Did you know that Hawaii Five-0 isn’t the only reboot of an 80s action series which is filmed in Hawaii? CBS also revived Magnum P.I. in 2018, which stars Jay Hernandez as the titular character once portrayed by Tom Selleck. The iconic moustache and Hawaiian shirt are sadly absent, however, there’s still plenty of Hawaiian scenery on offer. So let’s take a look at the Magnum P.I. filming locations from season 1.
Thomas Magnum is a former NAVY Seal who runs his own private investigation business on the island of Oahu. He uses his experience, wits, charm, and a wealth of resources (which includes far too many Ferraris) to track down the bad guys and save the day. He works for Robin Masters, a wealthy novelist, and resides at Masters’ luxurious estate, alongside love interest Perdita Weeks, who plays charismatic former MI6 agent Juliet Higgins.
Don’t worry – you don’t need to be a private investigator to track down the Magnum P.I. filming locations. We’ve done all that for you…
1. Kualoa Regional Park – Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe
There’s no better starting point than the show’s very own headquarters. Robin Masters’ beachfront estate, known more affectionately as ‘Robin’s Nest’, is comprised of a number of different locations, along with the aid of seamless special effects. Interior shots are filmed between Kapolei’s Kalaeloa Studio and Banyan House, while Kualoa Regional Park serves the exterior shots. It’s hard not to recognise those rugged, sloping green rock formations whose peaks are choked in dense mist. Almost every episode in season 1 is bookended by this location.
2. Kaneohe Bay, Kaneohe
Kualoa Regional Park is actually located at Kaneohe Bay, but these waters deserve their own attention, as they offer unbeatable views of Koolau Range’s striking Paliku cliffs. Also, Kaneohe Bay is used for scenes that go beyond Robin’s Nest. It first appears in the opening of episode 1, along with the offshore basalt island of Mokolii (Chinaman’s Hat). Episodes 1, 2 and 4 see Magnum kayaking in the turquoise blue waters. You’ll even see it during the show’s intro, so it’s one of the Magnum P.I. filming locations that’s pretty hard to miss!
3. Interstate H-3 – Halawa Valley through Koolau Range
Interstate H-3 can’t go unmentioned, even if such a location is the last you’d expect to read about here. It’s also known as the John A. Burns Freeway, and it passes through Halawa Valley for several miles by viaduct, before disappearing deep inside the Koolau Range’s Tetsuo Harano Tunnels, and subsequently the Hospital Rock Tunnels. This location makes for some unique and stunning shots in the show, as we often see Magnum tearing along the freeway before sunrise or sunset, in one Robin Masters’ many ill-fated Ferraris. Check out episodes 1, 5 and 6 for some particularly mesmerising shots.
4. Kualoa Ranch – Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe
Several Magnum P.I. filming locations can be found at Kualoa Ranch. Hawaii’s very own Hollywood backlot makes its first appearance when it doubles as a North Korea jungle in episode 1’s opening action sequence, and its final appearance in episode 20’s third act helicopter chase. Some of the sprawling Robin’s Nest exterior shots were filmed at the ranch too, though these were added in digitally. Head over to our epic movie blog to find out what other TV shows and movies were filmed here (there are plenty, to say the least). Although it’s fair to say that Magnum P.I. is more of a regular guest.
5. Waikiki Beach – Honolulu
Waikiki Beach makes so many appearances throughout the show, it would be pointless to tell you exactly which episodes. But it does make itself known from episode 1, when Magnum visits Korean food stall ‘Happy Pig’ on the beach at night. Happy Pig doesn’t exist in the real world, but you will find a variety of eateries along the Waikiki strip, as well as bars and tourist stores. Honolulu is typically the centre for the action in Magnum P.I., much like it is in Hawaii Five-0, so there’s really no surprise that its central hub, Waikiki Beach, is among the most reoccurring Magnum P.I. filming locations.
