How does it sound to travel into a long lost world of ancient rainforests and lush prehistoric landscapes where very few (if any) human beings have set foot in before? A lost world deep within the mountains and hidden from view by towering sea cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Sweeping valleys and canyons marked by cascading waterfalls.
These fantastic natural landmarks sound like the highlights of some dream or commercial. Except, they aren’t. They are exactly the kind of natural wonders you’ll be able to witness firsthand throughout the major islands of Hawai’i. Sights and sounds that very few people on the planet will ever experience.
An experience only made possible from the air. A helicopter tour to be precise. The opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of lush jungle vegetation, incredibly exotic and rugged coastline, surrounded by spectacular panoramic vistas of volcanic craters and ancient rainforests.
Helicopter tours offer the spectator a chance to visit remote locations and fabulous topographical features that are impossible to access by land.
So in order to get you started on your majestic aerial adventure of phenomenal spectacles and unforgettable memories, we present to you a complete guide of one of Hawaii’s most cherished helicopter tour operators: Sunshine Helicopters.
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Sunshine Helicopter Tours Guide
Over 90% of the Hawaiian archipelago is only accessible by air travel. Sunshine Helicopters understood over three decades ago that privately chartered tours were a great way to share the magnificent bounty of the Hawaiian Islands to travelers who had heard fantastic stories about the island paradise and always dreamed of visiting.
Sunshine Helicopters expertly provides helicopter tours of the Big Island, Kauai, Maui & Molokai – the three most majestic islands in the Hawaiian archipelago (and probably the entire world). Adventurous travelers get to enjoy amazing panoramic views of hidden beaches, tropical rainforests, and rugged mountain ranges. All tours are pilot-narrated onboard Sunshine Helicopters’ fleet of state-of-the-art “Black Beauty” touring helicopters.
The service and tour industry is highly competitive and customers demand the best equipment and experience. Sunshine Helicopters delivers on this expectation and gives their customers a variety of options to choose from. Travelers can choose between FX-Star and Whisper-STAR touring helicopters. They both offer pilot-to-pax intercom (i.e. passengers and passes), air-conditioned cabins, and a 3-camera Sky-Cam video system for recording the actual flight journey.
The eco-friendly FX-Star touring helicopters (aka “Black Beauty”) are upgraded with powerful Honeywell engines and burn 10 – 15% less fuel than other various helicopter companies tours. This allows Sunshine Helicopter Tours to pass on savings to their guests. In fact, you won’t find more competitive rates on islands like Maui compared to what the FX-Star has to offer.
The Whisper-STAR, on the other hand, is for traveling guests who demand a higher level of comfort and luxury. The WhisperStar is one of the most technologically advanced touring helicopters in the world. Sunshine Helicopter Tours’ fleet of WhisperStar helicopters are customized with business and first-class interior designs to enhance the comfort and visibility of its guests.
Pilots are well trained and engaging. Sunshine Helicopter pilots love interacting with their flyers. They are aware about the customers mood and chalk out a flight path accordingly.
By the end of the flight, the customers are guaranteed to have soaring satisfaction levels. For a first helicopter flight experience, Sunshine Helicopters are known for making it highly memorable.
They are able to achieve this by employing the best resources at their disposal. Combining this with an experience of close to four decades, they stand apart from their competitors.
Every ride is given due importance as the company believes in delivering the best they can during the hour long Kauai helicopter tours.
They also capture the majestic views through their onboard HD cameras which can be purchased from their office. Memories that you can delight over!
About The Owners
Sunshine Helicopters is a family owned venture that completely understands the need of comfort and giving a beautiful experience to their customers.
The husband and wife team that owns and operates Sunshine Helicopters met as high school sweethearts while their military families were stationed overseas in Germany. When the husband, Ross, decided to attend the University of Washington at Seattle, his wife Anna married him and decided to follow.
Ross started working for Boeing as a design engineer while he was at college when he was drafted into the military during the start of the Vietnam War. Instead of being a foot solider, he decided to volunteer for the Army Helicopter Flight Training Program. This is when Ross’ love for flying helicopters started to blossom. He had quickly became one of the best senior pilots in his outfit, served one tour of duty, and was awarded the Purple Heart and two Distinguished Flying Crosses by the time he was 25 years old.
