On a clear, sunny afternoon in March, our Zipline Trek Nui Loa guides drove slowly through the picturesque Kipu Ranch, explaining the volcanic origins of the surrounding Ha‘upu Mountains to their van full of guests. The serene scene was suddenly shattered by a scream from a woman in the front seat, a blood-curdling shriek louder than any she’d had on any of the ziplines,
Sure enough, George Clooney was leaning out the window of a passing van, smiling and waving to our guests. The van instantly felt like a sailboat at sea as 13 people dove to the windows on the left side, frantically snapping photos. In a few seconds, George had driven off into the sunshine, but the screeching took a while to quiet. After everyone calmed down, a guide turned to the lady in front and laughed, “So, how much will you give me to turn this van around?”
Scenes like that are more common than you would think for a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. In the spring of 2010 alone, three different motion pictures were filmed on Kauai. George Clooney was here for his film The Descendants, Adam Sandler for Just Go With It, while a third movie, Soul Surfer, with Dennis Quaid, was being shot in Hanalei. Hollywood’s love affair with the Garden Island has been going on for more than 50 years, going way back to films like South Pacific (1957), and Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii (1961). The spectacular and exotic scenery, combined with easier access to dramatically different locations make Kauai a picture perfect paradise.
Kipu Ranch, home to many of our adventures, has been made famous in major blockbuster films. For Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), the ranch became “Somewhere in South America...” and Indiana Jones searched its dense jungle for the golden idol. On a daily basis, we stand in the same spot as Indy, right before he swings into the river that we kayak, the Hule‘ia. From our 800 foot zipline, you can see where Sam Neil’s Dr. Alan Grant hid from a herd of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (1993), with the mountain from Hook’s Neverland (1991) in the background. You’ll hike through the lush rain forest, which has doubled for the jungles of Africa in Outbreak (1995), and Mighty Joe Young (1998).
Pirates most recently commandeered the ranch for the filming Pirates of the Carribean 4: On Stranger Tides. The Island was in a “Johnny-Depp-Sighting” frenzy, and we were all beside ourselves knowing Captain Jack Sparrow was making mischief where we hike and swim every day. Captain Barbosa, on a cigarette break, waved to a group as we passed, and one of our managers helped Ian McShane, in full Blackbeard costume, hike over some slippery rocks (he was wearing high-heeled boots). The only negative aspect to all this movie magic is that one of our guides has a role in the movie, and wasn’t able to shave his beard for 6 months. Ick.