Top 5 Helicopter Tours in Hawaii Reviewed

Hawaii continues to be one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations. Millions of tourists flock the Hawaiian 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, turquoise waters crashing against the sea cliffs, the refreshing trade winds along the Na Pali coast, the volcanoes on the Big Island, or the exquisite lushness of Hana Rainforest, you will find something to love about Hawaii.

The true beauty of the Big Island of Hawaii, and sister islands like Oahu and Maui, lies in the geography from the mountain ranges to the remote beaches and the blue waterfalls, rainforest, cliffs and craters in between.

There’s no better way to experience this majestic paradise than from the air as you fly across the landscape in a helicopter. Hawaii helicopter tours are some of the most exciting experiences the Big Island of Hawaii has to offer.

Here’s a brief overview of how the best Hawaii helicopter tours compare to each other.

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  • Flight Time: 45-50 mins
  • Highlight: 180º views of Oahu’s phenomenal Scenery
  • Price: $$$
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  • Flight Time: 90 mins
  • Highlight: View of West Maui Valleys, Rainforest and Waterfalls
  • Price: $$$$
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  • Flight Time: 50 mins
  • Highlight: Breathtaking Views of Kauai
  • Price: $$$
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  • Flight Time: 45-50 mins
  • Highlight: Fly over an active Volcano
  • Price: $$$
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  • Flight Time: 50 mins
  • Highlight: Gorgeous Scenery of the Big Island
  • Price: $$$
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There’s simply no 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 helicopter flight. This is because these features are so massive, that to experience them in their full glory, you have to see them as you fly in the sky.

No matter if you want to visit the Big Island of Hawaii, 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 helicopter tours on my visits to the Big Island of Hawaii, Oahu, Kauai, and Molokai to name a few.

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

Oahu has so much to offer from the towering buildings of the city to the countryside and from waterfalls to sandy white beaches and turqoise waters along the coast.

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 helicopter 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 Oahu 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 helicopter tour 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 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 Hana Rainforest, 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

blue hawaiian eco adventure

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

Magnificent beauty untouched by humans contributes to the amazing views only visible from helicopter flight.

Along this helicopter 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 the breathtaking beauty of Waimea Canyon. 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 the blue paradise of 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, sea cliffs 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

4. The Big Island Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls

This Big Island helicopter tour departs from Hilo, Hawaii and covers the eastern coast 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 volcano is the most famous active volcano on the island of Hawaii. It has been erupting continuously since 1983. 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 from this Big Island helicopter tour 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 helicopter flight departs from Waikoloa, Hawaii and covers the calm and beautiful northern part of the island of Hawaii.

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 North Shore, perfect for those romantic couples visiting Hawaii.

Some of the highlights of this incredible helicopter tour 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 of Hawaii, including the first natives to arrive on the big 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 volcano is the best of them. It is also home to Kohala National Reserve and one of the greatest waterfalls in Hawaii; the Kohala Falls. The waterfall is over 1400 feet high in the air, 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

Views of Kohala volcano, Kohala Forest Reserve and Kohala Falls

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 helicopter 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 paradise you choose it’s worth it, trust me, I have done it seven times and am yet to regret it.

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