The husband and wife duo then moved to Anchorage, Alaska where Ross managed a large aviation company with dozens of airplanes and helicopters. This is the time when Ross and Anna gave birth to two sons.
The idea of Sunshine Helicopters would soon take root when the couple ended up moving to Maui to take care of a piece of real estate property they had invested in. While they were there, Ross took control of a yacht chartering business. This is when the duo’s understanding of the hospitality business started to take shape. Even though the boat company was relatively successful, Ross’ yearning to fly helicopters again was stronger than ever, so he decided to give up the boats to pursue a career in aviation.
Sunshine Helicopters was launched in 1985 starting with just two leased helicopters. Today, Sunshine Helicopters operates a fleet of dozens of tour helicopters and has established an excellent reputation as successful family-owned and operated business that seeks to share its passion for the Hawaiian Islands with guests from around the world.
Sunshine Helicopters specializes in chartered tours across three of the major islands: the Big Island of Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui / Molokai. Let’s check out what these destinations have to offer:
Big Island Tours
Six volcanoes have been erupting together for about a million years to form the youngest (and largest) island in the Hawaiian archipelago: the Big Island of Hawaii (‘The Orchid Isle’).
Hawaii is known for being incredibly diverse, with over 8 of the world’s 14 climate zones, and offering travelers the opportunity to discovered unrivaled natural wonders. Hawaii is home to fiery lava vents of Mount Kilauea, one of the most active volcanic masses on the planet and the world’s tallest sea mountain. The Big Island Hawaii also features Mauna Loa, the most massive mountain in the world, and the legendary Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Kohala Mountains is the oldest of five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaii.
Hawaii’s incredibly diverse geographic landscape features everything from snow-capped mountains to tropical rainforest, rugged volcanic rock terrain, and black sand beaches. All combine as ingredients for absolutely amazing views.
A helicopter flight across the largest of the Hawaiian islands is all about experience some of the most breathtaking active volcanoes on the planet while appreciate the majestic surround landscape defined by hidden valleys, cascading waterfalls, and lush rainforests.
Sunshine Helicopters offers helicopter tours of the Hawaiian islands aboard world-class touring helicopters like the FX-Star “Black Beauty” for guests to witness the stunning Kohala coast of Hawaii’s North Shore, where the towering sea cliffs bordering the Waipi’o Valley open into the dramatic, meandering valleys of the Kohala Mountains.
The ‘Garden Isle’, Kauai, is the fourth largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago with one of the most exotic and prehistoric natural landscapes in the world. The oldest of all the major islands, Kauai is almost completely covered by ancient tropical rainforests, forked by rivers and waterfalls, scattered among lush emerald valleys and surrounded by tall, jagged cliffs towering over the Pacific Ocean aged over countless millennia.
Waimea Canyon, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is one of Kauai’s most treasured landmarks. This 10-mile long and 3,000 foot deep canyon, carved out from the rainfall which had accumulated off Mouth Waialeale (the second wettest spot in the world), is one of the most stunning natural wonders to witness on a helicopter ride. Take unbelievable photos from the sky as light shimmers off the rugged cliff faces producing a kaleidoscope of colors.
One of the most exciting experiences is traveling up the wild and unruly Na Pali coast, another of Kauai’s most precious natural wonders. This foreboding stretch of coastline features towering cliffs of sharp, jagged rock unlike anything on Earth. You have to see them up close to truly grasp the magnitude of their ancient splendor. It’s no surprise that the Na Pali coast is one of the most famous places for professional landscape photographers to take photos for prestigious publications like National Geographic.
Explore the hidden beauty of Kauai. Sunshine Helicopter Tours are designed to let you experience the Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon, Wailua Falls, and Mt. Waialeale while learning about the culture and history of the island from Hawaii Tour Certified pilots. Another famous landmark is Manawaiopuna Falls (also known as ‘Jurassic Falls’ from the 1993 film ‘Jurassic Park’).
Maui & Moloka’i Tours
The West Maui Mountains (aka West Maui Volcano or Mauna Kahalewai) and Mt. Haleakala formed Maui (‘The Valley Isle’) approximately 1.7 millions years ago. Now Maui is considered “the greatest island on Earth” to many.
The Valley Isle is characterized by absolutely stunning beaches, the vibrant West Maui Mountains, waterfalls, remote valleys, state parks, and tropical rainforest reserves. Some of Maui’s treasured cultural landmarks and topographical features including Hana Town, the Hana Highway, Seven Pools, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Ho’okipa, Iao Valley State Park, Haleakala National Park, and Waianapanapa State Park.
