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Whether it’s your first trip to Hawaii or your tenth, you probably have a bucket list of must-see and do activities. One of the most popular activities in Hawaii is a helicopter tour. Not only do you get to see the gorgeous islands from a birds-eye view, you get to see places that are inaccessible or difficult to get to by car. But it can be difficult to know which Hawaii helicopter tour is the best.
From choosing the best route, helicopter flight comfort, and safety, we’ve compiled our list of the five best helicopter tours in Hawaii.
Hawaii Helicopter Tour FAQs:
Which Hawaiian Island is Best for Helicopter Tours?
While all of the islands offer spectacular sights from the air, Kauai has the most dramatic helicopter views. Because so much of the island is inaccessible by car, you’ll get to see close up some beautiful spots you’d have difficulty seeing otherwise, like parts of Waimea Canyon, the Napali Coast, and Wai’ale’ale Crater.
But if you can’t make it to Kauai, all of the islands offer something a little different in terms of tours, which we cover in our island-by-island review of the best helicopter tours.
How Much Does a Helicopter Tour Cost in Hawaii?
A helicopter tour starts at $245 for a 45-min tour. Most tours average $400. This is easily the most expensive tour option in Hawai’i. Unlike a luau, I’ve been hard pressed to find someone who didn’t enjoy the experience for the price point.
On some tours, you can pay extra ($100+) for a front row seat or be relegated to the back or middle where they typically pack in passengers four to a seat.
Is a Hawai’i Helicopter Tour Worth It?
While this is an expensive activity, it’s one people enthusiastically recommend. Our newsletter subscriber Anthony H. raved about his experience on a tour with Air Maui:
“These pictures really do not do justice to the actual experience with your own eyes. Overall, I would highly recommend a helicopter tour at least once to really see Maui from the above and get to actually go into some of the valleys that can only be seen from a helicopter. The valleys were so verdant and shows no sign of human influence or touch, which was just awesome!”
“My wife and I both felt it was well worth the cost and would love to do it again but even on a longer flight… so time to save our pennies. Haha!”
And helicopter companies often offer unique experiences to make it even more memorable: fly with the doors off, land in remote locations, or hire a private charter to get engaged.
The allure of a helicopter tour (besides feeling like your Magnum PI), is seeing Moloka’i sea cliffs (largest in the world), Kauai’s Jurassic Park waterfall and Na Pali Coast, Kilauea erupting, Maui’s rugged West Coast, secluded valleys, and other beautiful and exclusive locales from above. The tours we recommend below will take you to the spots worth seeing from above.
But that’s not to say it’s all positive from helicopter tour attendees. Hawaii doesn’t have a great track record with helicopter safety (don’t worry, the ones that made our list have excellent safety records). And there are some other common complaints that you should take into consideration before booking.
Common drawbacks of helicopter tours are the following:
- Poor visibility from their seat (usually back or middle seats)
- Canceled flights due to weather
- Canceled flights due to the minimum seating threshold not being met
So whether it’s a worthwhile experience for you comes down to whether you pick a great tour (our list can help with that) and your expectations around cancellations.
Tips for Picking the Best Helicopter Tour in Hawaii
Using the criteria below in our research, we selected what we believe are the best helicopter tours on each island. These were our criteria, which you may want to consider when picking the right tour for you.
- Safety record includes no crashes or injuries: we know past performance can’t predict future performance, but some tour operators that we don’t recommend have safety records we don’t feel comfortable with. Do your research to make sure you feel comfortable with the safety track record of the helicopter tour you are booking.
- Good value for the price: A helicopter tour is expensive, so we looked for ones that had something to really add value. Things like having excellent visibility from all seats, private charter experience, or allowing you to go doors-off.
- Best tour experience: the flights offered are beautiful parts of the island to explore and the seating is comfortable
Hawai’i’s Best Helicopter Tour Companies
When we decided to recommend helicopter tours, our first criteria was safety. We researched helicopter company safety records, FAA fines and penalty records, and FAA certification.
Best Kauai Helicopter Tour
Ali’i Kauai Air Tours & Charter
Doors off, private tours are on the agenda with Ali’i Kauai Air Tours. They offer two 60-minute tours — one for general sightseeing and one for professionals. Their helicopters can hold 3 passengers and since it’s a private tour, you won’t have to worry about being stuck in the back while people you don’t know get the view. With a majority of the island inaccessible by car, a helicopter ride can give you views that you wouldn’t otherwise get to experience.
- Helicopter: Spend 60 minutes seeing the sights, including Mt Wai’ale’ale crater in a private, doors off helicopter.
- Helicopter Photo Flight: Designed for professional photographers, this flight offers the chance to customize your flight based on what part of the island you want to photograph.
Why we like it
With over 32 years of flight experience in Hawaii, they’ve had no accidents or safety incidents. They’re also Hawaiian owned and operated, so you’ll be educated on Hawaiian culture and beliefs as you get to take in the amazing sights.
Departure location: Lihue
Price: $355 – $730
Length: 60 minutes
Check out more of what makes Kauai special and other things to see in our full Kauai guide.
