Why A Helicopter Ride in Kauai Should be on Your Bucket List

If you know me at all, you know Kauai is my favorite place on earth.  There's something so wondrous about this oldest Hawaiian island.  For all of my friends that haven't been to Kauai, I take it as my personal mission to convince them to go!  Kauai has a diverse landscape full of waterfalls, lush green rainforests and beautiful mountain ranges.  The landscape is partly what makes this island such a gem.   

Did you know about 90% of the island is inaccessible by road?  Before you start wondering why the heck am I reading this?!  Well, there are lots of other ways to experience the island.  By foot, by sea and last but not least: by air! A Helicopter ride is an incredible way to see Kauai! There's nothing quite like experiencing the island from above!

What you'll get to see:

  • Waimea Canyon
  • Manawaiopuna (“Jurassic”) Falls- some companies stop here and get out for an additional cost!  We've never done it but I bet it'd be cool!  
  • Na Pali Coast- (cue dramatic fanfare, the star of the show)
  • Wai'ale'ale Crater (the wettest place on earth)

This little island is impressive.  Here's some visual proof if you're skeptical:

Why You Should Do It:

If you like epic coast lines, abundant waterfalls and the exhilaration of seeing all of this from the air!  It's pretty amazing all that you'll get to see in just a 60 minute flight (although there are options to extend your flight, but of course more flight time = more $$$).  

How many times will you be in Hawaii?  Hawaii is far away.  Hence, go big or go home. 

And finally, it's just another amazing way to truly understand the magic and unparalleled beauty of this place!

Deciding on a Tour:  

I recommend reading the most recent reviews on Trip Advisor.  If you have any questions you can always call the company to ask! They are always helpful and friendly to answer your questions!  We used Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours (Doors-off) and Blue Hawaiian.  Mauna Loa offers private charters and Blue Hawaii has bigger aircrafts, and very luxurious seating!  If you book online you can save a little money!  Here's a list of Helicopter Tours on Trip Advisor.

We had a few bumps right after take off because of the windy conditions on the west side of the island.  We flew over the gorgeous Waimea Canyon,  and you'll almost forget you're in the middle of a Hawaiian Island.   Then you start making your way to the jaw-dropping Na Pali Coast.  The jagged peaks (reaching almost 4,000 ft) are images you've seen in pictures, but nothing compares to flying over them!  It makes you understand this is a truly sacred place.  

The question will be to decide doors-off our doors on!  We've actually done both (in Kauai).  Once on our honeymoon (with doors) and once last November with doors-off.  The doors off is typically more expensive and in our experience just a little bit bumpier.   Doors- on was a little more relaxing and smooth because we were in a bigger aircraft.  Doors on: About $240 per person, vs.  Doors off: $302 per person.  

Doors-on you will more likely have more people (6 or so), but it's very smooth from the whole time.  Our pilot played an awesome soundtrack!

Time of Day:  

I did some reading before we booked our tour, and found most people advising the afternoon is best for sunnier views of the Na Pali coast so we've done the afternoon both times!  It was great!

The Flight:

Now for the best part,  obviously! Get ready for your socks to be knocked off!

When you make your reservation, you will be given a check-in time.  Make sure you are on time for your check in!  Most flights take off from Lihue.  Also they will ask for your weight when you book, and you will weigh-in when you check in for your tour.   They need this for balancing the weight in the aircraft. 

Entering "The Cathedrals" of The Na Pali Coast

My husband told me he probably wouldn't choose to do the doors off again- it was very windy and very bumpy at the beginning of our flight(but that can vary day to day).  To be honest, I had to set the camera down and hold on with both hands.  Whoo hoo! Like a roller coaster.  Haha, just kidding.  

Once we got to the Na Pali Coast it became a very smooth (and incredible) ride.  I don't know if anyone can look at this place and not be blown away by its beauty.  

Both trips left us utterly blown away!  This is one of those experiences I will always cherish!  If you can, book your tour early in your trip to get a nice survey of the island.  It gives you time to do it again if you're feeling really crazy!  

What To Bring:  

Camera and/or GoPro, and layers!  If you're doing doors off, it's very windy and chilly in the air so bring a fleece jacket or wind-breaker!  Ladies, I recommend wearing your hair in a braid to keep it out of your face.

Photography/Video Tips:

Call in advance to confirm what camera's are permitted.  The first one we did, would not allow anything other than a small point and shoot or smartphone because it could obstruct the view of other passengers.  

If you're using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, I made the mistake of using my polarizing filter, which was ok for the sunny parts of the island, but in hindsight I think I would have left it off because the rainy spots of the island my pictures were way too dark.  So learn from my experience, just use your UV filter.  If you're flying doors off you cannot change filters or lenses during the flight!   Also be sure to shoot in Manual mode.  If you decide to shoot in shutter priority, just make sure you check a view shots, to confirm your aperture isn't too wide open!  

Another very important piece of advice I got: Use your LCD screen to frame yours shots.  With all the motion, it's really important you're not just looking through your viewfinder the whole time!  

I gave my husband my GoPro to shoot video while I took pictures.  I had just gotten my GoPro so I didn't really know much about using the Go Pro, obviously a stabilizer is really important if you want to smooth footage.  I'm in the market for one right now so if you know a good one, tell me in the comments below!

Have I convinced you to do a Helicopter ride in Kauai?!   Or maybe just convinced you to go to Kauai?

Have you been to Kauai and done a helicopter ride?!  What was your experience?  Would you do it again?!

Until next time!  Happy Wandering (and flying)! 


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