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Ali’i Kauai Air Tours & Charters Review

Ali’i Kauai Air Tours & Charters Review

When we started to plan our Kauai trip at the beginning of the year, we knew we wanted to go on a helicopter tour, and we ended up going with Alii Kauai Air Tours & Charters. My husband and I had gone to Kauai 9 years prior for our 10th-year anniversary, and it had been our dream since to go back and take our three kids and mother in law. 

After some thinking, we decided to go back to Kauai. The first time we went, the only excursion we booked was a Catamaran Snorkeling Cruise up the Napali Coast. It was the highlight of our trip and although I wanted to do a helicopter tour, we had already spent too much money. We heard so many amazing things from people on the island about helicopter tours. 

I remember our boat captain continually pointing them out and saying they are considered the “state bird” of Hawaii because there are so many going all the time. When we visited Maui, I remember one person telling me how the helicopter tour on Maui was awesome, but for Kauai, it’s a MUST. I told my husband that if we ever made it back to Kauai, we needed to take part in a helicopter tour

As we began paying for this upcoming trip, the tour kept getting pushed aside and I struggled to want to spend that much. For 6 of us, after all, it would cost a lot, and I just couldn’t justify that in my head for an hour. 

One of my friends had done it and said it was the experience of a lifetime. They said just me and my husband should go, something I had not considered. When we asked our kids what they thought, they told us to go for it, so we did. 

Andrea and husband on Ali'i Kauai Air Tours

Since it would just be the two of us, I wanted to make sure we wouldn’t get put with strangers. I also heard that some tours had middle seats which made it harder for people to see. There was also the option of having the doors off or on, and I knew that I definitely wanted the doors off as I didn’t want anything to obstruct my view. 

Neither my husband nor I are scared of heights, though we both have a healthy fear. He is a lineman (works on power lines), and I have been (and loved) skydiving and many other adventures. 

I started searching for doors off helicopter tours on my social media pages and a post about Ali’i Air caught my eye. It sounded like exactly what I was looking for. I went to the website and booked it right away. They had several options for their tours. You could do a photographer’s tour, a regular tour, or an airplane tour. 

More water view from helicopter

For the helicopter tours, you can have the doors off or on. We booked about 2 months before the trip and there were plenty of days and times to choose from. My only concern was if the weather was going to be good or bad that day. I didn’t know if they would cancel the flight and try to reschedule or if we would just be refunded. The process was simple, and I don’t recall filling out too much information.

The day before our Ali’i helicopter tour, my husband received an email about the excursion. They told us to show up about 30 minutes before the scheduled time and gave some instructions. 

They said we should bring a fitted jacket or sweater, long pants or jeans, close-toed shoes or sandals with straps (no flip flops), no large earrings or hats, and hair should be tied back.  Sunglasses were at the pilot’s discretion, cameras & Gopros needed a strap/lanyard (cell phone lanyards were provided), and they would weigh all passengers upon check-in. 

The meeting point for the Alii Kauai Air Tour was at the Lihue airport. When we got there, they weighed us and gave us rubber lanyards for our phones that securely held them and went around our necks. We waited in their waiting area for about 25 minutes and it looked like the pilot was there on a lunch break. 

It was clean and there were restrooms and vending machines. A woman came over and introduced herself, and said she would be taking us over to the helipad. She encouraged me to put my hair in a bun instead of the ponytail I had because my hair would be in my face a lot as we were flying.

She said there was storage under our seats for our belongings that we had which were water bottles and a purse. She took our picture in front of the helicopter, then she introduced us to our pilot, and he gave us the safety instructions.

You’re given a safety pack to put around your waist that buckles and shown how to use it in case of a water evacuation. We didn’t wear our sunglasses because they said that would make it harder to see some things, and it wasn’t that bright from where they take you. 

View from Ali'i Helicopter

They also encourage you to take pictures and videos from the chest and not the eyes, so you can see and enjoy yourself better as well as avoid getting sick. I had taken a motion sickness pill as a precaution about an hour before the flight. 

I don’t usually get motion sickness, but I had experienced it one time on a whale-watching tour the previous year and it was miserable. You’re given headsets, and the pilot encourages you to talk and ask questions through the intercom. 

He said that it makes his job more fun when people talk to him, and he likes to know if there are any questions. We went ahead and tipped our pilot at the beginning of our flight. The chopper had just two seats in the back and the pilot’s seat in the front.

When we took off, we flew west over the coast. The pilot points out several things as you fly past them and gives you a great overview of the island and some of the history of Kauai. He told us that we would not be able to go over the Waimea Canyon and would have to go around because of the clouds and the rain there, which prevented him from safely going over the ridge.

We had hiked the Waimea Canyon a couple of days before, so it was a little disappointing because I was very excited to see it from the sky but I understood and appreciated the safety precautions. 

The weather had been pretty chaotic so far that day. He had already taken two flights (he usually did four per day) and was able to go over the canyon with those passengers, but the weather changes so quickly in Kauai.

I heard him talking to other pilots through the intercom during the flight. They were constantly giving each other information about what was going on in the sky, where they were going, and where they could and couldn’t get to. 

Mountain view from Ali'i Helicopter

We flew all the way to the west and then the north side of the island, going completely around Waimea Canyon. He pointed out the military base and mentioned how he was surprised they allowed commercial pilots to fly in that space. Every time we flew over a mountain ridge, the helicopter would shake a little. 

It was slightly scary, but the pilot seemed very competent and knowledgeable. When we reached the Napali coast, we started to see some small waterfalls and he asked us if we wanted to take a little “dive,” so we did this quick turn into a valley. It was fun but my stomach dropped just a little bit! The Napali Coast is breathtaking. We had seen it the day before from the boat but it was so fun to see it from the sky and it offered such a different perspective!

Once you get to the north side of the island and Hanalei Bay, you start to turn inward to where most of the waterfalls are. Due to the large amounts of rain, the island received the last few days, there was even more than usual that day. And wow, was he right! 

Waterfalls on helicopter tour

Waterfalls are one of my favorite things in the world and these ones were insane. Most of them were located in what you call the “Crater.” While there are waterfalls in many parts of Kauai, they’re nothing like the ones you can see here. These can only be seen by helicopter as far as I know. 

After leaving the crater, the tour started to fly back to the airport. I asked him if we would see Wailua Falls, as I knew it was on the east side of the island. He said we could fly by there, even though we were a little behind on time since we had to go around Waimea Canyon. When we got there, he pointed out that it was bigger than normal that day with all the rain. You can usually see two falls, but this time there were three. 

Once you land back at the airport, you sit in the seats for 5 minutes or so while the chopper slows down and stops. We got out, took our belongings, and the same woman who took us there was there to greet us and ask how the flight went. She then takes you back to the airport waiting room on the golf cart.

Everyone from Alii Kauai Air Tours & Charters was friendly, kind, and competent. The helicopter pilot was very knowledgeable and answered all of the questions. He told us he lived in Oahu and came to help out when they were short on pilots, but that he used to live in Kauai and was originally from California and loved Hawaii. 

The flight was amazing and I don’t think I would change anything about it. I would absolutely recommend Ali’i Air to anyone looking for a tour while in Kauai since they were so wonderful! 

I would probably not recommend it to those with young children. I was in a seatbelt and felt safe, but I am not sure I would trust my kids when they were younger in that situation. It was a great and memorable experience for a couple, and we will cherish the memories and photos forever. To anyone thinking about going, I will tell you what my friends told me–just do it, you won’t regret it, and Alii Kauai Air Tours is a great company to go with! 

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