Given their scale—and, often enough, their inaccessibility—you can argue that Hawaii’s scenic wonders are best appreciated from the air. And given their nimbleness and versatility, it’s hard to beat a helicopter as the aircraft to do it.
Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours makes an excellent option for this very mode of tropical sightseeing. The company offers private helicopter tours on three of the main Hawaiian Islands: Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island of Hawaii itself.
It goes without saying that these are some of the most beautiful places in the world, and the topdown looks you get from a Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours chopper are extraordinary.
On the Garden Isle of Kauai, for example, the pilot will steer you over such mindboggling landscapes as Waimea Canyon—the yawning “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”—and the steep, pinnacled, utterly roadless NaPali Coast. You’ll also get a unique prospect of Kauai’s legendary high point, Mount Waialeale, which looms above the trackless cloud forest of the Alakai Swamp as one of the wettest places on the planet.
Another Kauai highlight is Manawaiopuna Falls—often called “Jurassic Falls” for its prominent cameos in the 1993 Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jurassic Park.
On Oahu, meanwhile, Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours flies over some of the most fabled seashores anywhere, from Waikiki and Diamond Head to the sublime North Shore. Stare down at the capital of Honolulu and the history-shrouded waters of Pearl Harbor.
Some of Hawaii’s most majestic geography, meanwhile, awaits you on the Big Island, with flights touring the great volcanic edifices of Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Kilauea as well as verdant valleys and towering waterfalls.
The various tours range from 30 minutes to two hours. Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours restricts these outings to single parties, so every flight’s a private one.
You can opt for a doors-on flight—which ups the comfort level and lets you most easily hear the pilot’s narration and music—or crank up the adrenaline with a doors-off experience. The company offers specific photography tours, and shutterbugs often go for the doors-off option on these for the clearest shots. But rest assured you’ll soak up spectacular views even with the doors closed.
(By the way, Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours also operates as a flight school on Oahu and the Big Island, in case you want to get in the pilot’s seat yourself.)
From the multicolored chasm of Waimea Canyon to the living heart of Kilauea, treat yourself to some of the globe’s most stunning scenery with Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours.
-If you’re traveling solo on your Hawaiian getaway, you can still book a helicopter tour: You just need to pay for a minimum of two seats, and you’ll have the chopper to yourself (except for the pilot, obviously!).
-While Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours offers full refunds when flights are scrapped due to weather, it’s not a bad idea to book your tour early in your trip so that if that happens you’ve got a better chance of being able to reschedule.