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“Remember when we did that drive?” my wife said to me.
We were taking an aerial tour of Maui with Maverick Helicopters, and she was pointing down to the road to Hana. From our vantage point, we could see cars slowly snaking around steep cliffs, then diving deep into the valley, and then reemerging again out of the green. Over and over again.
“I remember how carsick you were,” I said.
This time, instead of hours of driving, we reached the rainforest near Hana in mere minutes after taking off from the heliport at Kahului airport. Along the way, we took in spectacular views of the north side of the island — high above the sugar fields, huge estates, steep cliffs and big-wave surf near Peahi.
Maverick claims to have the top safety record of any tourism-based aviation operator in the world, and the company exclusively uses Eco-Star (EC130) helicopters. These aircraft, built by Airbus Helicopters, are low-noise and feature a 23 percent larger cabin with wraparound windows. Our excursion was definitely more comfortable than other helicopter excursions I’ve done.
Maverick offers five basic tours. Aloha Adventure is the shortest. It goes from Kahului along the north coast to the Wailua Valley and back. Maui Spirit circles the north and west sides of the island, including Wailua Valley, Hana and Haleakala. Maui Dream follows the Maui Spirit route, but adds on the north and east sides of the island. Molokai Voyage takes in the north and west sides of Maui before heading over to the east end of Molokai.
It includes flyovers of Kapalua, Kaanapali and Lahaina on Maui, and Elephant Rock, Halawa Valley and the fish ponds on Molokai. Sunset Odyssey includes three islands — Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
In addition to these routes, Maverick has recently added the Hana Rainforest itinerary, a 40-minute roundtrip flight along Maui’s north coast that includes an exclusive landing in the Hana rainforest. The company has a large plot of land in the rainforest that it plans to develop into an event space. The spot is beautiful — offering dense jungle vistas punctuated by waterfalls, including one that was featured in the “Jurassic Park” films. Helicopters land in the clearing, and guests walk in the rainforest, learning about the flora and fauna of the area and sampling bananas, coconuts, lemons, taro or whatever happens to be in season.
Prices for Maverick’s tours run from $229 to $389 per person, depending on the itinerary. Children under 2 may travel on an adult’s lap. The maximum weight limit per person is 300 pounds; anyone over the limit will need to purchase an additional seat. Guests over 18 need a valid government-issued ID. Be sure to let clients know that all flight routes are subject to change depending on weather.
Aerial excursions are ideal for visitors who want to get an overview of the entire island — and for those who want a new way to appreciate Maui’s incredible natural beauty.