Top question concierges are asked: What is the ONE activity I shouldn’t miss on my vacation to Kaua’i?

The answer: THE HELICOPTER Tour! Yes, it is true and never more true than for Kauai.

In talking with concierges, they all have told me this question is the most asked question they will hear. Kauai offers so many choices of activities. The top suggestion is to book a helicopter tour and the reason for this is that as much as 80% of Kaua’i can only be seen by air! The concierges also report there is a near 100% satisfaction rating on this island tour … regardless of the company you book with.

The No. 1 Tour you have to do
The No. 1 activity you have to do

Helicopter tours circle the island providing a view unlike any other. In one hour you see it all. This includes many of the areas where famous movies have been filmed, Waimea Canyon – the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, amazing close in views of the waterfalls – including the one you’ve seen on the opening of the television show Fantasy Island, the Napli Coast –  scenery anywhere in the world, Wai’ale’ale – the wettest place on Earth, Hanalei Bay – voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and many other truly beautiful views.

Which company should you book a tour with?

There are a number of companies you could choose from. All offer wonderful, safe tours. Keep in mind we do not make recommendations based on a financial agreement with them either. If you look at each companies reviews, you will find glowing experiences reported for ALL of them. Deservedly so! They have earned them.

The best advice we have is to book a tour that best fits your timeline, needs and budget. Here are a couple of insider tips.

1.) Ask if there is an early bird rate /discount. Sometimes there are time slots that are discounted not because it is a less desirable time to go but simply because the demand is less. Example, early mornings or late afternoons. Some will tell you there is a better chance of better weather at certain times of the day. Not necessarily true, particularly dependent on time of year/season.

2.) Be aware that seating is assigned by weight distribution. Some companies do have two seats for passengers in front with the pilot. They are considered first class and a premium is charged to get them. They also sell out first so booking early is required. You can get great pictures from any seat. The ones shown here are from the back middle seat! Even with what most consider a less than preferred seat, I still find that flight one that I will never forget!

3.) There is only one company that lands at the waterfall filmed in the movie, Jurassic Park. That is Island Helicopter Tours.

Jurassic Park - Manawaiopuna Falls
Jurassic Park – Manawaiopuna Falls

The waterfall is Manawaiopuna Falls. So if the Jurassic Falls Tour is what you are looking for, call Island. Also note this is a photo opt only and you cannot get in the falls.

4.) All companies have their main offices in Lihue, near the airport. If you are staying on the North Shore (Princeville, Kilauea, Hanalei areas), the only company that flies tours from that location of the island is Sunshine Helicopters.  (Note: Sunshine also flies from Lihue.) You may think that isn’t a big deal in that Kauai is a relatively small area, but understand there is only one highway and while it is only 25 miles from Princeville to Lihue, that can take an hour sometimes. Sunshine’s tour service for the North Shore is a real convenience.

5.) A very popular tour is the doors off tour! If that interests you, Jack Harter Helicopters or the private charter company Mauna Loa Tours are the companies for you. This tour is definitely on my To Do list. Remember that it will be far cooler, even cold, so plan accordingly. No open toe shoes are allowed either.

Here are the web site links (click on the names) and telephone numbers for the companies:

Jack Harter – 888-245-2001 or (808) 245-3774

Sunshine Tours – 866-501-7738

Island Tours – 800-829-5999 or (808) 245-8588

Blue Hawaiian – 800-745-2583 or (808) 245-5800

Safari Tours – 800-326-3356

Mauna Loa Private Tours – 808-652-3148

Napali Coast - Below is the beach where a fight was filmed for Pirates of the Caribbean
Napali Coast – Below is the beach where a fight was filmed for Pirates of the Caribbean

 Check in procedures

Bear in mind that on the day of your tour, you check-in at the company offices. Some mistakenly think they go to the airport to catch their tour. While the copter flights do leave from the airport, the companies shuttle you their from the office.

One last idea/suggestion. Before booking with a third party online, we think it is always a good policy to contact the companies directly. Rates usually pretty much the same or better, and if you need to check on your booking, the company will always help you. Many companies offer their internet discounts too if you book online with them.

If you are coming to Kauai, the helicopter tour is truly the one activity worth the money and time.

World Famous Hanalei Bay
World Famous Hanalei Bay

It’s no exaggeration when you hear a returning passenger exclaim, “It was one of the most beautiful rides on Earth!”

Kauai really is one of the most beautiful places on Earth … and the best way to see it is by helicopter.


Another view of the beach Johnny Depp battled on in Pirates of the Caribbean
Another view of the beach Johnny Depp battled on in Pirates of the Caribbean





Pilot's view Napali Coast
Pilot’s view Napali Coast