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Top movie locations in Hawaii

Dinosaurs, aliens and magical landscapes, Natarsha Brown discovers the real Hawaii behind the Hollywood hits.

Since Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolled in the waves at Halona Cove in Oahu in the Academy Award-winning ‘From Here to Eternity’ and Elvis swaggered onto our screens in ‘Blue Hawaii’, Hollywood has enjoyed a love affair with these fabled islands. The perfect weather and otherworldly landscapes are a director’s dream, so it comes as no surprise that the Aloha State is a film buff’s smorgasbord, and bringing your kid’s big-screen fantasies to life with a location tour is the best way to experience some movie magic!

Aloha aliens
It may come as a shock to some that ‘Lilo & Stitch’ has been touted as the movie which most accurately captures the spirit and culture of Hawaii. The production team spent weeks in this tropical paradise studying the geography, architecture, vegetation, culture – even the way the light falls from the sky from dusk until dawn! Enraptured by the beauty of the islands, co-directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois decided to use actual locations within the film to portray a sense of Lilo’s endless summer.

And so Kauai became the Roswell of the tropics and the inspiration behind the Disney animation of the unlikely friendship between an escaped alien, Experiment 626, and an orphaned Hawaiian girl. The island is graced with dramatic, natural beauty and a palpable sense of ‘ohana (family), mana (spiritual essence) and ‘aina (land).

Off-the-beaten track Hanapepe is Kauai’s ‘biggest little town’ and also Lilo’s hometown. A quaint village of clapboard houses with tin roofs, pre-World war II storefronts and wooden sidewalks; the old buildings have been turned into artists’ studios, charming shops and local eateries. The eight-hour Waimea Canyon Experience by Polynesian Adventure Tours encompasses Hanapepe Valley and Hanapepe Town (and the canyon itself is described as the ‘Grand Canyon of Hawaii’!).

Don your coconuts for a visit to Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa at Ko Olina for the Starlit Hui – an inspired dance, music and hula show. Lilo and Stitch’s iconic hula dance took the YouTube world by storm with a plethora of reenactments, and the cutesy movie moment never fails to stir up the warm and fuzzies! Kids will delight in having their very own moment in the spotlight at the end of the show, when they are invited to join the troupe for a dance party with friends Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Stitch.

Experience ‘ohana firsthand at a luau, a cultural celebration of Hawaiian music, dance and food. Germaine’s Luau, located on the shores of West Oahu, is acclaimed as the best on the islands. Greeted with a lei, a conch announces the beginning of the evening’s festivities, the main course of pig emerges from the oven and the feast begins.

A journey of dance and song unfolds around you, from the Samoan Fire-Knife dance (eerily known as the ‘Tooth of Death’) to the graceful hula, leaving you spellbound for the entire two hours.

Not just a walk in the park!
More than a decade ago, director Steven Spielberg let our imaginations run wild the promise of dinosaur clones in theme parks! And while the dinosaurs are fictional, the landscapes of Jurassic Park’s Isla Nubar are very real, the other-worldly jungles, waterfalls and mountain ranges just a hop, skip and a jump away from Waikiki.

The legendary hilltop views that welcomed palaeontologists Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant to Jurassic Park are best approached from the air, so buckle the kids up and hold on to your seatbelts! Island Helicopters offer 80-minute flights that soar above the sheer slopes of the Kauai Na Pala Coast and – for the first time ever – stop at the Manawaiopuna Falls on their Jurassic Falls Tour.

The Kualoa Private Nature Reserve’s tagline is ‘where legends are made’, and having been the filming location for more than 50 movies and TV shows, including Jurassic Park, the title is well-deserved. Located on Oahu, just a 45 minute drive from Waikiki, the reserve is managed by the sixth generation kama’aina family, who also offer eco-tours throughout the property for film fanatics. But remember... it’s not only dinosaurs that have roamed these forests.

Take the Movie Site Tour around the Ka’a’awa Valley and take a selfie with the infamous Jurassic Park Fallen Tree, compare the size of your kids’ tiny tootsies to Godzilla’s, watch out for pedestrians at ‘penguin road’ from 50 First Dates and beat your fists on Mighty Joe Young’s stomping ground. If you’re lucky you might even see the next big hit being filmed!

***Hawaii Report Card***


Getting there
Hawaiian Airlines flies from Sydney and Brisbane, direct to Honolulu, Oahu. From there, it’s a 40-minute flight to Kauai.


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