This post was most recently updated on April 23rd, 2018
With its lush green vegetation, jagged cliffs, and deep canyon ridges, Kaua’i is accurately nicknamed the Garden Isle of Hawai’i. So, when my husband and I decided we would travel to a second island during our Hawaiian vacation, I suggested Kaua’i. I had seen pictures of Waimea Canyon and the Nä Pali coast online and wanted so badly to see them in person!
Unfortunately, much of Kaua’i is inaccessible by way of car. The Nä Pali coastline, one of the main things I wanted to see, is accessible only by foot; a 13 mile (one way) hike will spit you out right at the mouth of the canyon where the magnificent cathedrals–cliffs jetting hundreds of feet high–tower above you. I’m not at all a long-distance hiker, so this was not a possibility for me. The only other options for viewing this spectacular part of the island were a boat tour or flying; we opted for the aerial view!
How we chose Safari Helicopters
Now would begin the long process of researching helicopter and airplane tour companies, shopping around for the lowest price and selecting an aerial tour. Neither my husband or I had ever been on a helicopter or small airplane, so we were a bit anxious about flying in one. Plus, one hour tours ranged from $100-$300 per person; that’s more than it would cost us to get to Kaua’i in the first place! But, putting all our typical frugality aside, we decided to splurge and take a helicopter ride!
We selected a one hour tour, titled “The Deluxe Waterfall Tour” provided by Safari Helicopters. Their online price was the most reasonable in comparison to the many other helicopter tour companies ($189/person) and we were pleased by their perfect safety record.
The day of the helicopter tour finally arrived and we were anxious and excited to see what would await us. Our tour was scheduled for 2:25, but we were asked to check in 45 minutes early. We drove to their office (about a mile up the road from the LIH airport) and were welcomed warmly. A quick safety debriefing, some introductions, and a few laughs and we were on our way to the helicopter landing pad. They provided a shuttle down to the landing pad where we got aboard our helicopter and met our pilot, Brian. He had been flying for 10 years, and he made us all feel comfortable and welcome on our first helicopter flight.
The seats were assigned by weight because the helicopter needs to be balanced properly. Luckily, I was given a window seat, although I think any of the 6 passenger seats offer a great view out the front or side windows. I wanted to be able to snap a few photos and videos during the flight, so that helped to be placed right next to the window.
Off we flew–the feeling was exhilarating! Almost immediately I forgot that I was afraid of heights and enjoyed just taking in the spectacular views:
The windows on the helicopter are not specifically made for taking photos, but I was surprised that I could still capture some wonderful shots! Every once in a while there’d be a glare on the window that would make it pretty hard to photograph, but those moments were few. During those moments, I reminded myself to put the camera down and just enjoy the spectacular views with my eyes.
Along our route, we passed by several notable movie landmarks including the Jurassic Park waterfall and bits of forest used in the movie Avalon. But my absolute favorite views were along the north-west side of the island. Waimea Canyon–nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”–was a shocking contrast to the rest of the island, with its deep crevasses and bright red-rock. Closing in on the Nä Pali coast, I caught a glimpse of a rainbow over the cathedrals, and took in the breathtaking view of the clear blue waters. I also spotted a handful of beautiful waterfalls cascading down the side of the cliffs.
Continuing our journey around the island, we viewed several more waterfalls, flew into a crater to see the Weeping Wall (Wai’ale’ale Falls) and enjoyed asking questions about the island to our pilot, who graciously offered answers.
An hour after take off, we landed safely in Lihue where we got our picture taken next to the helicopter. We were then shuttled back to the main office and headed on our way, talking nonstop about all the wonderful things we saw and experienced on our Safari Helicopters tour.
So, would I recommend taking a helicopter tour?
Yes! Especially on Kaua’i! There’s so much to see on Kaua’i that you can’t see any other way but by air.
Is it worth the money?
For us, we chose to spend our money on a helicopter tour instead of doing other adventurous things like zip lining, kayaking, or inner tube tours. Because we prioritized the helicopter tour, we felt comfortable dishing out the money. So, with whatever budget you have, you just need to choose what’s most important to you.
What happens if the weather is bad during the flight?
Our tour brought with it fairly good weather and visibility; we ran into a few patches of rain, but that can be expected when Kaua’i is home to one of the wettest spots on earth! Plus, we caught a glimpse of a beautiful rainbow amidst the rain! Also, Safari Helicopters’ website says the following about cancellations due to weather: “If a tour is canceled due to weather we will either re-schedule the flight or credit the passenger’s account.”
Would I fly with Safari Helicopters again?
For sure! Our experience with them was so good all around, and their price beat out a lot of their competitors. Plus, their perfect safety record really made me feel comfortable about flying with them.
Tips and more info:
- Wear dark clothing, especially on top, to avoid any additional glare on the windows when you fly
- If you are prone to motion sickness, do come prepared with the appropriate medicine. No one really wants to see you use the ‘Aloha bags’ they provide in case of a queasy stomach.
- You can’t bring any bags with you, just your camera, sunglasses, and/or phone. Either leave your bag in your car, or put them in the lockers provided at the Safari office.
- Ask questions during the tour! The pilot will point out notable landmarks, but you’ll learn a lot more if you ask questions about the island’s history that interest you.
- Safari Helicopters offers several different tours on Kaua’i and the Big Island, as seen here; we selected the Deluxe Waterfall Safari on Kaua’i and enjoyed every moment of it! I would definitely recommend it.
Disclosure **My ticket was complimentary in exchange for this blog post, yet my opinions are all my own. If I went again, I’d be more than happy to pay full price for this experience because it was so memorable!
Written by guest blogger Heather Young (my lovely daughter!), whose photography is featured on her blog, Heather Hiding Photography.
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