On Sept. 11, 1992, Hurricane Iniki destroyed it. Steven Spielberg and the cast and crew of the original “Jurassic Park” rode out the hurricane in a ballroom at the Marriott.) Several storm scenes in “JP” are actual footage of Iniki. “Pirates 4" chose this location because “it has the largest coconut grove on Kauai,” says property manager and tour guide Bob Jasper.
Info: Coco Palms Tours, (808) 346-2048.
Waialeale Blue Hole area
What it is: At the base of Mt. Waialeale is a crater known as the Blue Hole. Mt. Waialeale is one of the wettest spots on Earth. Tillson recommends seeing it by helicopter.
What it starred in: The area just above the “Jurassic Park” gate (a leftover prop) was used for “Avatar” actors. They were learning how to walk in the jungle so their movements would appear realistic when they trekked through “Pandora,” the fictional world that was created in James Cameron’s movie.
Info: See helicopter tours below.
Allerton National Tropical Botanical Garden, South Shore
What it is: The Allerton section of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens (which includes the McBride Garden toward the mountain) is the area closest to the ocean.
What it starred in: Dinosaur eggs appeared between the giant roots of the Moreton Bay fig tree in “Jurassic Park.”
Info: (808) 742-2623, https://www.ntbg.org/gardens/allerton.php; a tour costs $45 for adults (13 and older); $20 for those 8-12; visitors must be at least 8 years old. Reservations recommended.
Sites by helicopter
Several locations for “The Descendants” are on private property, including Kauai Ranch, Keipukai (which played Tahiti in “Six Days, Seven Nights” and was also used in “Jurassic Park II: The Lost World”) and the Grove Farm (which was Vietnam in “Tropic Thunder”). Tillson recommends seeing these sites by chopper, along with the Manawaiopuna Falls in the Hanapepe Valley, seen in “Jurassic Park.”
Info: Jack Harter Helicopter Tours, (888) 245-2001, https://www.helicopters-kauai.com. $259 for 60 minutes.
Island Helicopters (the only company that can land at Manawaiopuna Falls, (800) 829-5999, https://www.islandhelicopters.com. Waterfall landing tour starts at $308 ($269 and $39 for fuel for 75 to 85 minutes).
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