Maui Goes to Hollywood: 7 Famous Depictions of the Island in Movies and TV

For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have grown up on the Hawaiian Islands, the first time many will have seen the islands depicted will have been on a screen as the location for a TV show or movie. And while not as popular a filming location as, say, Kauai, Maui has plenty of celluloid fame to call its own.

Film buffs have plenty of reason to visit Maui, which has served as the filming location for films and TV shows set in Hawaii and around the world. Examples include The White Lotus, Die Another Day’s surf scene, and the resort from Adam Sandler’s 2011 hit Just Go with It, the Grand Wailea Maui.

The allure of a Maui setting makes sense, with its built-in beauty and ambiance, the island’s irreplicable charm clearly shines through on film. If you want some of the island’s warmth, sunshine, and vibes for yourself, we’ve rounded up seven of Dive Maui’s favorite depictions of the island below. Be sure to read on for seven recommendations that are sure to put viewers in a Maui state of mind. 

The White Lotus

Featuring Maui—and one of the more underrated new theme songs of the year—The White Lotus is a darkly funny look at the bugaboos of the wealthy and privileged, along with the lives of those that wait on and serve them. The White Lotus may not be a real Maui resort, but it was filmed in one, the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. Of course, the HBO show’s designer said that the existing property was intentionally dressed down to fit the comedic vibe. 

The show might not be for everyone, and many may cringe at the portrayals and actions of some of the characters, but the island’s beautiful landscapes are featured throughout, making any binge-watching infinitely more enjoyable. And if the show’s version of diving makes you want to give the real thing a try, we are happy to set up a diving experience to suit anyone’s needs—and sure to blow the Hollywood depiction out of the water!

Die Another Day

Pierce Brosnan’s final go-around as James Bond has a lot of features that fanboys can drone on about endlessly. Agent 007’s car is invisible, the main henchman has diamonds stuck to his face, and Bond has to save Halle Barry from a collapsing ice hotel in the third act. So, one would be forgiven for overlooking Maui’s starring role in the pre-title surf stunts. But the scene in question is even more impressive when you realize much of its stunts were done practically.

The scene features views of some of north shore Maui’s genuinely massive waves. And there is also real footage of professional surfers Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama., and Darrick Doerner carving up the waters of Pe’ahi (wave in Hawaiian). The area features a famous surf break that locals refer to as “Jaws,” due to its unpredictable nature.

Riding Giants

At last, Maui stands in for itself, in this early 2000’s documentary that captures some of the histories around Maui’s modern surf scene. The bulk of the film is spent chronicling the rise of surfing from post-war curiosity to counter-culture pastime to mainstream way of life. The film does an impressive job of mixing interviews with (amazing!) archival footage, and—as will come as no surprise with anyone familiar with the history of surfing in Hawaii—Maui can be seen featured throughout.

George of the Jungle

Who doesn’t love 1990s Brendan Fraser? This 1997 classic was Fraser’s first big box office hit, opening at number two behind Men in Black, and going on to earn over $174 million. Most of the jungle scenes were filmed on a specially built sound stage that was designed to support the weight of the film’s elephant. However, the eagle-eyed will recognize familiar locals in many exterior jungle shots, as most of these are of Maui.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

For those of you playing along at home, this is the fourth Pirates film. It features Jack Sparrow, a quest for the fountain of youth, and the infamous pirate Blackbeard—all in 3D! While principal photography began in Hawaii’s Halona Cove, it was quickly moved to Long Beach, California due to the wild and unpredictable surf of the Hawaiian location. Maui isn’t featured explicitly, but many of the ships that were used for filming were rehabbed in docks around the island.

Just Go with It

Adam Sandler stars in this romantic comedy from 2011 that sees him doing hilariously well for himself—with Jennifer Anniston and Brooklyn Decker cast as his opposing romantic leads. And try not to cry too hard for Sandler as the film sees him palling around Maui’s famous (and gorgeous) Grand Wailea Resort, a tough life indeed for the former Billy Madison star. 

Hulk (2003)

Back before every movie was a Marvel movie, there was Eric Bana’s one-off starring turn as Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk. And while many, many, find that the film has flaws, it also features a shot of Maui. Of course, it is at the very end of the film, as Bana’s Banner wakes up from a Hulk-sized hangover on Kahakaloa, on the north side of West Maui. 

We’re Always Here to Help!

And there you have it, seven of our favorite Maui connections to some of Hollywood’s biggest hits past and present. If seeing Maui on screen inspires you to take a trip in real life, please consider us at Dive Maui for all your SCUBA and snorkeling needs.

Have more questions about planning the ideal Maui diving vacation? Know a film location you think we missed? Curious about a Maui whale watching tour? Please don’t hesitate to reach out, and, as always, in the meantime thank you for reading!