Cinematic Beaches

Phi Phi Leh, Thailand, The Beach (2000)
Ten landmark films, 10 ridiculously beautiful beaches. We found Hollywood's most vaunted locations — and are giving you the keys to get there. Text by Sean O'Neill, Budget Travel.

The flick: The movie that gave voice to a generation of backpackers, "The Beach," based on Alex Garland's novel of the same name, centers on the quest for the Thailand's last pure beach, one untainted by tourism.

The scene: Leonardo DiCaprio swims beneath a seemingly impenetrable wall of cliffs, only to surface in an impossibly idyllic cove.

The beach: Located on Phi Phi Leh island in the Andaman Sea, Maya Bay was digitally enhanced for the movie: The directors added a fourth side to make it seem even more private. But that doesn't mean the bay is any less spectacular in real life. Karst limestone cliffs tumble to a slash of sugary white sand. Shallow waters and a ribbon of coral make for some incredible snorkeling. Even to this day, there are no rental bungalows, but you are allowed to make like DiCaprio and camp overnight.
Petit Tabac, Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
The flick: With number four in the works, the films chronicling the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow have brought moviegoers to a number of tropical hideaways, but few can top the deserted beach in "The Curse of the Black Pearl."

The scene: When villains dump Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley on a strip of bone-white sand to wither, Knightley uses a stash of rum to create a rescue bonfire, only to have the ever-hedonic Depp moan, "Why is the rum gone?"

The beach: Part of the Tobago Cays Marine Park in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Petit Tabac is one 1) completely uninhabited and 2) highly protected. What that translates to is a perfect Caribbean island with no glitzy palazzos on the beach, no jet skis or fishing boats rumbling over the reefs, and an overwhelming sense that you've reached world's end
Kastani Beach, Skopelos Island, Greece, Mamma Mia! (2008)
The flick: This silver screen version of the Abba-infused, chart-busting musical, "Mamma Mia!" shines a spotlight on Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who wants to find out who her real father is before she gets married.

The scene: Tanya (Christine Baranski) gives a sultry rendition of Abba's "Does Your Mother Know" on a small, sandy beach with a makeshift bar, framed by a cerulean-colored sea.

The beach: Best known for the dramatic monolith, Kastani, on the western coast of Skopelos, is not your traditional swimming beach. The shore is rocky (though there is a sandy beach), so, good for a picnic. Many visitors also choose to hike to the precariously perched hilltop monastery of Agios Ioannis sto Kastri. Mamma Mia's climactic wedding scene took place here, but more to the point, the church offers a dazzling view over the island.
Lumahai Beach, Kauai, Hawaii, South Pacific (1958)
The flick: After winning a Pulitzer and multiple Tonys on Broadway, "South Pacific" hit Hollywood in 1958, and became an immediate hit. Though James Michener set the story in Vanuatu (where he was stationed in World War II), most of the movie was shot on Kauai.

The scene: Mitzi Gaynor prances around the broad, blond swath of Lumahai Beach, as she washes that man right out of her hair.

The beach: Set on Kauai's northern coast, Lumahai is hemmed by ironwood trees at one end and steep, fluted mountains at the other. The beach is popular with surfers, but the currents can be treacherous for swimmers and there's no lifeguard (some locals even call it "Luma-die"). Swim at your own risk. That, or just kick back, relax, and watch the waves roll in. For $93.50, Ali'I Movie Excursion and Scenic Hanalei ( leads seven-hour trips to film locations from South Pacific and other movies shot on Kauai, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Cape St. Francis, South Africa, The Endless Summer (1966)
The flick: The surf doc after which all others were modeled, this film traces the worldwide quest of Robert August and Mike Hynson to find the perfect wave.

The scene: The pair lands in South Africa, crest a dune on Cape St. Francis, and find exactly what they have been looking for, a perfectly cresting righthand break.

The beach: While neighboring Jeffrey's Bay has become Surf Central (with the accompanying tourist tchotchkes), Cape St. Francis has gone upscale, with the expansion of shops and townhouses. The famed break — called Bruce's Beauties — sits about a mile up the coast from the Cape, near St. Francis Bay.

Devil's Beach, Fiji, The Blue Lagoon (1980)
The flick: The movie that brought Brooke Shields, then 15, into the limelight, "The Blue Lagoon" tells the story of cousins falling in love after being shipwrecked on a deserted island. Its success won Shields' a Time cover as "The 80s Look." The scene: Shields's character, her cousin (Christopher Atkins), and a galley cook beach their emergency craft in a wide but well-protected lagoon.

The beach: Set on the 500-acre island, Devil's Beach on Fiji is just as idyllic as when it was filmed more than 20 years ago — all palm trees and shallow coral reefs — but it's got a few more services. Many guests choose to rent a sailboat or kayak and float to within feet of the coral reefs, all the easier for snorkeling.

Leo Carrillo Beach, Malibu, California, The Karate Kid (1984)
The flick: With a remake out last year, "The Karate Kid" proves again that its coming of age formula is as powerful as ever — to date, the remake has grossed $360 million at the box office.

The scene: In the original movie when master Pat Morita and his protégé Ralph Macchio practice the fictional "crane" move with the Pacific glittering behind them.

The beach: 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica, this Malibu-area state park may be Hollywood's favorite stretch of sand for shooting minor beach scenes, appearing in such films as Inception, The Usual Suspects, Point Break, and Beach Blanket Bingo. Framed by sycamore trees and steep headlands, the 1.5-mile-long coastline is a favorite with surfers, swimmers, and picnickers up from Los Angeles.
Halona Cove, Hawaii, From Here to Eternity (1953)
The flick: The winner of eight Academy Awards, "From Here to Eternity" made waves for its nuanced portrayal of military service in pre-Pearl Harbor Hawaii and was a spotlight on some of the prettiest locations on Oahu.

The scene: Star-crossed lovers Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr passionately rendezvous, canoodling in the surf.

The beach: Filming took place at tiny, cliff-flanked Halona Cove, just around the corner from Hanauma Bay. The sheer lava rock walls fall directly into the ocean. Swim with caution. Unlike many of Hawaii's better known beaches, this one doesn't have a lifeguard.
One&Only Ocean Club, Bahamas, Casino Royale (2006)
The flick: After a long bout of anemia, the James Bond franchise received a jolt in 2006 when actor Daniel Craig took over the superspy's role to foil Le Chiffre, a financier of international terrorists.

Indian Beach, Ecola State Park, Ore., Twilight (2008)
The flick: The movie that started a movement — teen angst meets good old-fashioned vampire blood lust — Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series is set in the appropriately cloudy Washington state but some of the best beach scenes in the film are shot 200 miles south in Oregon.