Air Tours

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

59. Above It All

It would be a mis­take to rely on sim­ple syn­onyms or mere metaphors 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 while lava oozes down the moun­tain slopes.

But re­ally, it’s one of those awe-in­spir­ing things you sim­ply have to see for your­self.

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.

• Big Is­land Air (808) 329-4868

• Blue Hawai­ian Helicopters Hilo (808) 961-5600 or Waikoloa (808) 886-1768

• Kapo­hoKine Ad­ven­tures (808) 964-1000

• Par­adise Helicopters (808) 969-7392

• Sa­fari Helicopters (808) 969-1259

60. 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 more than 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 rain­forests 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 Hilo (808) 961-5600 or Waikoloa (808) 886-1768

61. A Chop­per Ride Made for Ad­ven­ture

There are he­li­copter tours, and then there are 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 Helicopters 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 one to five hours, de­pend­ing on what’s go­ing on when you touch down.

• Par­adise Helicopters (808) 969-7392

62. Take a Night Flight Over a Vol­cano

A night flight over a sim­mer­ing vol­cano is an eerie and spec­tac­u­lar sight, and Big Is­land Air is the only tour op­er­a­tor in Hawai‘i that con­ducts vol­cano flights af­ter the sun goes down.

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 some nat­u­ral 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, tours are of­fered daily and de­part from Kona In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

• Big Is­land Air (808) 329-4868

63. 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.

• Big Is­land Air (808) 329-4868

64. 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’ll learn the basics of weight-shift con­trol, aero­dy­nam­ics and safety, as well as a bit about weather and its ef­fects 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.

65. Know Your Vol­ca­noes

No mat­ter how you choose to fly, an air tour of Hawai‘i 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, it is 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 across 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.

KO­HALA: The old­est of five vol­ca­noes that make up the is­land of Hawai‘i, Ko­hala is es­ti­mated to be 1 mil­lion years old, so old that it ex­pe­ri­enced (and recorded) a re­ver­sal of mag­netic field 780,000 years ago. The vol­cano is cut by mul­ti­ple deep gorges and, un­like typ­i­cally sym­met­ric Hawai­ian vol­ca­noes, is shaped like a foot due to a huge land­slide 250,000-300,000 years ago that de­stroyed its north­east flank.

HUALALAI: Though not nearly as ac­tive as Mauna Loa or Ki­lauea, Hualalai is the third most his­tor­i­cally ac­tive Big Is­land vol­cano. Six dif­fer­ent vents erupted be­tween the late 1700s and 1801, two of which gen­er­ated lava flows that poured into the sea on the west coast of the is­land. Kea­hole Air­port is built atop the larger flow.

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.

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