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. Join KapohoKine Adventures for an experience you
won’t soon forget. Their HeliZip adventure combines a helicopter aerial tour of Kilauea Volcano with the Zipline
Through Paradise in one exhilarating experience. HeliZip is available from either Kona or Hilo airports. 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
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 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 longer travel time. 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 oftenignored 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 Hawai‘i 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.