Helicopter Adventure Over West Maui and Molokai

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Although Alan and I are big advocates of boots on the ground adventures to truly know a destination, there is also something special about seeing it from a seat in a small aircraft or helicopter. Take the Hawaiian Islands, for instance. Steep sea cliffs with thundering waterfalls are no match for our boomer hiking skills. That’s why, when Visit Maui invited me to experience a Maui helicopter tour, I jumped at the chance.

West Maui helicopter tour
The beautiful coast of West Maui.

Actually, my Maui helicopter tour with Air Maui included a late afternoon ride over West Maui and Molokai’s north shore. For 45 minutes, 6 passengers marveled at the ruggedness of dramatic sea cliffs and waterfalls that aren’t accessible on foot.

Pilot on Air Maui helicopter tour.
The pilot gives us the here we go sign.

The journey starts at the Kahului Heliport, which is about 5 minutes from the Kahului Airport on Maui. Checking in at a desk in the terminal, a staff member asks me to step on a scale hidden in the floor in front of the counter — I certainly appreciate the discretion — so that seating in the helicopter can be balanced according to passenger weight. Then it’s a matter of waiting on a sofa in the lounge area for the flight. That’s also when the staff reviews instructions, answers questions and shows a short safety video.

Wear dark colored clothing to cut down on window reflection. The photographers in the group will especially appreciate it.

After buckling on the waist pouch that holds a life vest, I take my assigned spot in line to be escorted to the helicopter. Although I appreciate being seated next to the pilot — the control board is fascinating — my middle front row seat does not provide the best position for taking photos. So I forget the idea of National Geographic-style photography, concentrating instead on my very first helicopter ride and the beauty of West Maui and Moloka’i.

Crossing the Pailolo Channel on an Air Maui helicopter tour.
Crossing the Pailolo Channel.

Before taking off, the pilot re-emphasizes safety instructions. The ride is surprisingly smooth as the helicopter lifts off and begins the journey over West Maui and across the Pailolo Channel to Moloka’i. Down below, boat traffic leaves a haphazard pattern of white streaks across the water.

After crossing over the Moloka’i coast, the helicopter rises over a mountain and approaches the Halawa Valley. According to the official Moloka’i website, Polynesians settled here as early as 650 A.D. The view reminds me of the scenic drive to Halawa Valley that Alan and I took on a previous visit to Moloka’i.

An Air Maui helicopter tour is the only way we'd see this Moloka'i waterfall.
A helicopter tour is the only way I’d see this Moloka’i waterfall.

And then the helicopter rises up and over a mountain and into another valley where waterfalls stream down the steep sea cliffs. I can’t imagine a human ever exploring the sheer cliffs by foot. Everyone gets a birds-eye view when the pilot pivots the helicopter in a circle displaying the waterfalls’ mighty power.

One last view of Moloka'i before Air Maui helicopter tour heads back to Maui.
One last view of Moloka’i.

Throughout the trip, a combination of Hawaiian music and historical narration from the pilot filter through the noise-proof headphones that each passenger wears. All too soon, the Maui helicopter tour is over. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget.

A Maui helicopter tour would also make a fun cruise excursion in Hawaii, either booked on your own or through your cruise ship.

Costco offers members the 45-minute Air Maui tour at a discount. Tickets can be purchased online.

Have you experienced a Maui helicopter tour? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

Check out Boomer Adventures in Hawaii for more fun activities.

Disclosure: Visit Maui and Air Maui provided this travel experience. But, as always, the opinions are strictly my own.

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