If Kauai looks vaguely familiar — though you’ve never been here before — it’s probably because you’ve seen chunks of the island’s drop-dead gorgeous landscape at your neighborhood movie theater.
Hollywood filmmakers have been using Kauai as a backlot for feature movies for nearly 70 years. Actually, the island rarely plays itself. In ‘Jurassic Park,’ for example, Kauai doubled for Costa Rica. In ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ the island masqueraded for the jungles of South America. ‘Outbreak’ took place in Africa and ‘South Pacific’ in a place called New Caledonia.
Kauai’s undisturbed beauty and diverse terrain, its shrouded, jungle mountains and miles of golden sand beach, have drawn film producers to the island since the early ’30s. More than 70 feature films and television mini-series, like ‘The Thorn Birds,’ have been shot here, most in locations out of sight and off limits, even to local residents.
Now there are tour companies that will take you to movie locations, provide insider information, and show you films as you are transported from one place to the next. If you opt for an off-road adventure, you might even catch filmmakers in action.
Some tours take you to the shuttered Coco Palms Resort, which has been closed to the public since a hurricane hit the island in 1992. The 1961 Elvis Presley hit, ‘Blue Hawaii,’ was filmed at the hotel. Mt. Makana, better known as Bali Hai in the 1950s musical, ‘South Pacific,’ is another well-known image. Makana, one of the twin towering peaks featured in the movie, is located in Ha’ena on the North Shore where most of the film was shot.