Surf, sun, and the silver screen. Hawaii is cashing in on its Hollywood appeal. The cash, in this case, stems from activity by domestic and foreign filmmakers. Sixty-six theatrical and television features plus 240 TV commercials - filming scenes among swaying palm trees and against a blue-hued ocean - brought in $31 million last year, notes the First Hawaiian Bank, Honolulu.
The $31 million may not seem like much. It is less than 1 percent of the revenues derived from the tourist industry. The State Department of Planning and Economic Development points out, however, that it's more than the value of cattle sales or macadamia nuts or flowers and foliage.
The goal is to top 1982 revenues this year. A major boost comes from filming of ''Magnum P.I.'' The popular TV series accounts for the spending of about $20 million a season in Hawaii (compared with $9 million spent annually when ''Hawaii Five-O,'' another popular TV show, was active in the islands in the '70 s), the bank notes.
Hawaiian scenery started appearing in films 70 years ago. One of the more notable productions, ''South Pacific,'' was shot on Kauai, the northernmost island. That location continues to be a highlight of sightseers who still envision Mitzi Gaynor's and Rossano Brazzi's footprints in the sand on the still-barren beach - 25 years after the film's release.
Dr. Henry L. Wong, manager of the Hawaii Film Office, established in 1978, assists producers with suggested places to film, permits, visa problems, and other matters. He cites the varied settings, ranging from rain forests to temples, as attractions to capture on film.
To smooth the way for more shooting sessions, Hawaii has simplified what has been a cumbersome problem of getting assorted government permits required for using parks, beaches, streets, and other public areas. The Legislature recently passed a bill to allow one-stop shopping for permits.
Hawaii is also working on another weak area: support services, such as sound stages and postproduction facilities. Three studios are completed or planned to replace the state-owned soundproofed studio on Diamond Head (used on a month-to-month revocable lease by ''Magnum P.I.'' and earlier by ''Hawaii Five-O''), which is slated to be turned over to Kapiolani Community College for classrooms.
Shooting movies or commercials appeals to the Aloha State because the industry brings in money rather than pollution. And it means jobs for all types of workers from actors to truck drivers while visiting crews give a much-needed lift to the hotel and restaurant business.
In the end, tourism gets a further boost as the attractive backdrops inspire viewers to see Hawaii firsthand.