Hawaii has a starring role in the television series “Hawaii Five-O” now shooting on the islands. But more often, Hawaii stands in for other tropical locations – as in “Lost” and a new medical drama set to begin production in August called “Off the Map.”

“Off the Map” is from ABC studios and is listed on the network schedule as “coming later this season.” The creator and executive producers also were associated with “Grey’s Anatomy.” The series is shooting in Hawaii, which stands in for a South American jungle, the location of a tiny medical clinic. The description from ABC calls “Off the Map” an uplifting medical drama that explores how far you have to go to truly heal.… In this ensemble drama, five doctors who have lost their way will go to the ends of the earth to try to remember the reasons why they wanted to become doctors in the first place.” Filming in Hawaii begins August 30.

Using Hawaii as an unidentified tropical location is also common in movies. “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (4)” is shooting on Oahu and Kauai this summer. This past week, the Halona Blowhole and Koko Head Rifle Range were closed for two days to accommodate filming. Parts of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, “At World’s End,” were shot on Maui and Molokai. There is a long list of movies using Hawaii to represent something tropical – either a different, specified location or one that is unknown.

Perhaps my favorite use of Hawaii as a movie location is when it stands in for something on a different planet! This summer’s “Predators” movie contained a line from the female soldier who said something like “I’ve never seen this jungle and I’ve been in a lot of them.” I wasn’t sure which part of Hawaii she was looking at, but it seemed familiar to me. The movie lists four Hawaii filming locations, all on the Big Island. The movie summary calls the location a “vast jungle on a distant world.”

The “distant world” of Predators is supposedly unknown. In “Avatar,” the characters know where they are going (if not why). That word, too, is represented by Hawaii. Parts of the movie were shot on the Big Island, Kauai and Oahu.

Hawaii can play itself, pretend to be other known countries or worlds, or represent unknown lands or planets. Pretty versatile!


  1. as a city boy, it was Five-0 that gave me my first desire to go to Honolulu. I love asian cities. and it’s as close as we get.

    for me the lure of Hawaii is as much about discovering the back street restaurants and businesses as it is the beaches.

  2. I was a fan of the original Five-0 and yet was surprised at how much Asian influence there is in Honolulu on my first visit. It’s such a treat to have really great noodle places and bentos everywhere!

  3. That’s what I absolutely love about us. Were so chameleon it’s not even funny. Hawaii can truly be anything a person needs it to be. Be it laugh central OR scientific buffs OR serenity OR a blazin’ good time OR a film scene for an underwater Atlantis on another planet. Gotta love it.

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