There’s one activity on Oahu that I always recommend to people. It’s simply one of the best places in the world for an open-door helicopter flight. The island has incredible mountain ridges, beautiful beaches, islands, sandbars, and hidden waterfalls. You will finish the flight with your mind absolutely blown away when you take an open-door helicopter tour of Oahu.
If you want to book a seat on an open-door helicopter with the same company I flew with, you can reserve your flight in advance as they often fill the schedule, especially during peak season. I’ll give you the details below.
OPEN-DOOR HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU
There are a few options when it comes to booking a helicopter flight on Oahu and I’ve outlined them below in a comparison table. I did the tour with Rainbow Helicopters and found the entire experience to be safe, professional and they really wanted us to have a great experience and get some sweet photos.
OAHU HELICOPTER TOUR COMPARISON TABLE
|OAHU HELICOPTER TOURS||RATE||TIME|
|45-Minute Tour with Doors on or off||$275/person||45 min|
|60-Minute Tour: Doors on or off||$325/person||60 min|
|Waikiki Sunset Flight: Doors on or off||$333/person||75 min|
|Path to Pali 30-Minute Tour||$215/person||30 min|
|Waikiki 20-Minute Tour||$190/person||20 min|
|Exclusive Private Romantic Flight||$1500/group of 3||60 min|
MY OPEN-DOOR HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU
I knew the island would look unbelievable from the air and couldn’t wait to see the spine of the island from a birds-eye view. I organized the open-door helicopter tour of Oahu. They are one of the few tour operators on the island who allow doors off and run specialty photography flights but the regular flights are still great for taking photos and enjoying the scenery.
Book your tour: 60-Minute Tour: Doors On or Off
We went for the open-door helicopter tour of Oahu just after sunrise, hoping for some soft lighting. I love vibrant blues when they clash against the strong green tones of the mountains. That’s why I chose sunrise to mid-morning for the flight rather than a golden hour flight. it turned out to be a perfect decision. The weather was a little stormy so the lighting was forgivingly soft on the landscape and I even was able to shoot some thunderstorms raging over the island of Oahu from the safety of the sunny ocean.
The hard part about a doors-off helicopter tour of Oahu is that the weather changes quickly and is quite unpredictable as you will see in my photos below. On Oahu, we had sunshine, a rainbow, storms, and thick clouds all within an hour. This rapid change in conditions coupled with the constant movement of the helicopter makes shooting an exciting challenge.
Fittingly, the first scene out of the airport to shoot was Ala Moana, my local beach for over 2 years. Looking down on this beach out of our open door helicopter filled with me so much nostalgia, I almost forgot I was holding a camera until I quickly grabbed the first frame of what would be an epic hour of photography and sightseeing.
We cruised straight over Waikiki, watching surfers catch waves from directly above, too high to notice the craziness of the strip. It almost seems like a peaceful beach district from the air. Looks can be deceiving. If you are just interested in flying over Waikiki there is an awesome tour option that is still doors off but is a specialized sunset Waikiki tour, which can be pretty epic at golden hour.
Flying over Diamond Head and Koko Head Crater was a good memory from the doors-off helicopter tour of Oahu. It’s hard to fully grasp the nature of the entire crater from a hike or a viewpoint. Being high enough and far enough out from the volcanic craters gave us so much more perspective to fully understand the grandeur of these formations.
We headed inland to explore the Koolau Mountain Range. I knew this was going to be epic and I wasn’t let down. It was ridges on ridges as Josh, our pilot, slowed down the helicopter so we could hang our feet out and enjoy a few minutes of relaxing with the fresh air blowing in our faces while we stared down at the Stairway To Heaven (Haiku Stairs) Hike. This is why a doors-off helicopter tour of Oahu is the way to go. Moments like this were the highlight of the flight.
Kaneohe Sandbar was our refuge as we watched a storm rages over Kualoa Valley. It was quite surreal to cruise in the sunshine over the ocean while we watched a storm pour down on land.
My favorite part of the doors off helicopter tour of Oahu was over my favorite part of the island. Kahana Bay. The Crouching Lion Hike gives good views of Kahana Bay but I’ve never felt more satisfied than clicking my shutter as we rounded the corner and had a dead-on view into Kahana Bay with a dark storm brewing in the background.
I even asked our pilot Josh, to double-back for a second pass. That’s the beauty of a photography tour. It is still an island tour essentially but the pilot is doing their best to get you good angles for photos, not just a good view. Josh didn’t blink any time we requested a double-pass or to hang our feet out of the helicopter and was all for the adventure and down to help us grab the photos we had our heart set on.
My open-door helicopter tour of Oahu had been unreal and I loved that we were chasing storms and watching rain funnels the whole trip. There are a few different helicopter tour options on Oahu and they vary in price and where exactly they fly. I’ve already linked above to the exact flight and tour company I used but I’ll share some cheaper options and different tour flight routes below.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off)and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS
I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
- What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU