Few destinations are as geographically diverse as Hawaii’s Big Island. A few short hours of driving can take you from pristine beaches to awe-inspiring volcanoes and astounding waterfalls.
Hiking, snorkeling, and even horseback riding are great options for exploring this beautiful island, but what if you’re eager for a new perspective? Adventure is well within reach when you take an exciting journey with one of the Big Island’s many helicopter tour companies.
Deciding whether to take a helicopter tour should be easy: if you’re a thrill-seeker with a penchant for sweeping views (and a limited fear of heights), you will adore everything about this unique experience. Deciding which tour to take, however, can be a lot trickier, as there is simply too much to see and too many companies to choose between. In this guide, we highlight a few of your best options for exploring the Big Island from a unique vantage point.
Where to Go
As we’ve mentioned, the Big Island provides a wide range of settings to explore from land, air, and sea. While a helicopter grants you visual access to a broader region in a shorter period of time, it’s still impossible to see it all within a single expedition. Ideally, you will choose based on your favorite type of scenery — or based on the type of tour you find most memorable or compelling.
Top options include:
Mauna Loa Eruption tours
Among the most popular tours available on the Big Island, Mauna Loa expeditions offer access to mesmerizing scenery that’s generally out of reach.
Some of the Big Island’s most magical waterfalls are all but impossible to access by car. Thankfully, you can see these with help from helicopters, some of which even take you to the base of the best waterfalls.
Combine sightseeing with a rigorous or leisurely hike that allows you to see the best of the Big Island up close and personal. These treks are often built into waterfall tours, but may also bring you to other Big Island gems.
When you head out for your helicopter tour can be just as important as where you go. Big Island sunsets are absolutely astounding, so why not view them from the unique vantage point of a helicopter? Book strategically, and the glow of the sunset will add a whole new dimension to your adventure.
Full island tours
Struggling to choose just one location? If you’d like a comprehensive overview of the Big Island and all it has to offer, a full island tour may be your best bet. Just a few tour companies provide these, but they’re definitely worth trying if you have the budget and the stamina.
Best Tour Companies
Now that you know which locations to check out and which experiences are most memorable, it’s time to determine who, exactly, will fly you around the Big Island and keep you safe throughout your expedition. There are many options, ranging from large companies (which offer tours of several Hawaiian islands) to smaller outfits run by local families.
As you research top helicopter tour companies, be sure to keep these favorites in mind:
Offering numerous tour opportunities among Hawaii’s most beautiful islands, Paradise Helicopter Tours serves Big Island visitors from various bases of operations at the island’s airports. Many tours provide the opportunity to touch down and explore secluded locations that might otherwise be out of reach.
If you’re visiting with a sweetheart, be sure to take advantage of the romance package. You can even upgrade with fun add-ons such as professional photography or catered lunches. Don’t forget to chat with the concierge to discuss your idea of the perfect helicopter expedition.
Another helicopter tour company that offers experiences on several islands, Blue Hawaiian provides access to the jaw-dropping scenery of the Waipio Valley, as well as an intriguing look at the famed Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Depending on personal preferences, these tours may last anywhere from fifty minutes to well over two hours. No matter how long you spend in the air, you’ll be intrigued by the commentary from certified tour guides. Customized charter tours are also available if you have a specific vision for your helicopter journey.
Hawaii Volcano Expeditions
If you’re 100 percent committed to seeing volcanoes from a helicopter, you can’t go wrong with this targeted tour. This company offers multiple means of exploring the Big Island’s volcanoes, including guided hikes and lava tube cave adventures. Nothing compares to the helicopter tour, however, which gives you a front-row seat for a narrated expedition. This lasts nearly an hour, with highlights including not only a spectacular view of Kilauea, but also, black sand beaches, waterfalls, and more.
Another compelling option from Hawaii Volcano Expeditions? The opportunity to travel from Oahu to Hilo so you can see the best of the Big Island. This is a great option if you have limited time for island-hopping but hate the idea of missing out on the Big Island’s remarkable scenery.
Boasting over three decades of success as a Hawaii tour company, Safari Helicopters is a preferred option for exploring both Kauai and the Big Island. The pilots are thoroughly trained and committed to providing a helicopter experience as safe as it is thrilling. The main tour of the Big Island departs from Hilo and explores Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and nearby rainforests.
Panoramic views are guaranteed for all passengers, as the helicopter is specially designed to prevent visual obstructions. While the standard tours last less than an hour, a more leisurely experience is available if you book a private, customized adventure.
Whether you hope to witness the Big Island’s trademark volcanoes or the waterfalls of the Hamakua coast, the exact scenery you desire is within reach if you book with Sunshine Helicopters. This company provides two very distinct tours, as well as private charters and even inter-island transport.
This tour company is unique in that it’s headed by a talented husband-wife team: Ross and Anna Scott, who met when stationed in Germany with their families. They’ve always adored adventure — a passion they now pass on to passengers from all around the world.
There’s no shortage of helicopter tours on the Big Island and throughout Hawaii. Add some visual drama to your vacation; you’ll never forget the thrill or the view.