TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE

The 5 Best Hawaiian Helicopter Tours to Book on Your Next Vacation

Ryan, Senior Traveler, US
01 August 2018
Hawaii continues to be one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations. Millions of tourists flock the islands each year. Truth be told, the world’s obsession with these magical islands is justified.

No matter if you enjoy the white sand beaches, the turquoise waters, or the refreshing trade winds you will find something to love about Hawaii.

However, the true beauty of the islands lies in the geography from the mountain ranges to the beaches and the waterfalls, rain forests, and craters in between.

What better way to enjoy the sights of the islands than taking a helicopter tour? Helicopter tours are the only way to fully appreciate the beauty of the islands.

The views you see from the beach or a car ride around the island are just the tip of the iceberg of beauty that awaits from the sky. This is because these features are so massive, that to experience them in their full glory, you have to see it from an aerial view.

No matter if you want to visit Hawai’i, Kaua’i, Maui, Moloka’i or O’ahu there is a helicopter tour just for you.

Being an enthusiast of the island features, I have had the privilege of taking several of these tours on my visits to the islands.

Each tour showcases a completely different scenery, leaving your mind blown every single time.

A Complete Guide to Hawaii’s Best Helicopter Tours

Below is a comparison of my experience on five different helicopter tours of the islands:

1. Oahu Island Helicopter Tour

O’ahu has so much to offer from the towering buildings of the city to the countryside and from waterfalls to sandy white beaches and turquoise waters.

This is the island that houses state’s largest city. It has a lot to offer in terms of purely natural features such as mountains, rainforests, and bays to man-made historical monuments such as the Pearl Harbor.

The tour starts from the airport and proceeds to explore the island in a counterclockwise fashion.

This tour begins with views of Waikiki, a popular beach and tourist area with amazing skyline views that blend into the sandy white beach and beautiful blues of the Pacific Ocean.

Depending on which tour you will then travel along the Ka Iwa Shoreline to view various beaches and well-known surfing spots.

This tour takes you over the majestic Ko’olau Mountain range before flying over to the Windward side which, due to the annual rainfall, showcases some of the most lush greenery you will see on all the island.

Keep your eyes open for the waterfalls that cascade along the mountains. As you come around the mountain range you will come across Mokoli’i often referred to as “Chinaman’s Hat,” a wellknown rock formation in the middle of the ocean. The pilot will be able to share the amazing history and stories behind this iconic feature.

As you will come back across the mountains and back to town you will experience the history of Pearl Harbor and view additional landmarks of O’ahu including USS Arizona and Punchbowl Memorial.

I am quite passionate about military work, so I really appreciated this part. Punchbowl Memorial is another incredible sight.

The design of the memorial is the true appeal – it’s beautifully landscaped fields and gardens with curved pavements grace the top of Punchbowl Crater.

The pilot will share the history of World War I and II and the soldiers that we pay tribute to at these memorials.

Pros:

  • 50 minute flight time
  • Pilots with experience and knowledge of the history of O’ahu
  • Views of natural sites and manmade features

 

Cons:

  • Tour highlights a lot of educational information and may not be for those who aren’t into history
  • Bad weather can alter the flight path and/or make it difficult for photographs
“See what Hawaii is all about from the best seat in the house when you book a helicopter tour in Hawaii!”

2. Maui Island Helicopter Tour

Maui, the second largest island in the Hawaiian island chain, has dense rain forests, steep valleys, and countless miles of beaches.

You may choose to experience the west side of the island, the east side of the island, or the entire island. So many tours to choose from made it even more difficult to write about just one.

While many visitors take the day long drive around to view the Hana rainforest from the sky you will experience the lush green of the forest, cascading waterfalls, and bamboo forests that are along this route.

If you want to see Maui and experience all its beauty but don’t want to sit in a car for hours on end then a helicopter tour is definitely worth your time.

Pros:

  • 90 Minutes Tour (70 Minutes Flight Time)
  • 360 views of the scenery
  • Pilot is a great guide with a wealth of information to share
  • Views of rainforests, volcanic craters, and waterfalls inaccessible via land

 

Cons:

  • Time of day impacts views and lighting for photographs
  • Most expensive of the tours

3. Kauai Islands Helicopter Tour

Kauai or the Garden Isle is known for its annual rainfall and lush mountain ranges with waterfalls that are visible all year long.

Magnificent beauty untouched by humans contributes to the amazing views only visibly from the air.

Along this tour you will experience the views of Hanapepe Valley, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” – Waimea Canyon, and Olokele Canyon. Additionally, you will see Manawaio’opuna – known as “Jurassic Park Falls” and the wettest spot on earth Mt. Waiale’ale (weather permitting).