It is easy to fly across the entire island of Maui, from the leeward to windward side, and catch many of the island’s stunning landscape on one of the best Sunshine Helicopters tours.
Moloka’i is Hawaii’s fifth largest island which is situated just northwest of Maui across the gorgeous Lahaina Roads sea channel. The island was formed by two distinct shield volcanoes named East Moloka’i and West Moloka’i. It features Hawala Bay at the foot of an ancient valley. The head of the valley features two tall waterfalls: Mo’aula Falls (250 feet) and Hipuapua Falls (500 feet).
Molokai’s remote North Shore has the planet’s steepest sea cliffs which were create by a massive landslide about 1.4 millions years, causing some of the cliffs to rise up to 3,000 feet into the air and tower of the misty tropical rainforest of Kamako’u.
West Maui is also known for having some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii, at the incredible Molokini crater, a partially submerged volcanic crater off the shore of West Maui where you can witness some of the most incredible aerial views of a natural wonder you’ll ever see on a helicopter ride.
Let’s check out these amazing tours in greater detail:
Kohala-Hamakua Coast Helicopter Tour
Hāmākua’s coast stretches about 50 miles along the Pacific Ocean ending at Waipiʻo Valley and the unsettled Waimano Valley. The volcanic Mauna Kea is the most dominant topographical feature in Hāmākua . To the north of Waipi’o Valley is the Kohala district, along with the older Kohala Mountains volcano. Hāmākua is known for its steep mountain trails.
On Sunshine Helicopters’ Kohala-Hamakua Coast tour , you’ll witness the majestic beauty of the Kohala Mountains, the oldest volcano on the Big Island Hawaii, with near panoramic views of the South Kohala Resort coast.
Departing from Hapuna heliport, you’ll travel across the Hamakua coast, soar past the Waimea district (over the sweeping pasture lands of the Kahua and Ponoholo Ranches) on your way to the the lush Hamakua rainforest. From there you will explore rugged, steep sea cliffs bordering Waipi’o along with the hidden valleys and cascading waterfalls of Waimanu and Pololu. This part of the ‘Orchid Isle’ is rich in history and presents some of the most spectacular vistas in Hawaii.
Ultimate Kauai Adventure Tour
On this Sunshine Helicopters tour you will be experiencing the sheer magisterial beauty of ‘The Garden Isle’ one of the best Kauai helicopter ride available. Imagine the exciting experience of soaring over a giant floating garden of unspoiled beauty and biodiversity. Kauai is truly one of the most exotic islands in the world and this Sunshine Helicopters Tour is designed to give you the most amazing Kauai experience.
Kauai is prehistoric in nature. Most of the island is uninhabited and 70% of the landmass is inaccessible by land. This is why Sunshine Helicopters offers helicopter rides that fly over this unreachable beauty across remote areas of the Garden Isle where travelers will witness sights incomparable to anything found on the planet.
Towering cliffs overlooking lush ancient rainforest, beautiful waterfalls, hidden valleys, and unspoiled beaches – a spectacular, prehistoric paradise on Earth. All of these geographical landmarks only accessible by aerial tour.
Sunshine Helicopters will take you to Waimea Canyon, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, where you will see the most mesmerizing rock formations and cliffside topography. The only other canyon that matches the grandeur of Waimea is probably Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
Waimea Canyon was carved out over a very long time from the accumulated rainfall streaming down from Mount Waialeale (the second wettest spot in the world) where the average annual rainfall can exceed 450 inches. A rich biodiversity of plans and bird species live off the mountain drainage near the Alakai swamp and Wailua Falls (also known as Fantasy Island Waterfalls).
Last but not least, there is the indescribable Na Pali Coast, with it’s prehistoric expanse of jagged cliffs that tower over the Pacific Ocean. These are among the tallest and most foreboding sea cliffs in the world. Truly a sight to behold. The Ultimate Kauai Adventure is bound to be one of the most magnificent Hawaii tours you’ll ever partake in.
Kauai is one of the most popular islands in all of Hawaii. It features sharp mountain spires, hidden streams and jagged cliffs that have been standing tall for ages. That’s why Sunshine Helicopters offers helicopter tours that give you a different flavor and perspective of this magical island. You can experience some of these amazing chartered journeys through their exquisite Kauai helicopter tours which are designed for passionate and adventurous travelers.
