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Hunger Games is 'Catching Fire' in Hawaii

By Michele Bigley, Special to CNN
updated 11:45 AM EST, Fri November 22, 2013
Since much of the filming for "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" took place on the North Shore, many of the cast and crew stayed at Turtle Bay Resort. Since much of the filming for "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" took place on the North Shore, many of the cast and crew stayed at Turtle Bay Resort.
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'Hunger Games' goes to Hawaii
'Hunger Games' goes to Hawaii
'Hunger Games' goes to Hawaii
'Hunger Games' goes to Hawaii
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hike through the Waimea Valley and enter the Hunger Games' jungle
  • Visit the stunning saltwater lake featured in the Quell Arena
  • Hang out in the Hawaii hotel to the stars, and eat and drink where they did

(CNN) -- Jennifer Lawrence might be the celebrity muscle of the "Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire," but viewers will soon find Oahu, Hawaii, to be the superstar of the film.

With the next "Hunger Games" movie opening today amid a sea of buzz, fans of Suzanne Collins' trilogy are lining up to see Katniss and Peeta battle it out against other victors in the Quarter Quell, the 75th Hunger Games competition. But they may also come away wanting to take a trip to the Aloha State.

Although much of the preliminary filming of "Catching Fire" took place on the U.S. mainland, the cast and crew spent five weeks in the dense jungles and pristine beaches of the North Shore of Oahu, enjoying the sun, sand and aloha of the 50th state. Now, travelers heading to Hawaii can retrace the stars' footprints along the jungles and beaches that played host to Panem's annual battle-to-the-death match in "Catching Fire."

North Shore Bay as saltwater lake

Though the North Shore of Oahu might be known for its massive swells, location scouts needed a beach with clear, calm water to act as the saltwater lake in the Quell arena. Honolulu Film Commissioner Walea Constantinau recommended Kawela Bay as the perfect location for a crucial scene when the tributes appear on top of the lake, ready for battle.

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"Catching Fire" stars Elizabeth Banks, from left, Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson.

Kawela Bay is stunning crescent of crystal blue popular with green sea turtles and paddle boarders, a hobby cast members took up in between takes. Access this secluded and sacred beach by walking 30 minutes from Turtle Bay Resort along the coast during low tide.

Running through the jungles like Katniss and Peeta

You won't be racing from skin-eating fog or wild monkey-like creatures when exploring the lush North Shore, but you can get swallowed by greenery while hiking through one of Hawaii's most sacred valleys.

Many of the film's jungle scenes were filmed in remote locations in the North Shore's Waimea Valley that are off-limits to tourists. However, you can still follow in the footsteps of Katniss and Peeta escaping the blistering fog or hearing jabberjays (likely mynah birds) in this natural wonderland.

Those wanting to try racing through the jungles can access Waimea Valley, which is almost 40 miles from Waikiki, via the valley's visitor center east of Haleiwa. Take a short hike through the reconstructed ancient village to spot endangered birds, archeological sites, replicas of ancient sacred structures called heiaus and the 40-foot Waimea Falls, which you can swim under.

North Carolina lures 'Hunger Games' fans

Closer to Waikiki, the Manoa Valley Trail system -- which portrayed another part of the movie's Arena jungle -- is a series of strenuous hikes that will test your Katniss-like endurance.

The most popular path, the Manoa Falls Trail, skirts through bamboo and along streams and meets up with the 150-foot Manoa Falls. Real adventurers can take a series of trailheads through the dense forest of Manoa Valley and up behind Paradise Park, a former animal performance venue, where scenes from "Catching Fire" and the popular television show "Lost" were filmed.

Luxe it up like the stars

Since much of the filming took place on the North Shore, many of the cast and crew stayed at Turtle Bay Resort, a location also featured in the film "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

Perched atop the edge of Kuilima Cove, the resort offers access to a lovely beach perfect for snorkeling, horseback riding, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding lessons. Cast member and Hawaii resident Woody Harrelson was known to escape to nearby beaches on his breaks from filming to brave the infamous North Shore swells. Actress Jennifer Lawrence was spotted poolside on numerous occasions.

They also filmed one day at the hotel's Bay View Beach, steps from the Ocean Villas, where many cast members and their families stayed and celebrated Thanksgiving last year.

Cast and crew appreciated the onsite restaurant Ola's and Lei Lei's Bar & Grill. They also reportedly spent many nights at the resort's Surfer, The Bar, run in collaboration with Surfer magazine. This is the place to be on the North Shore, with great cocktails and live music nightly. Oahu resident Jack Johnson recently popped in to play an impromptu set.

Hawaii's film legacy

Film buffs who want more than "the Hunger Game"s version of Hawaii can drive along the Windward Coast of Oahu to Halona Cove, a speck of beach beyond Halona Blowhole; this is where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr had their famed beach kiss in "From Here to Eternity."

For an in-depth look at Oahu's cinematic history, consider the Kualoa Ranch movie tour. Just 22 miles north of Honolulu, this peaceful 4,000-acre preserve offers guided tours of the dozens of film and TV programs shot throughout the property, including the scene in the first "Jurassic Park" when the ostrich-like dinosaurs were escaping the T-Rex.

Travelers wanting to revisit "Lost," "Hawaii Five-0" and other Oahu film locations can book an off-road vehicle tour of the Windward Coast and Ka'a'awa Valley with Kos Tours. They are rumored to be developing a "Hunger Games" tour, so be sure to bring your bow and arrow, and "may the odds forever be in your favor."

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