More than 70% of the island of Kauai is inaccessible by land, and the best way to see the island is with a Kauai helicopter tour.
Ask people who’ve been to Kauai what’s the number one thing you can do on Kauai is and the answer is often to take a helicopter tour of the island.
Kauai is a uniquely beautiful place with rainforest waterfalls, deep canyons, astounding sea cliffs and stunning beaches all in one place. You can see all this and more from an aerial view. And with much of the rugged island inaccessible by other means, it’s perhaps the best way to see the incredible beauty of Kauai in its entirety.
Here is a guide on the best helicopter tours in Kauai for you to experience the very best the island has to offer and tips before going on one.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters offers two tours of Kauai. The Discover Kauai tour departs from Princeville on the north side of the island and lasts about 45 minutes. The Kauai Eco Adventure trip departs from Lihue and lasts around 50 minutes.
Both tours provide stunning views of the many waterfalls on the island, including the famous Jurassic Park Waterfall, which was featured prominently in the film Jurrasic Park. You fly over Olokele and Waimea Canyons and pass over the northern shore, which features 3,000-foot sea cliffs.
If weather permits, you’ll also fly by Mt. Wai’ale’ale, a dormant shield volcano covered with luscious green vegetation and waterfalls.
The Kauai Eco Adventure comes at an attractive $447 per person.
Safari Helicopters Hawai’i
Safari Helicopters offers two unique tours of Kauai, the Deluxe Waterfall Safari and Canyon Landing Safari.
The Deluxe Waterfall Safari package includes a 60-minute round trip flight covering over 100 miles of breathtaking landscapes that makes the island of Kauai famous. In addition to hovering over Jurassic Park falls, you swing by Na Pali and Waimea Canyon. All of this starts at only $309 per person.
Canyon Landing Safari offers all of the same sights as the Deluxe Waterfall package. However, it also includes a landing and 30 minutes on the ground at the Kauai Wildlife Refuge, with views of Olokele Canyon.
For Jurrasic Park enthusiasts, this was the location used for some of the shots of the perimeter fence in the movie, so it lets you check out a part of cinematic history.
Island Helicopters Kauai
If you’re looking for an action-packed flight around all of the significant sights of Kauai, be sure to check out Island Helicopters Kauai.
Their Grand Skies Island Tour takes you on a 50-55 minute tour of the island, including wonders like Hanapepe Valley, Na Pali Coast, and Lumahai Beach, among 10 other locations.
For Jurassic Park fanatics, the Jurassic Helicopter Tour is a 75-80 minute tour of all the sites included in the Grand Skies tour, plus a landing at the iconic waterfall for a tour on land and a chance to snap some photos.
The Grand Skies Island Tour only costs $250 per person which is an incredible value. The Jurassic Falls Tour with a landing and photo op at this legendary waterfall is only $404 per person.
Jack Harter Helicopters
Jack Harter Helicopters offers the thrill of a lifetime with their doors off helicopter charters experience.
Hop aboard the MD Hughes 500 with the doors open to the sky and view Kauai with completely unobscured clarity. Experience the thrill of having the island breezes rush over you from the safety of the comfortable seat of the helicopter. This 60-65 minute tour only costs $344 per person and there is a discount of $30 for online bookings.
If you’d like to have a pampered flight or come with a bigger group, check out their Luxury Experience. Fly Kaui in a 6-seater helicopter with plush seats, noise-canceling headphones, and floor-to-ceiling windows for ideal viewing conditions.
Jack Harter Helicopters also offers an extended 90-95 minute tour for only $506 per person.
The Ultimate Kauai Adventure tour offered by Sunshine Helicopters shows travelers all of the major landmarks on a 50-55 minute flight. You’ll see valleys, mountains, cliffs, and waterfalls from the comfort of one of two world-class helicopters.
Sunshine Helicopters offers different tiers of seat prices, similar to commercial airlines. Open seating in the back seats of the FX Star is $294 per person, with first-class seats coming in at $369 per person. If you opt for a tour on the Whisper Star, back seats are $349 and first-class seats are $424.
You can view some of the most famous places on Kauai, including Manawaiopuna Falls, Waimea Canyon, and the Na Pali Coast. They also offer helicopter tours on other islands like Maui.
Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours
Mauna Loa has specialty helicopter tours available for photographers and families. Their Ohana Experience gives your group of up to 4 passengers a private tour option.
The Kauai Pro Photography Flight is a completely customizable 55-60 minute tour of the destinations you’d most like to capture. Bring your gear and your imagination and get shooting!
This option is $399 and the professionals at Mauna Loa can help you decide on which locations to visit.
The Ohana Experience gives you and your family the private charter experience for a reasonable price of $342 per passenger. It’s a 60-minute tour that takes you to all of the most famous spots on Kauai, like the Mt. Waiale’ale Crater. Kids need to be at least 7 years old to get on the helicopter.