Molokai Deluxe Tour
The Molokai Deluxe Tour is the best Sunshine Helicopters tours of Maui & Molokai, and one of the best Hawaii tours of all the excursions.
Sunshine Helicopter’s Molokai Deluxe Tour is all about exposing guests to the grand highlights of West Maui and Molokai. The journey begins at Kahului Airport near Kanaha Beach Park and takes you on an amazing sightseeing journey around the West Maui Forest / Natural Reserve Area which covers the majority of the western portion of Maui. You will have a bird’s eye view of Ioa Valley State Monument, Pu’u Kukui peak, and Makaluapuna Point near Kapalua Bay Beach.
Your tours of Maui & Molokai will continue as you fly across the Pailolo Channel en route to the eastern shores of Molokai bordering the Molokai Forest Reserve. Your amazing experience of Molokai begins as you travel to the remote north shore to see some of the steepest sea cliffs in the world (some reaching 3,000 feet above sea level) and Wailau Valley. You will also fly past some of the tallest waterfalls in the world such as Oloupena Falls, Pu’uka’oka Falls, and Moa’ula Falls.
Your journey will continue westward to the Kalaupapa Peninsula as you visit the small town of Kalaupapa, off the secluded Anahuac Beach, the historic site where patients with Hansen’s disease were looked after by Father Damien (‘Saint Damien of Molokai’).
As your flight heads back towards the West Maui Mountains to round out your amazing experience soaring through the blue skies with Sunshine Helicopters (while looking for humpback whales across the Lahaina Roads sea channel), you will visit the ancient Hawaiian Fish Ponds and the longest fringing coral reef in the United States (at approx. 25 miles long) — one of the best places to scuba dive in Maui.
Sunshine Helicopters provides amazing aerial sightseeing tours of Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Kauai. Over 90% of Hawaii is inaccessible by land and reputable touring and hospitality companies like Sunshine Helicopters are committed to giving their guests the unique chance to experience something so rare and precious that their memories will last a lifetime.
Come on an adventure through the blue skies as Sunshine Helicopters’ Whisper-STAR and FX-Star touring helicopters fly you across active volcanic landscapes, ancient rainforests, hidden valleys, cascading waterfalls, and along rugged sea cliffs.
Sunshine Helicopters offers helicopter tours of Maui, Molokai, and Hawaii Big Island. It also specializes in unique Kauai helicopter tours.
Legendary natural wonders of Hawaii like Waimea Canyon, Hamakua coast, Mount Kilauea, the Wall of Tears, and the Na Pali Coast (just to name a few) are truly otherworldly realms of magisterial beauty which must be seen to be believed.
Another fantastic service offered by the Sunshine Helicopters is that they also take corporate and special event bookings. Right from assisting you to planning an event, to making sure your guests are left mesmerized, Sunshine Helicopters will deliver the best to you.
You can get your corporate team on a runaway vacation by arranging a special event for them. This will not only give them a much needed break but also increase their productivity when they head back to work.
Note: Each helicopter has 4 seats in the back and 2 seats in the front for passengers. Open seating is determined based on weight & balance for all 6 passengers.
Up to six-passengers, seat assignment determined by weight and balance.
First Class Seating:
Guaranteed front seats next to the pilot (with extra arm and leg room).
Weight & Size Guidelines:
The maximum combined weight for two First Class passengers on the FX-Star and WhisperSTAR is 400 pounds and 490 pounds, respectively.
Note: A helicopter’s balance and weight changes with each flight depending on the the total weight of the flight’s passengers and fuel load. FAA regulations require all passengers (including carry-on items) to be weighed during check in time. It is critically important that all passengers provide Sunshine Helicopters with accurate bodyweight. If a standard airline seatbelt is too small, or a passenger weighs over 240 pounds, then it may be required to purchase a comfort seat on a FX-Star. If a passenger is between 240 – 290 lbs., Sunshine Helicopters recommends the Open Seating option on the Whisper STAR. Over 290 lbs. may require the Comfort Seat option on a Whisper STAR.
What to bring:
Most visitors bring sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, or dark clothes (to reduce light reflection) when traveling during clear and sunny weather conditions.