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Understanding the Landscape
Contributing to the island’s otherworldly vistas is the fact that at 5 million years, Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s been eroding for millions of years longer than Oahu, Maui, and Big Island. Moreover, it’s one of the most meteorologically diverse landscapes on the plant. One-fourth of the world’s climates can be found on Kauai’s 500 square miles. Time-tested and weatherworn, Kauai’s cliffs, craters, and ridges have a look all their own.
What do You See on a Kauai Helicopter Tour?
Jagged cliffs in woolly green, swamplands, dense rainforests, countless freshwater streams—your helicopter flight swoops over dramatic vistas, many of which served as locations for Hollywood hits such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Jurassic Park Series.
Flights depart from Lihue Airport on the island’s east side and generally clock 45 minutes to an hour (you can certainly circle the entire island in this time). Shorter jaunts may focus on a single stretch such as Na Pali Coast State Park—a sharp-ridged wonder that’s only accessible by chopper or intense hiking trails. In either case, the sheer volume of natural beauty encountered on these excursions is mind-boggling. Here are just a few of Kauai’s attractions:
Twin Wailua Falls
Flying five miles north from the airport, your helicopter reaches Wailua Falls. Made famous by Fantasy Island, these double-tiered waterfalls are tucked away at the end of the Wailua River. While not the most towering falls in Hawaii, the twin streams, paired with their magical surroundings and constant rainbows, make them the talk of the town. During high flow, the falls occasionally form a third tier.
Also called the Bali Hai Cliffs, these striking formations rise 1,115 feet to the heavens. The jaggedness of these pyramid-shaped mountains is juxtaposed by the soft greenery draping them. The site used to play home to the ancient ?ahi ceremony where fire throwers would hurl burning logs from the top of the cliffs into the Pacific.
Na Pali Coast and Ke’e Beach
Traveling north, your helicopter arrives at the Na Pali Coast State Park. For many, this stretch is the highlight of the trip. The lush green cliffs (na pali literally translates to “the cliffs”) tower 4,000 feet above the coastline and are ornamented with stunning valleys and waterfalls. Hugging the cliffs is the secluded Ke’e Beach. Fly during summer and you’ll see the reefs through the lagoon’s crystal-clear waters.
Traveling westward, your chopper approaches Waimea Canyon State Park. Dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the awesome formation spans 10 miles long and 3,000 feet deep. Staring into the canyon is staring into the history of the island itself. The massive crater is a result of erosion but also, and more interestingly, the collapse of the very volcano that formed Kauai. Note the difference between the east and west sides of the canyon. While thin lava drippings formed the west side, the east was created by pooling lava, which produced much thicker canyon walls.
Mount Waialeale and the Wall of Tears
Welcome to the rainiest spot in the world. Mount Waialeale, which translates to “overflowing water,” is a shield volcano that stretches upwards more than 5,000 feet. This natural wonder sees an average of 450 inches of rain per year (in 1982, it guzzled a record-breaking 683 inches).
The shield volcano’s roundish shape exposes it to front winds while its steep cliffs cause humid air to rise fast. The result is a whole lot of rain in a very small area. And where does all this water go? The Wall of Tears, of course! This jaw-dropping mountain wall features endless waterfalls cascading for thousands of feet. The only way to witness the phenomenon is by helicopter.
Manawaiopuna (Jurassic) Falls
Yet another site that makes a Kauai helicopter flight worthwhile is Manawaiopuna Falls. You’ve probably seen these 400-foot beauties before—they appear at the beginning of Jurassic Park when the crew descends into the deadly dino island for the first time. Oddly enough, these falls are privately owned, so a helicopter is the only way to see them.
At the south of the island is Spouting Horn. Located in the island’s Koloa district (an area known for its big waves) this fun attraction is made up of eroded coastline lava. When waves crash into small openings on the coastline, they shoot upward from the surface, sometimes as high as 50 feet! The geysering effect is a joy to see from overhead.
Types of Kauai Helicopter Tours
Most flights on the island are offered in a Eurostar EC 130 helicopter. Known to many as the EcoStar, this chopper features a very generous interior (it can accommodate up to seven passengers with ample space and cushiony seats). If you manage to snag a seat up front with the pilot, you’ll be treated to impeccable wraparound views thanks to the flying machine’s full-glass cockpit. And even if you’re not in front, cabin windows are extra wide, ensuring you won’t miss a thing. It’s a smooth, quiet helicopter that puts the passenger first.
Conversely, there are also flights offered in a Robinson R44. The smaller, piston-engine aircraft accommodates no more than three passengers, making it the private-tour chopper of choice. If you’re booking a flight for just you and your sweetheart, this is the helicopter for you. Another big bonus of the Robinson is that it easily accommodates doors-off flights! Flying to photograph? Look into an R44 adventure.
The Best Time to Book a Kauai Helicopter Ride
If capturing photos is priority number one, book an early morning flight or something in the late afternoon. When flying in the mid-afternoon, you can expect clear skies, but the light is much flatter, leading to less dramatic shots.
Of course, early morning and late afternoon flights are also the most popular. If you’re looking to accommodate a larger group or want to try and secure a window seat, consider flying midday.
Regarding seasonal conditions, you’re pretty safe year-round. Although Kauai has a wet season (October to March), rain showers are generally brief and more frequently occur after nightfall. And if you do get a little rain, you may actually be in luck—light showers give way to misty mountaintops and beautiful rainbows!
Why Book a Helicopter Ride in Kauai?
Splurging means you’re spending money frivolously. Trust us when we say that when booking a Kauai helicopter flight, you’re not splurging. Much of Hawaii, especially Kauai, features sites that simply can’t be accessed by any other means. Don’t travel this far from home without gazing upon the Na Pali Coast or Waimea Canyon. Plan ahead, budget accordingly, and ensure a helicopter flight is part of your itinerary. You won’t regret it.