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Kauai was pretty much made to be seen from the air. Only 20% of the island is developed which means that most visitors only see a tiny fraction of its splendors. And boy does it have splendors. I personally think that Kauai is the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands. Sadly, many of its most beautiful sites are so remote and difficult to reach that they remain unseen by all but the most intrepid hikers.
There are a TON of companies that offer helicopter tours of Kauai, so how do you know which one to pick? First of all, I don’t believe this is something you shop around the find the best deal. Helicopter and small airplane crashes aren’t unheard of in Hawaii and it’s usually a result of inexperienced pilots or ill maintained equipment. This is a time when paying more to go with a reputable company is a necessity. While I’m not going to do a rundown on every helicopter company in this post, I’m going to let you know my top three and you can pick based on what you’re looking for.
Blue Hawaiian: Blue Hawaiian is the granddaddy of all the tour operators. They fly on every major island, and their fleet is modern and impressive. I think they offer the most comfortable flight conditions available. They only fly doors ON flights. Their flights start at $269/person. Read reviews and search for discounts here.
On my last trip to Kauai, I flew on an 8:30AM departure with Blue Hawaiian on their 50 minute circle island flight. Their flights leave out of the Lihue Heliport, which is right next to the airport. Blue Hawaiian’s headquarters are in a nice building with a check-in desk, gift shop, restrooms, and safety briefing area. When you check in, they take your weight really discretely (I didn’t even know that’s what they were doing!) and this is how they determine seating assignments. About a half hour before our flight, we watched a safety video and got our personal flotation devices (a small pouch you wear strapped around your waist). This is also where we got our pilot’s name and seat assignments (there were three helicopters leaving at our departure time).
Next we went outside and waited on the lanai and watched the helicopters land from the previous tour, unload, and get refueled before we were loaded on. This flight was on an ecostar, which is known for being one of the more “comfortable” aircrafts you can fly on. It had four seats in the back and three in the front (including the pilot). I was seat #1 which is front middle right next to the pilot so I was the first one loaded. The flight crew led us out to the helipad one by one, buckled us in, and handed us our headsets. Once I was loaded, I could talk to the pilot through my headset.
Although I was a little nervous beforehand, I got a little psyched out once I was buckled in, but as soon as we were in the air I was completely fine. I’m not crazy about heights and was worried I might have some anxiety/panic being up that high, but it didn’t bother me AT ALL.