Best Maui Helicopter Tours
Founded in 1995, Maverick Helicopters is a large, professionally run aviation-based tourism company. With tours in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Maui, Maverick boasts the largest and youngest fleet of Eco-Star helicopters in the world.
Maverick has three tours to choose from:
- Hana Rainforest Experience: touch down in East Maui with this tour. It features two 20-minute flights plus a 30-minute landing in Hana to walk around and see a bit of the tropical terrain by foot.
- Molokai Voyage: Fly from Maui over to neighbor island Molokai to get a view of some of the world’s tallest sea cliffs and some of Hawaii’s tallest waterfalls on this 55-minute tour.
- Maui Dream: See the sights on the Valley Isle with a helicopter tour that takes you over Haleakala, Hana and East Maui, as well as West Maui.
Why we like it
One of the most common complaints you’ll hear from a helicopter tour is bad visibility (middle and back seats can really get stuck with a bad view). Maverick Helicopters flies an Eco-Star helicopter, which features theater-raised seats in the back.
Departure location: Kahului, Maui
Price: $309 – $439
Length: 55 min – 75 min, depending on the tour
If you’re looking for variety, you are covered with Air Maui. With a large number of options of tours, including doors-off, landings, and two island tours, you can find a tour that fits your interests.
- Doors off west Maui and Molokai: Experience West Maui and Molokai with the doors off on this 45-minute tour.
- Hana & Haleakala: Fly over two of the most beautiful locations on Maui with this 45-minute tour.
- West Maui & Molokai Special: 45-minute condensed tour of these two islands
- Complete Island: This 60-minute tour is their most popular flight and takes you all over the island
- West Maui & Molokai: 60-minute tour over West Maui and to the rugged shore of North Molokai.
- West Maui & Molokai with ocean-front landing: Fly from West Maui to Molokai and back with a landing on North Maui.
- Hana and Haleakala cliffside landing: 75-minute flight over Haleakala to Hana with a landing on the cliffs in East Maui.
- Marry Me Tour: Pop the big question on a private 30-minute charter tour which includes a sand written “marry me” message, champagne for two, and leis.
Why we like it
We take rave reviews from our community very seriously. So when someone emails about a tour and lets us know it was well worth the money, we take notice. Plus, a stellar safety record, a large variety of tour options, and the option to purchase front row seats makes this one we are excited to share.
Departure location: Kahului
Price: start at $252
Length: 30 min – 75 min
Check out more of what makes Maui special and other things to see in our full Maui guide.
Best Big Island Helicopter Tours
We haven’t found a Big Island helicopter tour that meets our safety and enjoyment criteria. We’re still searching and will update this article if we find one. But we have plenty of other Big Island tours and activities that we love and recommend!
Check out more things to see in our full Big Island guide.
Best Oahu Helicopter Tours
Honolulu Helicopter – 5% off with promo code HVG
Find a tour to fit your budget and style with Honolulu Helicopter Tours. They offer private tours ranging from 18 minutes to 60 minutes, making the flying experience accessible at different price points. And you have the option for doors on or doors off, so your experience is very customized.
Save 5% off your helicopter tour with promo code HVG at checkout. Book directly with Honolulu Helicopter Tours here or see below for more information.
We provide a full review and more information on booking in our recommended Activities: Honolulu Helicopter Tours.
- 18 min tour: Get a view of Waikiki, Diamond Head, and downtown Honolulu on this quick flight.
- 30 min tour: Head a bit further on a 30 minute tour and experience the sights of the 18 minute tour as well as the south shore.
- 60 min tour: Get a nearly complete tour of Oahu with this trip, which includes flying over the beautiful Kaneohe Bay and the Ka’a’awa Valley.
Why we like it
The unique flights (and flight times) make for a fun experience at different price points and having a private flight is a special experience. Note that if you don’t have a full helicopter, you’ll be charged 50% of the price of the open seats (seats up to 3 people). That price is reflected when you book.
Departure location: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
Price: $165 – $309
Length: 18 – 60 minutes
Magnum P.I. fans will enjoy flying high above Oahu in the Hughes 500D helicopter. The friendly and professional pilots will give you a full guide with plenty of information while you enjoy seeing Oahu with the doors off. Note that if the helicopter isn’t full, they will reschedule your trip.
- Doors-off helicopter adventure: Get the ultimate experience with a doors-off ride
- Exclusive mountain top landing: For a truly private and memorable experience, they offer a private helicopter experience, complete with a landing above Kualoa Ranch.
- Navy Seal experience: This isn’t your typical helicopter tour. From your private helicopter, you’ll jump into the ocean and then scuba dive with a Navy Seal as your guide.
You can view all of their tours on their website.
Why we like it
They are clear and transparent with their seating policies. You can pay for front row seating, as long as you’re traveling in a pair and the combined weight is below 345 lbs.
Departure location: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
Length: 50 minutes
Check out more things to see in our full Oahu guide.
Find the Best Tours and Activities
While a helicopter tour might be on your bucket list, we have even more activities and tours to make your entire vacation as memorable as possible. From sailing to snorkeling to full island tours, you can check out all of our best recommendations in our Tours & Activities section.
We break it down by island and give you a full review of the experience. Plus, for some of them we even share videos of our experiences, so you can see firsthand what to expect and book with confidence.