Air Tours

101 Things to Do (Big Island) - - AIR TOURS -

Above It All

It would be a mis­take to rely on words to de­scribe a fly­ing tour of Hawai‘i Is­land. One could say it’s like a myth­i­cal ride on a magic car­pet, or a scene from a James Bond thriller, with a chop­per skirt­ing a live vol­cano and lava ooz­ing down the moun­tain slopes. But really, it’s one of those fab­u­lous things that can’t be an­a­lyzed, dig­i­tized or trans­lated into any­thing more com­pli­cated than “Wow!”

The ae­rial view of the Ha­makua Coast from Hilo to Waipi‘o Val­ley is truly mag­i­cal. Ex­pect to see roar­ing wa­ter­falls, ver­ti­cal forests and tiny vil­lages dur­ing a Ha­makua flight. And when you reach Waipi‘o Val­ley, ex­pect to see the is­land’s ver­sion of Eden.

Ki­lauea Vol­cano is by far the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion— the sight of a lava flow is spec­tac­u­lar. One com­pany, Big Is­land Air, con­ducts night flights over the vol­cano. Par­adise He­li­copters also of­fers doors-off flights over Ki­lauea.

Whether you buy a ticket on a heli­copter or a fixed-wing air­plane, the view from above will give you a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the is­land’s nat­u­ral won­ders.

• Blue Hawai­ian He­li­copters (808) 961-5600 • Sa­fari He­li­copters (808) 969-1259 • Par­adise He­li­copters (808) 969-7392 • Big Is­land Air (808) 329-4868

Take a Night Flight Over a Vol­cano

A night flight over a scorch­ing vol­cano is an eerie and spec­tac­u­lar sight. Big Is­land Air is the only tour op­er­a­tor in Hawai‘i that con­ducts vol­cano night flights. From a seat in the com­pany’s jet prop CE-208 Cessna Car­a­van, sur­face lava takes on higher def­i­ni­tion. And from the sky, you’re likely to see the fire­works when liq­ue­fied rock, heated to 2,100 de­grees Fahren­heit, steams out of a lava tube and hits the ocean.

For a safe ride, the air­craft is equipped with a so­phis­ti­cated ground prox­im­ity warn­ing sys­tem, global po­si­tion­ing and traf­fic col­li­sion avoid­ance sys­tems in­clud­ing on­board weather and ter­rain map­ping radar.

Weather per­mit­ting, the tours are of­fered daily and de­part from Kona In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

• Big Is­land Air (808) 329-4868

Take off from Waikoloa

Most Hawai‘i Is­land heli­copter tours orig­i­nate from Kailua-Kona or Hilo. But there is one com­pany that flies out of Waikoloa on the Ko­hala Coast. Blue Hawai­ian He­li­copters main­tains a pri­vate he­li­port in the high-end tourist area, mak­ing it con­ve­nient for Ko­hala Coast vis­i­tors to book a tour.

Blue Hawai­ian He­li­copters, which con­ducts tours through­out the is­lands, is a well-re­spected com­pany with 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence. One tour flies over an ac­tive vol­cano and lava flows in Hawai‘i Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park, then turns to ex­plore the mag­nif­i­cent rain forests and wa­ter­falls of the Ha­makua Coast. An­other tour takes you to the Ko­hala Coast, where more wa­ter­falls, tow­er­ing sea cliffs and an­cient Hawai­ian set­tle­ments blend into deep val­leys and acres of rain­for­est.

• Blue Hawai­ian He­li­copters (808) 961-5600

Tour in a Fixed-Wing Air­craft

He­li­copters aren’t the only birds that tour the is­land. Try a fixed-wing flight for a longer tour. Un­like most heli­copter tours that cut across the sad­dle of the is­land to get to the vol­cano, a fixed-wing plane has enough fuel to cover all 266 miles of coast­line, in­clud­ing the of­ten- ig­nored south­ern end of the is­land.

Tours are con­ducted in planes with var­i­ous seat­ing ca­pac­i­ties, but all seats have a win­dow, in­clud­ing the seat next to the pi­lot. Ki­lauea Vol­cano is a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion, but there are other tours to choose from.

