Blue Hawaii was the first of three Elvis films to be shot in Hawaii, followed by Girls! Girls! Girls! in 1962 and Paradise, Hawaiian Style in 1965. Producer Hal B. Wallis was keen to put Presley into a film that showed how the army affected a man. Actress Juliet Prowse, who had starred with Presley in GI Blues, was approached to be his love interest again. However, after her demands were put forward, Paramount decided to drop her as a possible candidate for the role, choosing Joan Blackman instead. Presley was apparently so pale before shooting that Wallis personally recommended a brand of tanning lamp to darken his skin. The film was announced in the fall of 1960 as Hawaii Beach Boy. At the time, film producer Walter Mirisch had a similar titled film in production, "Hawaii", and he was upset that Wallis had chosen such a similar name.
Presley arrived in Hawaii on March 18, 1961, to prepare for a charity concert that he was performing on March 25 to raise funds for the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour. He arrived at the recording studio on March 21 to start the recording of the film's soundtrack.Three weeks later location filming had finished, including scenes at Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Mount Tantalus, and Hanauma Bay, a volcanic crater that is open to the sea, near the bedroom community of Hawaii-Kai, a few miles away from Waikiki. Following location filming, the crew returned to the Paramount lot to finish other scenes for the film. Presley would relax during filming by giving karate demonstrations with his friend and employee, Red West, which resulted in Presley's fingers becoming bruised and swollen. Wallis warned the female stars of the film to avoid parties hosted by Presley because they were turning up for shooting looking tired.
It could be argued that this film set the tone for Presley's future film career — pretty locations, gorgeous girls, dull plots, and mediocre songs. Almost all of these musical-comedy films performed well, whereas more "serious" films, such as Flaming Star, Wild in the Country and Charro!, did poorly at the box office. Blue Hawaii, on the other hand, was one of Elvis' most successful films, opening at #2 at the box office when released on November 22, 1961.
Producer Hal Wallis would use the box office returns from Blue Hawaii to finance an upcoming Wallis film, 1964's Becket, starring Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole.
Presley was 26 at the time this film was released, and a not yet 36-year-old Angela Lansbury played his character's mother. Lansbury would later comment that her appearance here was one of the worst in her career.
Much of the film was shot on location at the Coco Palms Resort on the east coast of Kauai. The resort has been abandoned since Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
Although it is mentioned in the film that Chad's parents live in Kahala, one of the most expensive and exclusive areas of Honolulu in 1961, the view from their "lanai" (porch or terrace) shows Diamond Head as it appears from Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. In actuality, Kahala is located on the other side of Diamond Head from Waikiki.
There were several scenes filmed in and around the famous Waikiki Beach, including the opening driving scenes, as well as the office scene across the street from the "International Market." The scenes where Chad's clients stayed in a hotel and where he picked up his tour group - as well as the beach he spent time with his girlfriend - were all filmed on the property that is now known as the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach.