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Kauai Goes Hollywood

Kauai has a knack for launching iconic Hollywood films

What do Elvis Presley, King Kong, and Indiana Jones have in common?

The answer, movie buffs will tell you, is that all three Hollywood icons made their big-screen splash on Kauai—Hawaii’s world-famous “Island of Discovery.”

Kauai Goes Hollywood
Jurassic Park Falls, Manawaiopuna Falls, Hanapepe Valley

Even amidst a chain of islands renowned for their beauty, Kauai’s natural splendor—rugged, unspoiled and bursting in shades of green—remains unsurpassed. Its idyllic setting has made the island a favorite setting for Hollywood filmmakers. In all, more than 50 box office productions have been shot on Kauai in the past half-century—from “Blue Hawaii” and “King Kong” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Jurassic Park.”


Hollywood’s first venture on Kauai actually came in 1933, when Lois Weber, considered one of the movie industry’s most influential female directors, sailed to the island with Cecil B. DeMille to film White Heat, a provoking story dealing with miscegenation and racism on a sugar plantation. Unfortunately for Miller, critics panned the effort, and White Heat would be her final film.

Seventeen years later, swimming legend Esther Williams came to Kauai to film Pagan Love Song, a musical co-starring Howard Keel.


Since then, Kauai has become a fixture among Hollywood locations. Who can forget Mitzi Gaynor singing “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair” on Lumahai Beach in the all-time classic, South Pacific? Or Elvis Presley marrying co-star Joan Blackman near the Wailua River in Blue Hawaii? Or even Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker and James Caan yukking it up in Honeymoon in Vegas?

Kauai goes Hollywood
Lumahai Beach is where the movie South Pacific was filmed

Other Hollywood blockbusters filmed on Kauai include Uncommon Valor, Throw Momma from the Train, Hook, Outbreak, George of the Jungle, both Jurassic Park sequels and Tears of the Sun. The biggest names in the industry have filmed movies here, including John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Jack Lemmon, Dorothy Lamour, Charleston Heston, Robert Stack, James Garner, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Willis, Kathleen Turner, Billy Crystal, and Jessica Lange.

Kauai has even served as the setting to several small-screen favorites, including “Gilligan’s Island” (the pilot episode), “Fantasy Island” and “Baywatch Hawaii.”