Best Kona Helicopter Tours
As one of the top vacation destinations globally, countless activities on the Big Island claim to be “must-dos.” And while it’s true, beach days and luaus are must-dos as part of the quintessential Hawaiian experience, no activity comes close to the magic of a Kona helicopter tour above the Big Island.
When you look at the Big Island on Google Maps, you can see the island’s dramatic change in climate, from the blanket of green rainforest covering the island’s Hamakua coast to the arid deserts that reach up to the towering peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. However, while the difference in climate is easily discernible on the drive from Kona to Hilo, nothing shows the extent to how different each corner of the island is more than via helicopter. Here are our picks for the top Kona helicopter tours.
Magic Waterfalls Tour
13,796-foot peaks coupled with centuries of hammering rainfall create gaping valleys, plunging cliffs, and, you guessed it, towering waterfalls. This 75-minute tour visits the dramatic Kohala Range, home to the famous Waipio Valley and Waimanu Valley. This area can get up to 200 inches of rain per year and boasts waterfalls reaching over 1,500 feet, some of the largest in the entire state.
After exploring both cavernous valleys, this tour heads west, over the remote Kohala Forest Reserve. This area is untouched and mostly inaccessible. Here, you’ll peer into the valleys of Honopue, Honokaʻa, Honokane Iki, Honokane Nui, and Pololu. From there, you’ll fly over the summit of Mt. Kohala, the oldest of the Big Island’s five volcanoes. As you head back to the heliport, you’ll take in expansive views of the glittering Pacific ocean that stretches to the west, ancient lava flows, and the golden sands of beaches like Kua Bay and Hapuna.
Know Before You Go:
● This tour departs from Kona International Airport, only a short drive from Kona Town and 30 minutes from the resorts at Waikoloa.
● Seats are not sold individually, so grab another three of your friends to fill the four available seats for an unforgettable adventure!
● This tour has weight restrictions, and the group total cannot exceed more than 700 lbs. Make sure everyone fits into that limit to avoid any surprises at the heliport.
Big Island Experience
When people say the Big Island “has it all,” they’re not exaggerating. This whopping 4,028-square-mile land mass is home to arid deserts, lush rainforests, grasslands, beautiful beaches… the list goes on. It would take days, if not weeks, to cover all that the Big Island has to offer. That is unless you opt for a complete Big Island helicopter tour.
This VIP helicopter experience travels to some of the Big Island’s most famous sites, the first being Hawaii’s only active volcano: Kilauea. On the journey from Kona to Kilauea, you’ll travel between two of the world’s largest mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Once you reach Kilauea, you’ll explore the volcano’s east rift zone, including Kilauea Crater, Puʻu Oʻo Vent, and the lava flows that descend to the ocean. (At the time of writing, 11/21, Kilauea is currently erupting again after three years! So if you want to see it, you better hurry. There’s no telling how long each eruption will last.)
From the volcanic deserts of Kilauea, you’ll then travel over Hilo town (the wettest town on earth, by the way) to the breathtaking Hamakua Coast. Finally, descending into the Kohala Forest Reserve, you’ll navigate through the area’s seven gaping valleys, including Waipio Valley, Waipuna Valley, and Pololu Valley. Nestled in these valleys are some of the tallest waterfalls on the planet, some towering over 1500 feet. Most of this area is inaccessible by foot, and you’ll be laying your eyes on valleys and waterfalls few have seen.
Know Before You Go:
● Buckle up; the duration of this tour runs two hours. Although you’ll be so mesmerized by the beauty below, it’ll feel more like two minutes.
● This tour utilizes an R66 aircraft- the Rolls Royce of helicopters. Seriously, this chopper has a Rolls Royce engine.
● This tour can accommodate up to four people, with three people minimum.
Kona Coast Helicopter Tour
Dotted with glistening white sand beaches, lava fingers reaching out to sea, and dramatic landscapes, mountain slopes flecked with coffee farms and forest reserves, the Kona Coast is a sight to behold.
This stunning tour takes you either north or southbound from Kona Airport. Northbound will take you all the way to the small coastal town of Kawaihae. Along the way, you’ll pass over some of the region’s most famous beaches, like Hapuna and Kua Bay. Southbound travels the coast over Kona Town, down to the glistening bay at Captain Cook. What’s more, in whale season, whales off Kona are abundant, and their imposing figures are open spotted cruising just below the ocean’s surface on this tour.
Know Before You Go:
● Doors on or doors off- the choice is yours! Doors off are available at no extra cost.
● This tour totals 30 minutes, making it the perfect option to squeeze into a jam-packed itinerary.
● Your pilot also serves as a tour guide, offering live commentary for the duration of the flight. Kona is rich in natural and Hawaiian history, and you’ll learn some interesting facts about the area from your pilot.
Kona Sunset Experience
Situated on the western side of the island, Kona is famous for spectacular sunsets. While the sunset from one of Kona’s golden beaches is already magical, to begin with, climb aboard a helicopter tour to take your experience to the next level.
With a maximum of three passengers, everyone is guaranteed a window seat. This 30-minute tour traverses the breathtaking Kona coast, offering guests views of ancient lava flows stretching into the sea, Mt. Hualalai, and towering Mauna Loa. The real treat, however, is when the glowing sun begins to slip below the horizon. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive green flash- there’s hardly a better place in the world to spot it than via helicopter off the Kona Coast.
Know Before You Go:
● Doors off? Yes, please. This tour can be booked doors off or doors on for no additional cost.
● Sorry kiddos, you have to be at least 12 years old to ride in the doors off heli. Although, children as young as seven are welcome doors on.
● This tour departs from Kona International Airport, which is nestled right on the coast. You’ll be taking in views as soon as the helicopter leaves the ground!
Kohala Hamakua Coast Helicopter Tour
While Kohala Coast and Hamakua Coast both border Mt. Kohala, one of the Big Island’s five mountains, the two couldn’t stand in more significant contrast. The Kohala Coast sits under Mt. Kohala’s rainshadow, and this parched landscape is studded with opulent resorts and white sand beaches. Meanwhile, on the other side of the mountain, the Hamakua Coast is blanketed by thick rainforest streaked with cavernous valleys that can see up to 200 inches of rain per year.
This 45-minute flight explores these contrasting coastlines and everything in between. From the arid Kohala Coast, you’ll sail over the small town of Waimea and its rolling green pastures. From there, the flight takes a deep exploration into some of the biggest valleys on the Hamakua Coast. This includes Waipio Valley, Waipuna Valley, and Pololu Valley, home to dozens of precipitous waterfalls.
Know Before You Go:
● Guests can choose between open seating or first-class seating. First-class seating offers seats up front next to the pilot, with extra arm and legroom.
● Don’t want to forget your memorable experience? A video of the flight with the pilot’s live narration may be available for purchase.
● This trip can take a maximum of six people, with first-class seats up front and four open seats in the back.
Still can’t decide?
Here is some more information on Big Island Activities.