6. Diamond Head – Honolulu
Diamond Head is another regular that appears on the show, usually through panoramic fly-over shots. Magnum’s friend, TC, runs his own ‘Island Hoppers’, which treats us to plenty of such sites throughout season 1. There’s also a real Magnum P.I. helicopter tour on Oahu – just don’t expect any action-packed chase sequences (see episode 20). The good news is you don’t need to go on a helicopter tour to see Honolulu’s iconic centerpiece, as it’s an incredibly popular site for hikers and viewfinders. Episodes 4, 5, 6 and 8 boast some truly impressive shots of the city and its natural accomplice.
7. Maili Point – Maili
We spend some time at another sweeping beach, this time at Maili Point, in what is perhaps one of the more touching episodes of season 1. Episode 6 sees Magnum’s friends, Rick and TC, meet a disabled vet, whom they take surfing at the beach in Maili Point. You’ll even catch the hill of Pu’u O Hulu behind it. Maili Point is a paradise for both Oahu surfers and hikers – the sea is perpetually blessed with strong northern winds, while Pu’u O Hulu offers a moderate hiking experience coupled with breath-taking views of the surrounding area.
8. Heeia Kea Jungle – Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe
It’s not all sun, sand and sea in Magnum P.I. Magnum and Julie find themselves investigating a boar hunter deep in the Heeia Kea Jungle for episode 6. Heeia Kea Jungle is a real jungle (you needn’t be a private investigator – the clue’s in the name!). This area is a popular spot for filmmakers, and it has hosted the likes of 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It’s refreshing to see the jungle appear in Magnum P.I., though, as it proves that it’s not exclusive to dinosaurs and other jungle monsters!
9. Makapuu Lighthouse – Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe
The historical Makapuu Lighthouse’s appearances in season 1 are rather fleeting, but it’s such a beautiful spot that it would be a crime to leave it out (and we don’t want a PI like Magnum knocking on our door for committing such a thing). We get our first glimpse in episode 11, and again in episode 15. The lighthouse is an excellent vantage point if you’re hoping to uncover spectacular views of the ocean. The trail can also be a great place for whale-spotting at the right time of year, which makes it one of the most worthwhile Magnum P.I. filming locations.
10. Banzai Pipeline – Pupukea
You’d be forgiven for thinking Godzilla is about to emerge from the turbulent ocean during the opening of episode 12. But Banzai Pipeline, just northwards of Waimea Bay, is known for its monster-waves. This is the one Magnum P.I. filming location on this list with the least screen-time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth being included. Banzai Pipeline is, for obvious reasons, a highly frequented spot for surfers, and is one of the most memorable shots of Oahu’s versatile coastline in season 1 (though the scene is mixed with shots of Waikiki Beach).
Now that we’ve looked at the best Magnum P.I. filming locations, you might be interested to know that the show doesn’t just share its setting with Hawaii Five-0 – it actually shares the same ‘universe’, along with the MacGyver revival (also filmed in Hawaii). Together, the three shows are referred to as the ‘Lenkov-verse’ (having each been developed by creator Peter Lenkov).
These Magnum P.I. filming locations are just a snapshot of what’s on offer in the show. We’ll be sure to visit more from season 2 once our private investigation work is finished.
Please note that while some of the Magnum P.I. filming locations mentioned in this article are currently open or due to reopen, such as Kualoa Ranch and Waimea Valley, be sure to check their official websites for availability and COVID-19-related safety guidelines before booking a trip.
Dan is a freelance writer from the UK who works for a number of online publications. He’s also working on a science fiction novel, and believes the impression Jurassic Park made on him as a child – both the Spielberg film and the book by Michael Crichton – to be the source of his passion to write. He previously critiqued theatrical releases for his local radio station, while his blog ‘Curious Rookie’ remains his platform for sharing film, travel and book reviews. Dan has also visited some of the most iconic film locations around the world, and his favorite destination is the island of Kauai in Hawaii.