One of the best ways to see the islands is by the air. And a doors-off helicopter tour is the epitome of that experience.
I really can’t say enough good things about it. It’s one of the most unique ways to see the islands. The views you get are unbelievable. And if you’ve never flown in a helicopter before, the experience of that alone is worth it.
// When to Fly
This is tough as there is value in both of the options I’ll tell you. Figure out which fits your personality or learning style better.
If you have the chance to take a flight near the beginning of the trip, especially if this is your first trip to that specific island, you’ll get a fantastic overview of the layout of the island and the various things you’ll want to see.
If you fly at the end of your trip, you’ll be able to tie the different locations you’ve been to together in a fun way. You’ll also have the experience of what those places look at ground level already so appreciate them again from a different view.
There’s not a right or a wrong way to do it. And flying at either time will be an experience for the two of you to remember!
// where to fly
There are a few places on each island. I will note the ones I’ve personally done (at my own cost, nothing is a paid ad here). And I’ll recommend a few others.
On Kaua’i I recommend Jack Harter’s Helicopter. They are very highly reviewed and my experience flying with them multiple times has been impeccable. They offer a tour which goes around the entire islands, granting you gorgeous views of Waimea Canyon State Park and the Na Pali coast.
On Oahu I recommend Novictor Aviation. I’ve flown with them four times now and had a great experience every time. They are based out of the Honolulu airport and offer tours around the island. Most of their tours are shorter experiences around Waikiki and a great way to tip your toes into the world of helicopter rides at a reasonable cost. The evening flights around the city, and the ones where you see the fireworks, can be a very romantic experience.
For Maui, check out Air Maui or Blue Hawaiian. Tours might take you around the various parts of the island, out to Hana or near Haleakala. Some tours will take you over to Moloka’i as well. I’ve not personally done any flights on Maui yet.
Lastly, the Big Island offers something the others don’t, volcanoes. One of my dreams is to take on of the tours, like what Paradise Helicopters offers, and land near the volcano and get to walk around. To be able to be close to lava, even if just flying over, and see it with my own eyes; that seems pretty amazing to me!
// tips for picking a tour and haveing a good flight
- The different companies use different helicopters. Some seat six and others four, and some three. With six, there’s always two people in the middle, with 3, everyone is on the outside. And the seating is always done by weight (to keep the helicopter balanced). You can request a seat but they will assign them by whatever is safest. You should be able to see on each site what type of helicopter they fly and make your decisions from there.
- If you’re looking to take photos, a smaller doors-off helicopter might be a better option so you’re not stuck inside.
- Don’t eat just before you fly, especially if you’ve never experienced a helicopter. It’s not that you should expect a roller coaster ride (they are actually very smooth). It’s just to be on the safe side 😉
- If you are taking a tour with doors, wear dark clothing, to minimize the reflections your clothing will make on the glass. Less reflections makes it easy to see and take photos.
- Listen to all the safety instructions. If you’re bringing a camera on a doors-off tour, it will need to be strapped to your body somehow.
- To avoid motion blur in your photos, if you can, set your camera’s shutter speed to be at least 1/1000 sec (1/2000 or 1/3000 can be even better).
- If you have long hair, have it tied up otherwise the wind will blow it around.