Jack Harter trips feature a two-way intercom that allows passengers to speak with the pilot throughout the Kauai tour. // (c) 2012 Casey Riemer/Jack Harter Helicopters
Many of Kauai's natural spectacles are inaccessible by car or on foot, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see them. Thanks to a covey of Kauai helicopter tours, visitors can enjoy breathtaking birds-eye views of the island’s remote and fascinating scenery from above, enhanced by narration and music.
"From lush rain forests to pristine white-sand beaches, Kauai offers the tropical beauty that people imagine when coming to the Hawaiian Islands,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. “Seeing its grandeur from the air allows visitors to gain a greater appreciation of just how incredibly beautiful Kauai is and all there is to experience -- and it only takes one hour.”
All of Kauai’s major helicopter companies fly over the island’s terrestrial highlights, including Waimea Canyon with its colorful striated walls stretching ten miles long, one mile wide and 3,500 feet deep. Clients can hover over Mt. Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on the planet; Wailua Falls, an 80-foot-high beauty made famous in the TV show Fantasy Island; and the Na Pali Coast, with its rugged 3,000-foot-high sea cliffs. Along the way, pilots provide commentary on the island’s geography, history, culture, flora and fauna.
The following reliable firms stand ready to carry visitors to new heights during their Kauai vacation.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Founded in 1985, Blue Hawaiian flies Eco-Star helicopters above the island’s splendor. Its state-of-the-art fleet promises more interior room than other choppers, 180-degree views for each passenger and comfy Business Class-style seats. Its 50-minute Kauai Eco Adventure out of Lihue Airport covers all the island’s hot spots and costs $240 per person.
With south shore departures out of Port Allen Airport in Hanapepe, Inter-Island Helicopters operates Hughes 500 aircraft, which have no middle back seats so that everyone gets a window view. Its 50-minute Deluxe Island Tour focuses on Kauai’s top sites for $249 per person, while its 70-minute Waterfall Adventure tour costs $310.
Island Helicopters Kauai
This firm’s 50-minute Grand Circle Tour priced at $297 per person floats over all of Kauai’s best features. However, its real claim to fame is the exclusive Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure ($368), which touches down near the bottom of the 400-foot cascade seen in the movie Jurassic Park. Passengers are then guided to the base of the falls, an area that’s inaccessible to the general public.
Jack Harter Helicopters
Jack Harter founded the island’s tour helicopter industry in 1962, and today his fleet consists of one AStar helicopter and three four-passenger Hughes 500s with the doors removed. His full one-hour overview tour costs $269 per person, with a more elaborate 90-minute tour for $404. Trips feature a two-way intercom system that lets the pilot and passengers talk during the flight.
Mauna Loa Helicopters
Mauna Loa’s one-hour Private Island Tour comes with a doors-off option for travelers who want the ultimate panoramic views ($259 per person). Mauna Loa also offers a photography flight that lets clients choose the itinerary based on the images they want to capture for special memories ($360 per hour for one or two passengers).
Safari Helicopter Tours
Pilot Preston Myers started this family-run company in 1987 and it’s still going strong today. It offers two Kauai tours: the 55-minute Deluxe Waterfall Safari for $230 per person and the longer Kauai Refuge Eco Tour, which adds a landing at a secluded botanical preserve overlooking Olokele Canyon ($280).
A husband-and-wife-owned business since 1985, Sunshine runs 45-minute tours from Lihue Airport in FX Star helicopters. Rates range from $250 for open seating to $294 for First Class. For visitors staying on the north shore, a tour beginning and ending at Princeville Airport in a Whisper Star craft ranges from $289-$364 for 45 minutes.