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Exploring Hawaii: Big Island Helicopter Tour of Volcanoes and Waterfalls


View from the office of a Big Island Helicopter Pilot

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, I highly recommend taking a helicopter tour. To truly appreciate the Big Island’s active volcanic landscape, you have to see it from above.

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Zan taking in the view

I booked a doors off waterfalls and volcanoes tour of the Big Island with Hawaii Volcanoes Helicopter Tours and it was the highlight of my trip to the Big Island. Based at the Commuter Air Terminal of Hilo International Airport, I could not have gotten more value for money than I did for this scenic flight ($378 for two people for a tour of approximately 35-40 minutes).


Aerial view of a macadamia nut farm on the Big Island of Hawaii

After spending a few days exploring the Big Island of Hawaii and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the helicopter tour helped me better get the lay of the land. It also brought into sharp focus what is so unique about the Big Island– it’s home to Kilaeua, an active volcano.


Aerial view of Hilo Bay, Hawaii


Hilo from above

Once you take off from the Hilo airport, you fly over macadamia nut farms,the Boiling Pots of Peepee Falls and Rainbow Falls and head toward the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea. The tour was a great time to geek out over geography and mother nature.

Helicopter Ride over lava flow of  Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii

While conditions change daily, this summer has been an incredible time to see the volcano. The lava flow just reached the ocean for the first time in three years.


Sulfer smells and hot air filled the helicopter as we flew over Kilauea’s steam vents and active lava flow

Overall, the helicopter tour was  smooth. It gets a bit bumpy when you are directly over the lava flow and steam vents, where hot air and cross currents add to the atmosphere.


 Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world

Our pilot, Luka Dayton-Smith, stayed cool and let us know what to expect before the helicopter changed directions or hit a turbulent patch. I felt safe and secure during the entire flight.


Window seat view as you fly over Kilauea

Helicopters are such a fun way to experience the landscape. With the doors off, there is very little between you and nature. If you are looking for things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii, take a helicopter tour!


A tree burns as the lava flow overtakes it

Seeing trees fall as an active lava flow sets them on fire is mind blowing. It puts things in perspective and give you great respect for mother nature and the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele. By the end of the tour I understood the difference between the two kinds of lava flows in Hawaii, the pahoehoe and a’a.


Approaching Kilauea in a helicopter

Our pilot even let us pick what to listen to during our flight. We went with adrenaline-pumped Foo Fighters. It paired nicely! We got to fly over the gardens of downtown Hilo as well, but honestly, after flying over an active volcano and seeing mother earth do her thing, you’re a bit dazzled. The experience is truly awesome and inspiring. A few tips: If you have long hair, you’ll want to put it up. It’s windy up in the helicopter, especially if you go with the doors off option. If you’re serious about photography, doors off is the way to go and you won’t be spending your days trying to eliminate window glare when editing your photos.


Shaka symbols + helicopter = win 

If you’ve never taking a helicopter tour, let the Big Island be your first. It’s unforgettable. Hawaii Volcanoes Helicopters made the experience pleasant and easy.


After an awesome flight with helicopter pilot Luka Dayton-Smith (photo credit: Zan Aufderheide)

 Be sure to book ahead.

Hawaii Volcanoes Helicopter Tours
1347 Kekuanaoa St.
Hilo, Hawaii
Phone : (808) 557-0084
Email : info@hawaiivolcanoeshelicoptertours.com