I really got a kick out of this one. Finally you will experience the beauty of the Na Pali Coast and Bali Hai Cliffs. As you round out the end of the tour you will fly past Hanalei Bay and the Princeville Resort located on the north shore.

Pros:

  • 50 minute flight time
  • Morning and afternoon flight times
  • Unique views of canyons, craters, and waterfalls
  • Visit to the wettest spot on earth with annual rainfall of 450 – 500 inches per year

 

Cons:

  • Some sites may be limited due to weather

Below are the 2 best tours of the island of Hawaii or better known as the Big Island:

4. The Big Island Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls

This tour departs from Hilo, Hawaii and covers the eastern side of the island, which is the world’s most active volcanic area.

It is literally filled with craters pouring out lava by the minute into the Pacific Ocean. The specifics of the tour vary a lot according to the area’s volcanic activity, which changes by the hour, but if you’re a thrill seeker, this is a no brainer out of all the tours of Hawaii.

Mt. Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983 and is currently extremely active. Explore the Coastal East Rift Zone – a zone located at the Pacific shore where the mountains meet the oceans. Hot lava freely flows from vents and fissures, slowly making its way down the slopes to pour into the sea. The aerial view is amazing as you get to see all the stages of the lava flow.

Steam emanates from the points of the union as the lava heat vaporizes water. It is a scene that makes you appreciate the true power of nature. A mix of hot red and dark cooled lava covered the entire caldera.

In addition to the incredible volcanic views you will experience cascading waterfalls and lush tropical rain forests.

Pros:

  • 50 minute flight time
  • Great views of volcanic activity, tropical rain forests an waterfalls
  • Educational and informative guides
  • Recordings of each flight are available for purchase

Cons:

  • Routes and sights may vary according to weather and wind conditions
  • Tour can be limited due to amount of volcanic activity
  • Recordings of your flight may be purchases at an additional fee

5. Kohala Coast Adventure Tour

This tour departs from Waikoloa, Hawaii and covers the calm and beautiful northern part of Hawai’i Island.

It is the exact opposite of the actively erupting eastern shore: it is covered with beautiful rain forests with rivers and waterfalls that flow into the ocean, perfect for those romantic couples visiting Hawaii.

Some of its highlights include: Mookini Heiau – one of the oldest sites on the island. It is a spiritual temple that pays homage to the many lineages that have lived on the island, including the first natives to arrive on the island.

Its ancient architectural view is well appreciated from the sky view. A few narrations about the temple’s history gives you a better understanding of the native population’s ancient culture.

The northern part of the island boasts of having the largest number of valleys than any island in the world, and Kohala is the best of them. It is home to one of the greatest waterfalls in Hawaii; the Kohala Falls. The waterfall is over 1400 feet high, and thousands of gallons of water fall over by the minute. Waipio Valley is located right at the sea coast.

The bed of the valley is a small offshore town that was the home of most Hawaiian kings. The walls of the valley are quite steep, with a narrow passage connecting its bed to the inner land.

Pros:

  • 50 minute flight time
  • Includes unique sites from historical monuments to valleys and waterfalls
  • Educational and informative guides
  • Insight into native Hawaiian culture
  • Recordings of each flight are available for purchase

 

Cons:

  • Fewer stops than other tours
  • Routes and sights may vary according to weather and wind conditions
  • Recordings of your flight may be purchases at an additional fee
The choice of which tour to take should mostly be influenced by your taste and preference. Do you like to see erupting volcanoes and canyons, or prefer serene valleys covered with rainforests and waterfalls?

So, go ahead and book yourself a helicopter tour in Hawaii – no matter which island you choose it’s worth it, trust me, I have done it seven times and am yet to regret it.

Blue Skies of Oahu

$213.3
$213.3
  • All of Oahu
  • 45-50 Minute Flight Tour
  • Visit Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial from above
  • Max. 6 People

Maui Spectacular Helicopter Tour

$319
$319
  • West Maui & Hana/Haleakala Tours Combo
  • 90 Minutes Tour (70 Minutes Flight Time)
  • Exclusive remote landing site at Ulupalakua Ranch
  • Max. 6 People

Kaui Eco Helicopter Adventure

$215.2
$215.2
  • All of Kauai
  • 50-55 Minutes Flight Tour
  • Fly over the Garden Isle of Kauai
  • Max. 6 People

Big Island Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls

$207.2
$207.2
  • Tour above the East Side and Volcano National Park
  • 45-50 Minute Flight Tour
  • Tour the most geologically active environment on earth
  • Max. 6 People

Big Island Kohala Coast Adventure

$247.2
$247.2
  • Tour the Kohala Coast, Valleys & Waterfalls
  • 50 Minute Flight Tour
  • This tour was voted #1 by The Travel Channel as the "World's Best Helicopter Thrill."
  • Max. 6 People