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Movies to Make You Want to Go to Hawaii


May 6, 2013 by Amanda

The lush, tropical volcanic islands of Hawaii represent “paradise” for many people. It’s no wonder, then, that a lot of film and TV directors choose the islands as backdrops for their productions.

But, often, you’re not aware that it’s Hawaii that you’re seeing on screen. From “Jurassic Park” to the TV show “LOST,” Hawaii has acted as a stand-in for all sorts of fantastical locations.

When a move is both filmed AND set in Hawaii, though? I feel like it’s impossible to watch without wanting to book a ticket ASAP.

Here are a handful of movies that I don’t think you can watch without immediately wanting to go to Hawaii.

The Endless Summer

Not entirely set in Hawaii, this surf film from 1966 nevertheless highlights some of the beaches (and waves) that Hawaii is so well known for. This film follows two surfers as they chase big waves all around the world, from California to Africa to New Zealand. It has a fun soundtrack and a sense of humor about it, making it a documentary that I never tire of watching.

Sunset Beach

From Here to Eternity

This 1953 drama tells the story of three soldiers (including one played by Frank Sinatra) stationed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. There’s an especially famous beach scene in this movie where characters played by Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr are kissing in the crashing surf at Halona Cove (now often nicknamed “Eternity Bay”). This scene makes me want to break out my vintage-inspired beachwear and find a handsome man to canoodle with in the waves.

Eternity Bay

Halona Cove, AKA Eternity Bay

Blue Crush

Yes, I’ll admit it — I totally watch this movie anytime it’s on TV. Based on an Outside magazine piece called “Life’s Swell” by Susan Orlean (a great read about a real-life surfer chick), “Blue Crush” shines the spotlight on the surfing culture on Oahu’s North Shore. It’s also just really fun to watch, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s one Hawaii movie that I love.

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach on the North Shore

50 First Dates

Lastly, how could I not mention this Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore classic? Set on Oahu, this romantic comedy about a memory-deficient woman and the man trying to win her heart  is one of the only Adam Sandler movies of this millennium that I actually really like. Yes, it’s silly at times. But the story is cute and the Hawaii backdrop sure doesn’t hurt either.

Kualoa Ranch


There are, of course, plenty of other great movies that have featured Hawaii (like “Blue Hawaii,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Descendants” and even Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch”). But these four are some of the ones that most make me want to head to the Pacific after watching them.


What other films can you think of that star Hawaii?




  1. Kassandra says:

    The only other I can think of is The Descendants and Soul Surfer!

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