Bali Hai – The Mythical, Mystical Island in South Pacific

“Distant Island” is Icon of Film and Imagination

 The unmistakable profile of Bali Hai, or Makana Mountain on Kauai’s north shore is where the last sunset in the United States takes place each evening. The name Bali Hai comes from the movie South Pacific in which the pyramid-shaped Makana represented a mystical distant island by that name.

Nearby to Makana (“Gift”) is Tunnels Beach, known by the Hawaiian name Makua (“Parent”). This beach was used for many scenes in South Pacific. Among the movie’s extras were hundreds of Kauai schoolchildren as well as adults.

Kauai is the Setting for Enchantment and Romance

Though several movies had already been filmed on Kauai beginning with White Heat in 1933, it wasn’t until the release of South Pacific in 1958 that the island of Kauai took on a new role as a preferred setting for enchantment and romance.

From the time of South Pacific until the present day Kauai has been known as a premier location for filming major motion pictures.

The Musical Play South Pacific

South Pacific began as a musical play which opened on Broadway in 1949. The play was based on James Michener’s book Tales of the South Pacific.

Many have called the play the greatest musical of all time, and a number of its songs, including Bali Hai and Some Enchanted Evening, became worldwide standards. The musical play South Pacific also earned a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950.

The Movie South Pacific Becomes a Classic

When the movie South Pacific was released in 1958 it quickly became a classic that was appreciated not only for its South Seas drama and breathtaking scenery but also for its outstanding musical score. The storyline of South Pacific takes place on an island in the Pacific in 1943 during World War II.

The Navy wishes to employ the wealthy French plantation owner Emile de Becque (Rossano Brazzi) who is living on the island, to scout out nearby Japanese held islands. To accomplish this de Becque is approached by U.S. Navy nurse and WAVE officer Nellie Forbush who is played by Mitzi Gaynor.

De Becque falls in love with Nellie, but then she is shocked to discover that he has mixed-race children from a previous marriage. This causes her to decline his marriage proposal, which in turn causes De Becque to accept a request by the Navy to go on the dangerous mission.

Love Stories Explore Issues of Prejudice

South Pacific’s sub-plot involves a romance between a Tonkinese girl named Liat (France Nuyen) and Joe Cable (John Kerr), a U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant. Cable joins De Becque on the mission. Cable also shows his prejudice when he will not consider marrying Liat who is the daughter of the Tonkinese trader Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall).

On the mission Cable is killed and De Becque seems to be lost as Nellie prays for his return and sees the error of her prejudice. Luther Billis (Ray Walston) provides a comedic element amidst the serious drama of South Pacific.

Kauai’s North Shore Used in Many South Pacific Scenes

Gaynor’s famous rendition of Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair was filmed at Lumahai Beach near Hanalei, and the Birkmyre Estate overlooking Hanalei Bay was used as De Becque’s home. South Pacific’s opening scenes were filmed at Black Pot Beach at the mouth of the Hanalei River.

The filming of South Pacific was halted by a tsunami on March 9, 1957. The huge tsunami destroyed many homes on the north shore and toppled the Kalihiwai Bridge so the filming trucks could not get to the movie sets.

One of the most striking features of the movie South Pacific was its unique use of colors, such as blue and gold, infused into the scene to reflect the emotions in the movie, such as loss and love.

In 2010 a Blu-Ray DVD edition of South Pacific was released by 20th Century Fox with behind-the-scenes footage and high technology color reproduction.

South Pacific’s Bloody Mary played by Juanita Hall sings a lovely Oscar Hammerstein song entitled Bali Hai.

Bali Hai Lyrics:

Most people live on a lonely island,

Lost in the middle of a foggy sea.

Most people long for another island,

One where they know they will like to be.

Bali Hai may call you,

Any night, any day,

In your heart, you’ll hear it call you:

“Come away…Come away.”

Bali Hai will whisper

In the wind of the sea:

“Here am I, your special island!

Come to me, come to me!”

Your own special hopes,

Your own special dreams,

Bloom on the hillside

And shine in the streams,

If you try, you’ll find me

Where the sky meets the sea.

“Here am I your special island

Come to me, Come to me.”

Bali Hai, Bali Hai, Bali Hai!

Someday you’ll see me floatin’ in the sunshine,

My head stickin’ out from a low flyin’ cloud,

You’ll hear me call you,

Singin’ through the sunshine,

Sweet and clear as can be;

“Come to me, here am I, come to me.”

If you try, you’ll find me

Where the sky meets the sea.

“Here am I your special island

Come to me, Come to me.”

Bali Hai, Bali Hai, Bali Hai!

Kauai Vacation Rentals and Realty Services

For the finest quality Kauai vacation accommodations including luxury estates, condos, cottages, and beach villas, see Coldwell Banker Bali Hai Realty’s Kauai Vacation Rental Galleries or use our new Map-Based Kauai Vacation Rental Search feature.

If you are considering buying a home on Kauai you can see some of the island’s best real estate deals by browsing through the Kauai Real Estate Galleries, or you can use the Map-Based Kauai Home Search.

Also please feel free to give us a call. The Bali Hai Realty staff will be happy to help you find the perfect Kauai vacation rental or assist you in the process of buying or selling a Kauai home.