A helicopter tour is the best way to see the island of Kauai. Since over 70% of the island is inaccessible by land, you'll see areas that can only be seen from the air.
You'll also have better views of many parts of the island than you would have by land. Highlights of most helicopter tours on Kauai include Jurassic Park Falls, the Hanapepe Valley, Waimea Canyon, the Na Pali Coast, the Hanalei Valley and Mt. Waialeale. Most tours last between 50 minutes and an hour. Some companies offer longer tours, usually accompanied by a stop.
Are Helicopter Tours Safe?
One of the questions I receive most often is whether helicopter tours are safe. The answer is yes. I have flown on six helicopter tours in Hawaii, including two with the doors off, and I have always had the utmost confidence in my pilot and in the safety of the flight. Each passenger, regardless of the company, is given a detailed safety briefing before any flight and instructions on how to use the safety equipment provided. For doors off flights it is imperative that all loose objects are secured and that your hands and cameras remain ins
That being said, accidents do happen. In the past 17 years there have been ten helicopter accidents on Kauai. Fortunately there have been none in the past three-plus years (as of September 2010). The FAA is requiring even more stringent equipment checks and maintenance than ever before. While ten accidents may sound like a lot, consider that on Kauai there have been as many as ten helicopter companies, and well over 100 flights each day, depending on weather. Over the 15 years that's over 50,000 flights.
Do Your Research
The smart traveler does his or her research and makes sure that they are comfortable with the company they choose. On Kauai, I have flown with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and Jack Harter Helicopters. I have flown with Sunshine Helicopters on Maui. I can recommend those companies, but other companies are equally good. I only recommend companies with which I have flown. It's really a personal choice. Check out their websites and read reviews on sites such as tripadvisor.com.
Kauai is a tropical paradise and it rains a lot. For your safety and enjoyment flights often are canceled due to bad weather. I recommend that you book your helicopter tour early in your visit to Kauai so that you have time to reschedule should it be canceled. Most companies offer significant discounts if you book online.
Helicopter Companies on Kauai
Here are the helicopter companies currently operating on Kauai. Published flight times sometimes differ from actual flight times, more so with some companies than others.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Blue Hawaiian, Hawaii largest and most acclaimed helicopter company, flies state of the art ECO-star helicopters, the first helicopter designed exclusively for touring, on 55-minute "Kauai ECO Adventure" tours from the Lihue Heliport. It is reported that often their flights run shorter, i.e. 48-50 minutes.(808) 245-5800
1-800-745-BLUE toll free
Inter-island flies Hughes 500 helicopters on 50 minute "Deluxe Island Tours" with guaranteed window seating from the Port Allen Airport. They also fly with the doors-off allowing for better photo opportunities.
1-800-656-5009 toll free
With over 30 years of service, Island Helicopters flies the newest Eurocopter A-Star helicopters with custom ceiling to floor glass doors and windows on 50-60 minute "Deluxe Kauai Grand Tours" from the Lihue Heliport. They also are the only company that offers a 90-minute tour that includes a landing at the base of Manawaiopuna Falls (Jurrasic Park Falls). You can read my review of a Jurassic Falls Helicopter Landing Adventure with Island Helicopters and view a gallery of 24 photos taken on the flight.
1-800-829-5999 toll free
Jack Harter Helicopters
Jack Harter flies six-passenger A-Star helicopters with floor-to-ceiling windows for excellent visibility as well as four-passenger Hughes 500s that are flown with the doors off. They offer 60-65 minute tours in the A-Star & Hughes 500 and 90 minute tours in the A-Star only. All flights are from the Lihue Heliport. You can read my review of a 60-minute flight with Jack Harter Helicopters and view a gallery of 84 photos taken on the flight.
1-888-245-2001 toll free
Mauna Loa Helicopters
Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours flies the four-seater R44 helicopters manufactured by the Robinson Helicopter Company. They boast that every tour is a private tour. They offer four tours including a 50-60-minute "Ultimate Island Tour,", a 60-70-minute "Extreme Island Tour," as well pilot training with their "Ultimate Instructional Tour Package," and a special "Photography Flight." They fly from the Lihue Heliport.
Safari Helicopter Tours
Safari Helicopter Tours flies the A-Star 350 B2-7 helicopter with mega viewing windows, an on-board two-way communication system utilizing the Generation Bose X noise canceling headsets, and air conditioning. They offer a 55-minute "Deluxe Waterfall Safari" tour and a 90-minute "Kauai Refuge Eco Tour" that includes a 30-minute stopover at the the Kauai Botanical Refuge overlooking Olokele Canyon.
1-800-326-3356 toll free
Sunshine Helicopters, Inc. and Will Squyres Helicopter Tours are now merged together as one company. They offer a 45-50 minute "Ultimate Kauai Experience" tour from the Lihue Heliport using both FX STAR and WhisperSTAR helicopters. They also offer 30-40 minute and 40-50 minute tours from the Princeville Airport on Kauai's North Shore, a convenient location for visitors staying in the Princeville or Hanalei areas.
1-808-270-3999 toll free