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A DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF KAUAI

A DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF KAUAI

It had been my dream for over four years to visit Kauai. I lived on Oahu for two years and never had the chance to hop over to Kauai. This time I was not only heading over from Oahu but I was so stoked to have booked a doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as I was before getting into that helicopter.

BOOKING A HELICOPTER TOUR ON KAUAI

There are a few things to consider when you book a helicopter tour on Kauai. 

  • Duration: By the time you take off and land you need the 60 minutes to see the whole island. The shorter tour often doesn’t get all the way up to the Na Pali coast, which is the highlight of the tour in my opinion.
  • Doors on or off: Doors-off means you have a clearer view and less glass in the way for your camera but no other huge advantages. The disadvantage is that the wind can be freezing even on a warm day, the wind can be very strong and you are exposed to the elements such as light rain etc.
  • A plane!?: One final option to throw in the mix is a tour by a light plane. They are actually pretty popular because they are half the price of the helicopter tour and you get to see the Na Pali coastline and more from the air. It’s something to consider.

Helicopter Flight: The most popular helicopter tour on Kauai is the Kauai Island Highlight Helicopter Tour

Sightseeing Plane: The Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon Scenic Plane Flight are well under $200, which is more than half the cost of the same trip via helicopter.

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Kauai Helicopter Tour

  • Doors on or off
  • 1 Hour Flight
  • Full Island Highlights Tour
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My Kauai doors-off helicopter experience

I’d seen so many photos of the Na Pali coastline and it had captured my imagination. It had enthralled me to the point that I had based an entire month of my life around Kauai and this flight was intended to be the highlight of that month. It didn’t disappoint in the slightest.

I organized the photography-specific open-door helicopter tour of Kauai so that I could capture the photos of the Kauai Coastline I had been dreaming about. On a photography-specific flight, your pilot will happily double back or fly to the exact position you need for your composition. On a general flight, you will cruise past locations once and if you don’t get the shot it’s tough luck and the tour moves on.

I was a little nervous as we stepped up into the helicopter at Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai. I hate building things up too much in my head. It’s so easy for it to be a letdown. I was hoping this flight was going to live up to my dreams throughout the last four years.

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The flight began quite slowly. We were looking out over nice scenery but nothing amazing, mostly farmland. There were lots of fields and a surprising amount of forested mountains. The sheer volume of trees on Kauai is really only observable from the air.

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We were just warming up! Our first real action was in Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It was here that our pilot gave us our first opportunity to throw our legs out the side of the doors off the helicopter as we looked down over massive waterfalls. The red rocks of the canyon contrasted magnificently against the immense flow from the falls as they cascaded into the pools below.

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The doors off helicopter tour on Kauai warms you up. The doors off helicopter tour on Oahu shoots you straight out into Waikiki followed by Diamond Head crater and from there the trip just rolls on. Whereas on Kauai, you begin across farmland, then cruise through Waimea Canyon, all the time knowing you are heading towards one of the most epic sections of coastline in the world.

Our pilot shot us out at Awaawapuhi valley, one of the many awesome hikes on Kauai I’d already done. Our chopper felt like a toy compared to the immense, towering ridges. We were surrounded on all sides and it seemed the only way out was up. These narrow ridges seem to swallow the helicopter whole and then all of a sudden the pilot finds the gap.

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What Photography Gear do I use?

Do you want to know about the cameras, lenses, and different gear I use to capture my adventures? I’ve listed my four different cameras below but you can check out all my lenses, accessories, and favorite camera backpack in my article: MY PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR: WHAT’S IN MY BACKPACK

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The gap he came out of gave us our first look at the Na Pali coast. What a damn sight. My dreams were immediately right there before me. The scene I had imagined a million times, right there before me. Sharply cut ridges beaming golden under the sun while the Pacific Ocean stung me with its trademark, deep vibrant blue.

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Our pilot spent almost 20 minutes making passes up and down the coast making sure both sides of our doors off the helicopter had good looks at the coast. He even set us up for some classic ‘feet shots’ over ‘Cathedrals’. I was happy just to take it all in but I had one shot in mind. It’s the type of shot you click and then check your camera to make sure it’s real life. The lighting wasn’t perfect but for me, this shot is a perfect moment in my life.

