Some Kauai tour operators offer excursions to iconic movie production sites. // © 2013 Island Helicopters
The blockbuster “Jurassic Park” was filmed on Kauai 20 years ago, but fans still flock to the island today to see where the cinematic action took place, either by booking movie-specific tours or venturing out on their own.
“People like to photograph themselves in the same location that they saw on the big screen,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau (KVB). “We see women taking pictures at Lumahai Beach as they pretend to ‘wash that man right out of their hair,’ just like Mitzi Gaynor did in the movie ‘South Pacific’ in 1958.”
Underscoring the link between movies and tourism on the island, KVB’s current visitor survey asks travelers if Kauai-filmed movies make them more interested in checking out the destination for themselves. The results: One out of every five respondents says yes.
While many Kauai tour operators point out movie locations to guests in passing, three companies present excursions that focus specifically on taking visitors to production sites.
Island Helicopters’ Jurassic Falls tour is highlighted by a landing at Manawaiopuna Falls, immediately recognizable from “Jurassic Park.” There, participants can snap photos of the 400-foot cascade that played a prominent role in the Steven Spielberg flick.
In addition, two different outings — Roberts Hawaii’s Kauai Movie Tour and Polynesian Adventure Tours’ Kauai Movie Adventure — offer six-hour van trips to various filming sites. Clients will watch clips of movies and television shows as they visit the production locations in real life, and guides pepper the experience with behind-the-scenes stories. The Roberts itinerary includes lunch at Tahiti Nui, a longtime north shore restaurant and bar, where actors George Clooney and Beau Bridges appeared in a scene from “The Descendants.”
Clients who prefer to seek out filming sites on their own can drive their rental cars to dozens of places and stand in the same spots they saw on-screen. As they leave Lihue Airport, one look at the airport terminal brings up memories of “Honeymoon in Vegas,” featuring James Caan and Sarah Jessica Parker.
To the south, clients can visit Poipu Beach, which was transformed into a remote South Pacific Island in “Lt. Robin Crusoe” starring Dick Van Dyke. Also on the south shore, people who sign up for a tour of Allerton Garden in the Lawai Valley can see the sprawling Moreton Bay fig trees where dinosaur eggs were discovered in “Jurassic Park.”
A drive west leads to Hanapepe, which doubled as an Australian sugar plantation town in the made-for- television miniseries “The Thorn Birds” with Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward.
On their way north, visitors can easily find Wailua Falls, showcased during the opening credits of the television show, “Fantasy Island.” Gazing out over the Wailua River conjures up scenes from Dustin Hoffman’s movie “Outbreak,” where Kauai stood in for Africa.
Although currently shuttered, the landmark east coast hotel Coco Palms remains steeped in celluloid history, gaining fame from its exposure in Elvis Presley’s 1961 film, “Blue Hawaii.” Movie mavens can scout out additional “Blue Hawaii” filming locations at nearby Wailua Beach and Lydgate Park.
Further north in Anahola, visitors recognize the distinctive Kalalea Mountain — called King Kong because it resembles the giant gorilla — which was featured in Harrison Ford’s Six Days, Seven Nights. Moloaa Bay, a pristine crescent of sand, served as the shipwreck site of the S.S. Minnow in the pilot of the popular 1960s TV sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.”
Heading to Kauai’s north shore, travelers might encounter scenery from a long list of films such as “Body Heat,” “Dragonfly,” “Uncommon Valor,” “Throw Momma from the Train,” “Soul Surfer” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
Given Kauai’s magnificent natural setting, it’s no surprise that a large number of movie-makers choose the island as their filming site. According to Kanoho, they are drawn not only to the destination’s beauty but to its proficient production services and attractive accommodations for the cast and crew.
“Film crews have enjoyed working on the island so much that they have come back for a leisure vacation with their families,” she said.
As Kanoho ponders the stellar cinematic history of her island, she weighs the possibility of opening a Kauai movie museum in the future.
“It has always been my dream to have a Kauai movie museum on the island that spans the many years of our Hollywood relationships,” Kanoho said. “I hope that someday we can make it happen, so that we can share the many exciting years that Kauai has starred on the silver screen.”