As you’ll hear, a helicopter tour on Kauai is not to be missed, and we definitely agree. Much of Kauai can only be seen by air, and the views of the abundant, cascading waterfalls, green mountains of the Na Pali, and red cliffs of Waimea Canyon were the highlight of our trip. After all, THIS is the tropical Hawaiian beauty that visitors to the islands expect to see.
There are many heli tour companies to choose from, and all offer different tour choices, ranging from a 30-minute teaser to a 2-hour tour, with a stop for lunch at a waterfall. The prices also vary from $100 to over $250, and you can book with a helicopter company directly or at an activity center. Because of the high cost, we debated whether to take the tour or not, but after being warned that this was the "must" activity on Kauai, I hit the Net and began to search for our best pricing options. Ultimately, we purchased discounted tickets from Activity World (no timeshare tour necessary) for $100 per person for a 45-minute tour with Bali Hai Helicopter Tours.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at Port Allen on the South Shore, which was over a 1-hour drive from Princeville, so we decided to fit it in with a day trip touring the west and south shores (see my review of the self-guided driving tour). The helicopter, a Bell Jet-Ranger, seated three in the back and one in front, along with the pilot. Small openings in the windows opened up to bring in fresh air and allow for glare-free photos. We had heard that the lightest people are seated in front, but actually, the seating is all based on weights and balances. On our tour, four of us (including the pilot), appeared to be in the same weight range, so two were in front and the other two were in back, with the fifth and lightest person seated in the back middle seat.
The tour began by soaring into the air, where views of the coast and the island of Niihau could be seen. Then we approached the spectacular red-and-brown expansive valleys and cliffs of Waimea Canyon while en route to the contrasting lush greenery of the Na Pali coastline. The sights of The Na Pali and its splendor were indescribable (luckily, we have the pictures to speak for themselves!). We were treated to aerial views of Ke'e beach and Hanalei. Then it was onto the magical Mount Waialeale, known as one of the "wettest places on earth" with its sprawling waterfalls cascading down thousands of feet.
Throughout the tour, the pilot narrated only when necessary, and he made a point to slowly swing the helicopter around with each site so that passengers on both the left and right sides got great views and pictures. The overall ride was smooth, but the switching viewpoints caused one of the passengers to become slightly dizzy from motion sickness. If you're even a bit prone to motion sickness, call the heli tour company you book with for their recommendations on an over-the-counter tablet to ensure you concentrate on the sights and not keeping your food down. Regardless, everyone aboard (including the lightheaded passenger) agreed the tour was the experience of a lifetime.
**Because the weather on Kauai is unpredictable, reserve your tour early during your stay. Then, if cancelled, you’ll still have time to reschedule for another day. And DO NOT forget your camera, as just about every sight on your aerial tour of Kauai will be picture-perfect!