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The first time Maui Visitors Bureau executive director Terryl Vencl went on a helicopter ride, she was over the moon with excitement.
“We flew to Hana, and all I could say was ‘wow,’” said Vencl. “While I always have cherished Maui for its beauty, the views from above left me in further awe of the place I call home.”
Some of the best perspectives on Maui come from on high. Whether clients soar on a zipline, take a guided helicopter tour, go parasailing or paragliding, or hike atop mountains, they get a newfound understanding of Maui’s nickname: the Valley Isle.
With its dormant volcanoes, lush tropical rain forests, cascading waterfalls and rugged lava flows, Maui’s landscape is as diverse as its plethora of accommodations, activities and restaurants.
“Maui is distinguished by its natural environment,” she said. “When you rise above it, perhaps the biggest surprises are its fields of sugar cane, pineapple, Kula onions and lavender, representing our island’s burgeoning agriculture industry. An air tour also gives you an appreciation of the close proximity of the sister islands of Molokai and Lanai.”
Maui-based travel agent Marie Glodt of Travel to Maui notes that ziplining is by far the most popular aerial activity on the island these days, offering an airborne outlook above remote regions.
“Ziplining is perfect for people who like a sense of adventure,” said Glodt, who books travel from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii. “My most recent experience was with Piiholo Ranch in upcountry Maui, which has the longest side-by-side zipline in the state. I always suggest that my clients do the five-line tour. The view from the last line — a panorama of Maui — is incredible. If you book a shorter tour, you totally miss out on that view.”
Other zipline options include Kapalua Adventures in northwest Maui, which offers a unique full-moon tour; and Skyline Eco-Adventures, which now provides van and bus transportation from the south side of Maui to the company’s headquarters.
Since the vast majority of the island is uninhabited and many areas are inaccessible, helicopter and small plane tours present a great way to explore the hidden Maui, said Maureen Dinnocenzo of Above and Beyond Travel in Arnold, Calif.
“Seeing Maui from a helicopter is remarkable,” said Dinnocenzo. “How else can you get up close to a secluded waterfall flowing from a mountainside?”
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, which pays a 15 percent commission to travel agents, runs a variety of trips above the west Maui mountains, Hana, Haleakala and the rest of the island.
“I have also gone on a five-passenger prop plane tour,” said Dinnocenzo. “I still vividly remember the dramatic views of west Maui and the amazing north shore cliffs of Molokai, just across the channel.”
For flights of fancy over the water, agents can suggest UFO Parasailing, operating out of Kaanapali Beach. Secured by a harness, participants are hoisted off a boat, rising into the air under a parachute as the boat picks up speed. Eventually, they drift back down to the boat for an easy, dry landing. UFO’s tours range from soaring up to 600 feet for seven minutes to the exclusive Out Of This World Ride, which reaches up to 1,200 feet for 14 minutes.
Then there’s Proflyght Paragliding, taking people on dynamic drifts above upcountry Maui. Attached to an experienced guide, clients get a running start down a hillside until the glider fills with air and lifts them skyward for extraordinary vistas, including the west Maui mountains, Kahoolawe Island and the sunken crater of Molokini. With the wind as its soundtrack, the world is silent and exceptionally beautiful.
“I want to help people overcome their fears and give them a thrill,” said Proflyght owner Dexter Binder.
Even with their feet planted firmly on the ground, clients can reach exhilarating new heights during mountaintop hiking trips. Hike Maui’s four-mile Haleakala crater excursion starts at the 8,000-foot level and ascends to 10,000 feet along a sandy trail, showcasing a sweep of giant cinder cones of rose, orange and tan hues. It’s just one of the many uplifting memories made on Maui from on high.