For the last two seasons of “Hawaii Five-0,” executive producer Peter Lenkov has stated the fifth main character in the show has always been beautiful Hawai‘i. And since the show has her name in the title, she is always in the backdrop, showing off her lovely island lines to the camera every Monday night.
But there is more to Hawai‘i’s beauty than meets the eye. I love how “Hawaii Five-0” shows how gorgeous our home is, but I also wish there was a pop-up window on TV screens to tell the world a bit of information or history about each scenic shot. Since most ‘Five-0’ fans probably wouldn’t want a little info bubble obscuring McGarrett’s face, I chose five spots that have been used pretty frequently in episodes to give you a little background on Hawai‘i Nei, or “this beloved Hawai’i.”
While Waikīkī Beach is one of the most famous beaches used as a location, it is also known to fans because of the two “Sunset on the Beach” season premieres. “Hawaii Five-0” has used it in many episodes, notably in “Kālele” where McGarrett and Danno take a surfing break, as well as where we met McGarrett’s family friend Mamo Kahike in “Ke Kinohi,” and where Kono gives Danno his first surfing lesson in “Kai e‘e.”
Waikiki is also home to of the Duke Kahanamoku statue, as well as the Waikīkī Natatorium War Memorial, the Waikīkī Aquarium and the Royal Hawaiian. Kapi‘olani Park, the Waikīkī Shell, the Honolulu Zoo are located across the street from the south end of the beach. Fort DeRussy Military Reservation and the Hilton Hawaiian Village are located at the north end of the beach.
Waikīkī was once a popular spot for Hawaiian royalty, where they surfed and relaxed, and it was where Duke Kahanamoku, the godfather of modern surfing, grew up surfing and paddling. It is also where the popular Waikīkī Beach Boys taught surfing lessons to visitors and locals alike. Even if you have never been to Hawai‘i, you most likely would recognize this famous location even when “Hawaii Five-0” uses Waikīkī Beach in background or overhead shots.
Shadowing Waikīkī Beach is the iconic symbol of Hawai‘i, Diamond Head. The now dormant volcanic crater is seen in the opening credits of “Hawaii Five-0,” and as a location. In the season two ender “Ua Hala,” Danno makes his pledge to Gracie at the Diamond Head lookout, and in the season one episode “Kai e‘e” the exterior shots of the Pacific Disaster Center were shot at Fort Ruger in Diamond Head crater.
Diamond Head is known as Lēʻahi, or brow of the ‘ahi (tuna) to Hawaiians because its ridge resembled the dorsal fin of the fish, but was called Diamond Head by the British who thought the minerals in the rocks were diamonds. Now called Diamond Head State Monument, it is a popular hiking and lookout spot, and while it is no longer part of O‘ahu’s coastal defense system, you can still see remnants of military bunkers and the navigational lighthouse built in the early 1900’s.
Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island
If you head east of Waikiki Beach you will run right past Ala Moana Beach Park, a popular beach and picnic spot for Hawai‘i locals. “Five-0” fans will recognize it mainly as the home of Kamekona’s Waiola Shave Ice stand, which has been in several episodes, as well as where McGarrett took down the diamond thief/triathlete in “Heihei.”
Adjacent to Ala Moana Beach Park is Magic Island, where this season McGarrett and Joe White and introduced the concept of the plate lunch to “NCIS: LA” Kensi Blye in “Ka Hakakā Maika‘I, as well as where Danno was forced to shoot step-Stan in “Mai Ka Wā Kahiko.” Ala Moana is perhaps most infamously known as the park where Thalia Massie was allegedly raped by five local men. The trial of the five men was called “The Ala Moana Case” because of where the attack took place. The case ended in a mistrial because of huge holes in Thalia Massie’s story. The famous “Massie Case” was actually the trial where Grace Massie’s husband, Thomas, and her mother, Grace Fortescue, were tried for the kidnap and murder of Joseph Kahahawai, one of the five wrongly accused men. While Ala Moana Park is still plagued by a some urban problems, it is still a very popular spot for stand-up paddle boarders, families, and sunbathers because of its central location and calm seas.
Kualoa Ranch, located in Kaʻaʻawa Valley, is one of the most famous shooting spots on the island because we have seen the lush mountain range in several movies like “Jurassic Park,” “50 First Dates” and “Pearl Harbor,” as well as in television shows like “LOST” and “Magnum PI.”
“Hawaii Five-0” has used the epic location to stand in for North Korea in the pilot episode, as well as in “Ki‘ilua,” when McGarrett and Jenna Kaye look for her fiancé, who was being held hostage by Wo Fat in the hostile country.
We also recognize the familiar surroundings of the 4,000-acre working cattle ranch in the Na Koa warrior scenes in “Kūpale” and when Wo Fat and McG rumble in the jungle in “Ua Hopu.” Kualoa Ranch was the backdrop to several season one episodes as well. McG and Danno take an ill-fated hike in “Ma Ke Kahakai,” and when Chin Ho and McGarrett are chased through Kualoa while trying to save Julie Masters in “E Malama.” But no matter how Kualoa is portrayed on screen, its majestic beauty and grandeur add to the visual beauty of “Hawaii Five-0.”
While not as recognizable as Kualoa Ranch, Mānoa Valley is almost as famous as a popular shooting spot. “LOST” filmed much of its show in the rainy valley, most often at the now-defunct Paradise Park, and “Hawaii Five-0” is no stranger to this beautiful area. Once a popular spot for Hawaiian royalty, where they retired in the warmer summer months, Mānoa is mostly a residential area, which is also the primary campus for the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, as well as for several private secondary schools.
“Hawaii Five-0” most recently held their season three blessing at Mānoa Valley District Park. They also used Mānoa to shoot the jungle scenes and the marijuana grow field in “Ka Me‘e,” and many of the homes used in the show, like Kono’s home as well as several victim’s homes, are located in the Mānoa area.
Regardless of how “Hawaii Five-0” uses the various location spots in our homeland — and no matter what island they choose to film, Hawai‘i always seems to look completely beautiful and vibrantly lush and green. Our island home may be the fifth character in a popular television show, but for all intents and purposes, she is the most visually stunning and charming of the cast. And she will be for many years to come.
Redux Side Note:
Any errors in pinpointing shooting spots are mistakes of my own, but I did get help from 3D Hawaii and their “Hawaii Five-0” scene spotting blog. Check out their weekly breakdown of the locations used in each episode. And thanks to Gaby @H50Europe and Mizzoh @AOLRocks for screen caps.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.