Pre-Travel Fun: 16 Movies with Stunning Views of the Americas
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Pre-Travel Fun: 16 Movies with Stunning Views of the Americas

Moviemakers transport viewers to places all over the world, which is wonderful for travelers who want to get a sneak peak at a destination. In some cases though, filmmakers can fool us into thinking we’re seeing a different country than we are.

To get the real lowdown on some films, here are some movies shot in countries Rustic travels to in the Americas, along with a few inspiring documentaries.

For more movies, view our first movie blog for some films shot in Rustic areas of the United States.

Dominican Republic

Fast & Furious 4, 7 & 9 – 2009, 2015, & 2021

Actor Vin Diesel is a frequent visitor of the Dominican Republic and several scenes in the movie series were filmed in the country. This includes a lengthy scene in the fourth movie when the crew is trying to steal gas from an extended tanker truck and things don’t go too well.

The latest release in 2021 includes scenes shot in the stunning tourist area of ​​Cap Cana, Punta Cana, in the east of the country.

Finding ‘Ohana – 2021

This family-friendly Netflix film has an Indiana Jones and Goonies feel. The movie originally was supposed to primarily be filmed in the Dominican Republic, but plans changed to add more locations.

The storyline centers on siblings who are in Hawaii for the summer and end up going on a treasure hunt. Much of the filming did end up taking place on the beautiful Hawaiian island of O’ahu. However a cave sequence was filmed in Thailand because the caves in Hawaii are considered sacred ground since they have been used as burial sites.

Intermixed with scenes from these locations are shots from the Dominican Republic that feature the country’s beauty.

The Godfather II – 1974

In decades past, the Dominican Republic has been used in several other cases to substitute for a different country. This happened in the 1970s when Francis Ford Coppola could not film in Cuba, where the story line for this famous (though violent) movie was supposed to occur.

That took the filmmakers to the Dominican Republic where they used the Colonial District in Santo Domingo to represent Havana, Cuba. One key scene was shot at the city’s El Embajador Hotel, a landmark built in 1956.

Spend a day getting to know the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. Copyright: Rustic Pathways

The Dominican Republic also substituted for other nations in the rated-R movies Apocalypse Now from 1979 and Miami Vice from 2006. The country stood in for scenes that were meant to be in Vietnam and Haiti. To make the city look Haitian, street signs were changed from Spanish to French, and the colors of many buildings were altered.

Jurassic Park – 1993

As mentioned in our blog on movie spots in the United States, an opening scene of this movie was filmed at the Amber Museum in Puerta Plata.  It shows a mosquito frozen in amber. In addition some scenic spots were utilized around the town including shots from Isabel de Torres Mountain.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – 2003

Not surprisingly locations on several Caribbean islands were used for the shooting of this film. This includes Samana in the northern part of the Dominican Republic, which was used for a number of the gorgeous beach scenes.

Have a picnic lunch before relaxing on the beach or taking a dip in turquoise waters in the Dominican Republic. Copyright: Rustic Pathways

Costa Rica

Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams – 2002

Several sequences from this movie were shot at Manuel Antonio National Park by the Pacific Ocean and around Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake, near where the Rustic’s Pura Vida Service program is held. Island scenes for this movie were shot in both Costa Rica and in the U.S. state of Texas.

Kayak the beautiful Lake Arenal right at the foot of the volcano. Copyright: © 2015 Rustic Pathways

After Earth – 2013

This M. Night Shyamalan film starring Jaden Smith and Will Smith is another film that has scenes in locations visited by students on the Pura Vida Service program.  The movie was filmed in La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano and in Sarapiquí, which is traversed by the Sarapiquí River that Rustic students visit to whitewater raft.

Paddington – 2014

Much of this movie was filmed in England, but Costa Rica does play a role. The beautiful opening scenes that were said to take place in the fictional town of Darkest Peru were actually filmed in the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica.


Transformers 7: Rise of the Beasts – 2023

This movie has been delayed, but it features several regions of Peru. It includes scenes shot at Machu Picchu and the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuamán. They also filmed in the historic center of Cusco and in the Amazon, including in Cordillera Escalera Natural Reserve.

The Ghosts of Machu Picchu – 2010

This NOVA documentary by PBS is a fascinating look at what may be Peru’s most famous site – Machu Picchu. This archeological site has sparked many theories about how the Incas lived and why they abandoned this city. NOVA filmed archeologists as they tried to answer questions. This documentary is no longer available on PBS sites, but it can be found at this archive website.

Credit: Rustic Pathways

The Motorcycle Diaries  – 2004

This Spanish film is based on a true story about Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado, who explored South America in the 1950s. A number of scenes in this rated-R movie were filmed in the locations the pair visited, including sites in Peru. One interesting note is that most of the Cusco scene was filmed in the village of Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Rustic students stay in this village during the Sacred Valley Service program.


Galápagos – 2006

Not surprisingly there are quite a number of documentaries that feature nature in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. This three-part BBC documentary gives one of the more in-depth looks at the islands. The first part called Born on Fire introduces viewers to the islands. The second part Islands that Changed the World discusses evolution, and the third part Forces of Change shows how life has evolved to cope with climatic and volcanic changes on the islands.

Blue Planet II – 2017

This BBC documentary series took filmmakers to 39 countries and took four years to produce. The production included more scenes from the Galapagos Islands.  Wildlife from the islands are featured in Episode 4 Big Blue and Episode 6 Coasts.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – 2003

This movie is the first non-documentary film to be partially shot in the Galapagos Islands. The movie stars Russell Crowe and is a war-drama set in the early 1800s during the Napoleonic wars. Filmmakers spent 10 days at sea filming portions of the movie, which led to a number of crew and cast members getting seasick. Because of the fragile ecosystem of the islands, not all scenes could be filmed there. The effort they did take to capture scenes in the islands paid off since the movie was nominated for 10 Oscars and won the Best Cinematography award.

For more movies, visit our first blog on some films shot in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Stay tuned for future blogs on movies shot in other Rustic locations around the world.

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Content Writer

Mary is a Content Writer at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.