“I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right”: A MAGNUM geek visits Paradise

Longtime readers may remember that I was a big fan of the show Magnum PI back in the day. That is, the original show, the one that ran in the 1980s, and not the new reboot show that is running, well, now. (Nothing against the current incarnation, which I’ve watched a couple of times; it seems like a perfectly acceptable procedural show, but it’s never going to replace the original for me.) Being in Hawaii, where Magnum was set, gave me a chance to see some familiar locations from the show up close.

The biggest draw for an old Magnum fan would almost certainly have been the old estate that on the show doubled as “Robin’s Nest”, the Hawaii estate of the famed novelist Robin Masters, for whom Thomas Magnum and the estate’s major domo, Jonathan Quayle Higgins, worked. This estate was on the eastern shore of Oahu, and we did drive past where it was…but note the past tense there. Sadly, the location–in real life, the Anderson Estate–was demolished a couple of years ago after a long period of neglect. However, we did stop at a beach park a mile or so down the road from where the Anderson Estate once stood, and I took this photo of Manana Island, which is now a bird sanctuary:

You could often see that island in the distance when Magnum was swimming in Mr. Masters’s tidal pool.

Along the same shore, to the south (we drove by this first, actually), we stopped at an overlook with a stunning view. (Overlooks with stunning views are rather a thing in Hawaii!) Here’s a bit of that view, isolated:


That little island with the building on it, connected by bridge to Oahu, is the Makai Research Pier, belonging to Makai Ocean Engineering, a company that works on oceanic tech like sea cables and that sort of thing. That pier doubled, on Magnum PI, as the headquarters for Island Hoppers, the helicopter excursion business run by Magnum’s buddy, Theodore Calvin (TC).

I didn’t realize this at the time, but the lookout where I took that photo, Makapu’u Lookout, is on the same cliffs that become Makapu’u Point, a bit farther to the east. We briefly stopped there but realized that the hiking trail was much longer and more strenuous than we really felt up to that day, so we didn’t go…but it ends at Makapu’u Lighthouse:

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrew_wertheimer/32922164913/

Fans of Magnum will remember this lighthouse for one of the series’s most surprising, and unnerving, episode endings. In the episode “Faith and Beggorah”, there’s a subplot where Magnum is supposed to be investigating if a boxer’s wife is cheating on him. In the episode’s final scene, Rick and TC are watching from a distance as the wife and her putative boyfriend-on-the-side are at this lighthouse–but they are arguing constantly. We can’t hear what they’re saying, but Rick is bored because they can’t prove that she’s cheating on the husband if all they ever see her doing is yelling at the boyfriend. Rick is watching through a telescopic camera lens, while TC is lazily dozing off to the side. TC says “Oh, just keep watching, maybe something interesting will happen”…and at that moment, the boyfriend picks the woman up and tosses her off the lighthouse and down the cliffs. Yikes!


Then there’s this place, the War Memorial Natatorium in Waikiki. This was right down the street from our resort, and yet, I never walked down to get a closer look, alas! Next time, I swear! (Unless it gets torn down, which is apparently a possibility as this location has been an ongoing preservation struggle for a while.)


Built to honor the veterans and fallen of World War I, the Natatorium is not unlike all the various “War Memorial Stadiums” built across America, except that this one is a salt-water swimming pool. It has been closed for decades and is, as noted, an ongoing subject of debate between preservation and demolition. On Magnum, it featured prominently during the climax of an episode titled “Death and Taxes”, where a serial killer forms a fixation on Magnum, for some reason that the episode leaves unstated (to creepy effect).

Some places I did not get pictures of include the Iolani Palace, used often on the show as the location for various government agencies (such as when Magnum had dealings with the local PD)–

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aa4on/14396166855

Also Honolulu’s Chinatown, which we passed through twice, once by car and once on the bus. This area served as location for when Magnum PI did stories set in the “seedier” part of town, such as the show’s fictional Vietnamese neighborhood, “Little Saigon”.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/81454274@N07/14058078021

There’s something exciting about seeing places you only know through movies and television, isn’t there? This is not a Magnum location, but it is one of the most famous locations in movie history, thanks to a very steamy scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity:

And I didn’t get into any places where Elvis Presley filmed at all, I’m sorry to say. We did go to Pearl Harbor, though, and Elvis Presley was a major contributor that fundraising for the Arizona Memorial back in 1961.

It’s also always interesting to note how much poetic and cinematic license play into how movie and teevee locations work! There’s a Magnum PI episode from late in the show’s run where everyone is after a literal buried treasure, and after some tromping through the wilderness they all end up jumping off a cliff into a pool with a waterfall in order to grab some of the money that has ended up floating there. (I don’t remember the particulars.) I looked this up, figuring it to be located someplace deep in the island’s mountainous interior, but…not so! It turns out that if you stand on that exact spot, in no direction are you more than a couple hundred feet from a parking lot or a four-lane highway.

Anyway, folks, be careful when arranging your vacations, because if the place you’re going is where filming took place for a movie or show a member of your party is a big fan of, you’re going to hear about it. A lot.

Even if the place that person sees has nothing to do with the movie or show being mentioned, like this revolving restaurant in Waikiki. Doesn’t it look a bit like Piz Gloria, the mountaintop lair of Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service???


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One Response to “I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right”: A MAGNUM geek visits Paradise

  1. Jason says:

    You remember the individual episodes of Magnum far better than I. 🙂

    That said, I do know the surreal feeling of walking around someplace you know from film or television. When Anne and I went to Hawaii, we did a movie-location-specific tour on Kauai. That was really cool, everything from “Kong Peak” (a prominent mountain peak that resembles King Kong lying on his back; it was the “Paramount mountain” at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark) to various spots from South Pacific, Blue Hawaii, Honeymoon in Vegas, and Flight of the Intruder (rice paddies that stand in for Vietnam!). And in Scotland, we visited the castle where most of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was shot — if it’s a scene in a castle, it was this place (even though storywise, there were several castles).

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