Travelers get to decide whether they want the doors on or off for the tour.
Ali’i Kauai Air Tours & Charters
Ali’i Kauai offers private helicopter tours to all of its customers with a more intimate, two-seat configuration for every flight.
Doors on or off, you get to choose your adventure as you zoom over all the highlights: into Mt. Wai’ale’ale crater, through Alakai Swamp, Waimea Canyon, and over Ke’e Beach. You can see it all in this hour-long thrill ride.
This private-tour experience comes at an affordable price of only $359 per person. Kauai Air Tours also has planes at their disposal in case you’d prefer to view the island by plane. Their pilots give you a good tour and explanation of the different landmarks down below.
PHOTO: Mount Waialeale
Kauai Tour Destinations
Though Kauai helicopter tours vary, most follow the same general path. Tours that begin at the Lihue Airport will travel west to Hanapepe Valley and Jurassic Falls, then over to Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific) and Olokele Canyon.
After the canyons, the tours head out to the spectacular Na Pali Coast, where sea cliffs drop thousands of feet into the ocean. Stunning Bali Hai and Kee Beach are next up, and rounding the corner is Kauai’s tropical North Shore and Hanalei Bay. Weather permitting, the grand finale is the lush volcanic crater of Mount Waialeale, where you’ll be surrounded by 3,000-foot walls weeping with waterfalls.
PHOTO: Bali Hai and Kee Beach
Manawaiopuna Falls, also known as Jurassic Falls, is a spectacular 400-foot tall waterfall on Kauai that was made famous in the 1993 Steven Spielberg movie Jurassic Park.
The waterfall can be seen on many helicopter tours of the island. However, Island Helicopters is the only company that actually lands at the base of the waterfall. The company’s Jurassic Falls Helicopter Landing Adventure includes approximately 25 minutes on the ground at the falls.
PHOTO: Manawaiopuna Falls (Jurassic Falls)
Helicopter Tours Safety
Kauai helicopter tours are generally safe, with thousands of tours accomplished safely each year. However, the island features unique risks for helicopter operators. Kauai has a number of microclimates with varying degrees of weather-related issues.
Heavy rain, clouds, fog and strong winds often pop up at a moment’s notice, both in the island’s rugged, mountainous interior and also along the jagged Na Pali coast. And dense foliage and steep mountains make emergency landings problematic.
In our opinion, such conditions put a Kauai option at higher risk than your typical tour in less problematic areas, and for that reason we suggest that you weigh these risks when deciding on one.
Although crashes are rare, they do occur infrequently. The most recent incident involved a Safari Helicopters tour that crashed in a remote area in December 2019, killing the pilot and six passengers.
In January 2016, a Blue Hawaiian helicopter tour made a hard landing at or near Honopu Beach on the Na Pali coast, seriously injuring four passengers and causing minor injuries to two other passengers and the pilot. In 2005, a helicopter operated by Ohana Helicopter Tours collided with terrain prior to takeoff, resulting in no injuries.
And in 2001, Safari Helicopters was involved in another incident when a helicopter malfunctioned and unintentionally lifted off during a preflight check. No injuries were reported during this incident.
Tour companies have passenger weight restrictions for both individuals and total passenger weights. Some companies charge extra for passengers weighing over a certain amount, and there may also be weight restrictions in first-class seating next to the pilot. The following are weight limits for various tour companies:
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters (Surcharge for passengers weighing over 261 pounds)
Sunshine Helicopters (Individual weight limit – 240 pounds FX-STAR, 290 pounds WhisperSTAR)
- Check in 45 minutes before your flight.
- Hats and other loose articles of clothing are not permitted.
- Wear dark clothing to reduce glare from the window reflection.
- All passengers are weighed to ensure the proper balance of the helicopter.
- Light jackets or long sleeve shirts are recommended attire, especially for doors off flights.
- Government-issued ID is required.
- Earrings can interfere with the headphones.
- Do not eat before the tour if you are prone to motion sickness. Take motion sickness medication per labeled instructions.
- Flights subject to cancellations due to weather or air traffic conditions.
- Book the tour during the first part of your Kauai trip. The tour will give you an overview of the island. Also, if a tour is cancelled, you can reschedule the tour later in your trip.
- Most tours leave from Lihue, however a few leave from the Princeville Airport which is convenient for North Shore guests.
- Front seat is the best seat for optimal views.
- As most Kauai helicopter tours navigate the island clockwise, a seat on the right side affords the best views, especially of the Na Pali Coast.
- Early morning or late afternoon flights have the best lighting for photos and videos.
- Since the Na Pali Coast is on the west side of the island, the afternoon sun highlights the Na Pali mountains and valleys in spectacular fashion (weather permitting).
- Photographers should consider doors off tours.
- Tip the pilot $10-$20 per person for one-hour flights, and a minimum of $20 for flights lasting more than an hour.