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After the Napali Coast, we cruised back past Ke’e Beach and got lost in the land of a million waterfalls. Honestly, when I described the flight to people the next day, I told them we saw 200 waterfalls and that was probably an under-exaggeration.

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When our doors off helicopter tour of Kauai, Hawaii steered back into Lihue Airport, I was lost for words. I felt overwhelmed. There was far too much epicness in an hour for one mind to handle. I don’t think there are many better places to do a doors-off helicopter tour. It’s just so diverse. Hundreds of waterfalls, one of if not the best coastline in the world, canyons, and ridges that seemingly engulf you… all within an hour.

Kauai open-door helicopter Tour Prices

Doors off helicopter tours aren’t offered by all companies and make the trip so much better. The prices range from $250-$400 per person.

Helicopter Flight: The most popular helicopter tour on Kauai is the Kauai Island Highlight Helicopter Tour.

Sightseeing Plane: The Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon Scenic Plane Flight are well under $200, which is more than half the cost of the same trip via helicopter.

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Kauai Helicopter Tour

  • Doors on or off
  • 1 Hour Flight
  • Full Island Highlights Tour

Best time for a doors-off helicopter tour on Kauai

The best time of year for the tour is in the summer. You are more likely to avoid the storms, which can often delay or cancel flights. In the winter the weather wreaks havoc on Kauai and storms pass through very quickly. I did my flight in winter so it is definitely possible to have a great sunny flight.

The best time of day for a doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai is either sunset, sunrise, or the early afternoon. The lighting on the Na Pali coast is really tricky. The light can be very harsh and there are so many shadows and ridges to think about. I found that obviously the soft lighting of sunrise and sunset are great but 1 pm was beautiful! I did my tour just before sunset and am pretty stoked with the lighting we had as we cruised along the Na Pali coastline! If you are deciding whether to do your doors off helicopter tour of Kauai in the morning or afternoon you will be solid either way for lighting just check the weather!

I hope you get the opportunity to get yourself inside a chopper, preferably with the doors off for that full experience of Kauai.

Where to stay on Kauai

I’m going to recommend five places to stay on Kauai. All five of these spots are in great locations but each one is a little different. Two are luxury picks, one is a family choice, the other is a value selection. For more accommodation recommendations you can check my favorites in the Kauai Where to Stay Guide.

Kauai Shores HotelLuxury (but value also): A luxury feels with the resort-style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area. However, it is less than $300 a night. The best part about this hotel is that it is right on the beach. The restaurant literally looks out to the waves, which is an awesome spot to start your day with breakfast.

Koloa Landing ResortLuxury (high-end): I was lucky enough to spend three nights reviewing Koloa Landing Resort and honestly the place is just phenomenal. It has the LARGEST pool in all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping throughout the pool areas.

The Grand Hyatt ResortBest Family Resort: With the best kids’ club on the island, wildlife talks in the lobby, and a five-acre pool complex that includes an enormous lazy-river pool, a waterslide, and a saltwater lagoon big enough for kayaking, the Grand Hyatt is unbeatable for keeping kids busy and parents happy.

Hilton Garden InnValue Pick: The Hilton Garden Inn is your number one choice if you are on a budget but still need comfort. The Hilton has a beautiful pool, has private beach access and hot tubs so you are still getting an awesome value and the resort experience.

 

Britta

Saturday 20th of August 2022

How did you get those feet shots out of the helicopter? Did you have to unbuckle to do that? Also your pilot was cool with you doing these types of photos?

Alexa

Wednesday 26th of January 2022

Hi - what was the name of the company you used for doors off?

Helicopter tours in Kauai - prices, discounts, timings, routes

Saturday 26th of June 2021

[…] out Jackson’s experience on a door’s off helicopter in […]

15 BEST HIKES ON KAUAI, HAWAII – Circhub

Thursday 20th of May 2021

[…] Open Door Helicopter Flight Kauai: EPIC DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF KAUAI […]

Bart

Thursday 16th of April 2020

What made you choose A7III over A7RIII ? I’m planing to purchase either but still considering which.

Jackson

Friday 17th of April 2020

It's purely larger megapixel count so if you plan to enlarge your photos to big prints or if you want to be able to crop in without loss later on post-edit.