In ad­di­tion to their reg­u­lar air tours, char­ter plane com­pa­nies also of­fer ad­di­tional ser­vices in­clud­ing cus­tom air tours.

A Chop­per Ride Made for Ad­ven­ture

There are heli­copter tours and heli­copter ad­ven­tures. Sight­seers will want to book a tour. Ad­ven­tur­ers will go for the doors-off, mul­ti­ple-land­ing op­tion. Par­adise He­li­copters can ac­com­mo­date ei­ther mood.

Along with views of an ac­tive vol­cano, lava flows, wa­ter­falls and gor­geous ter­rain, Par­adise has de­signed tours that touch down in in­trigu­ing spots. Fly to a re­mote val­ley, land at a zi­pline course, hike the rim of the ex­quis­ite Waipi‘o Val­ley, or say hello to a leg­endary lava field res­i­dent.

Tours can run from 1 to 5 hours, de­pend­ing on what’s go­ing on when you touch down.

• Par­adise He­li­copters (808) 969-7392

An air tour of the Big Is­land is likely to bring into view the is­land’s in­trigu­ing as­sort­ment of vol­ca­noes. Here’s a short, pre-flight brief­ing on some of them:

KI­LAUEA: One of the Earth’s most ac­tive vol­ca­noes, lo­cated in Hawai‘i Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park on the south­east­ern flank of Mauna Loa. This vol­cano has been pump­ing molten lava over the land­scape since 1983, si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­vel­op­ing new real es­tate and leav­ing de­struc­tion in its wake. In March 2008, the vol­cano caused a com­mo­tion when, for the first time since 1924, it let loose an ex­plo­sive erup­tion. It’s still spew­ing an ash-laden plume from a crater at the sum­mit and send­ing molten lava over the land­scape.

MAUNA LOA: A mas­sive vol­cano that spreads over half of the Big Is­land’s 4,034 square miles, Mauna Loa rises 13,680 feet from sea level. Mea­sured from its flanks on the ocean floor, the moun­tain reaches 30,080 feet at its sum­mit. Sixty miles long and 30 miles wide, Mauna Loa is the largest vol­canic moun­tain in the world and the third largest shield vol­cano in the so­lar sys­tem, smaller only than vol­ca­noes on Venus and Mars. It has erupted 39 times since 1832, the most re­cent be­ing in 1984.

MAUNA KEA: The tallest is­land-moun­tain in the world, Mauna Kea stands 13,796 feet above sea level and rises 32,000 feet from the ocean floor. At its sum­mit, where snow some­times falls, the world’s largest as­tro­nom­i­cal ob­ser­va­tory houses tele­scopes op­er­ated by as­tronomers from all over the world.

LO‘IHI: Fif­teen miles off the south­east coast of the is­land, Lo‘ihi thun­ders 3,000 feet be­neath the Pa­cific Ocean. Some­day, thou­sands of years from now, the sub­ma­rine vol­cano will emerge to form a new is­land.

Know Your Vol­ca­noes

Spread Your Wings and Fly

If float­ing above the sur­face in a two-per­son fly­ing ma­chine sparks your imag­i­na­tion, take to the sky in a pow­ered hang glider.

Dur­ing your flight, you learn the ba­sics of weight-shift con­trol, aero­dy­nam­ics and safety, as well as a bit about weather and its af­fects on avi­a­tion.

Once you’ve reached a re­laxed fly­ing al­ti­tude, an in­ter­est­ing phe­nom­e­non some­times takes hold. There’s a ten­dency to for­get that a pi­lot is nav­i­gat­ing your course, that an en­gine is pow­er­ing the way and that you’re strapped into a two-seater fly­ing ma­chine, at­tached only to a wing. All that fades into a new feel­ing, one that re­sem­bles wing­less flight.

Any­one who’s seen the Big Is­land from above knows its magic. But if you want to get caught in its spell, take a les­son in a pow­ered hang glider. Check out Is­land Ul­tra­light for more in­for­ma­tion.

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