Tourists love Kauai, but 75 years ago, it was moviemakers who were struck by its beauty. Since director Lois Weber filmed White Heat there in 1933, it has been the location for more than 50 other film productions. And it's no wonder.
The island tantalizes location scouts with lush green foliage, spectacular waterfalls, and mountainous terrain. The scenery makes it appear almost otherworldly, the perfect setting for Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, Hook, and the Jurassic Park films.
Spielberg isn't the only one to tap the Hawaiian island's natural wonders. The 1950s saw a dozen movies filmed there, including local favorite South Pacific. Actress Mitzi Gaynor sang "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" on Kauai's Lumahai Beach. A few years later, Elvis Presley married Joan Blackman near the Wailua River in Blue Hawaii.
Kauai embraces this history. Many visitors take film-site tours, visiting the spots where movie magic happened. On the popular Land Tour, visitors ride in a "Theater-On-Wheels," allowing them to watch movie clips while traveling to various film locales.
One of the island's most recent silver-screen appearances was the 2002 film Dragonfly, starring Kevin Costner, but television shows such as The Amazing Race and The Bachelor have also taken advantage of the island's beauty. Kauai will hit the big screen once again this summer: Actor, director, and Kauai homeowner Ben Stiller made his latest movie, Tropic Thunder, here. Local officials say the film is one of the island's biggest productions, and they hope it will inspire tourists and moviemakers to visit.
For a closer look at Kauai's rich film history, see The Kauai Movie Book, by Chris Cook; call Mutual Publishing at 808/732-1709 or visit mutualpublishing.com to order. If you're planning to visit, find information about local film tours at hawaiimovietour.com. You can also check the Kauai Film Commission's Web site ( filmkauai.com) for a complete list of the movies filmed on the island.