Travel Diaries

Hawaii Diaries #5 – Open Door Helicopter Tour and Shave Ice

We took an open door helicopter tour.

It was as amazing as it was scary. I am no fan of heights; I’ll preface with that. The idea of going up there in an open door helicopter made me wary when my wife mentioned she booked it.

I thought I’d just be a nervous ball up there and wouldn’t enjoy myself. I was right about the nervous ball part but not about enjoying myself; it was awesome!

The first few minutes weren’t bad from a fear perspective. Our take off was smooth and the views started to open up once we left the airport.

You can see the layout of the helicopter a bit in the picture. It’s a small craft with four open doors. Three are three seats in the front and two in the back. One of the seats, the left one in the front is the pilot and I sat in the middle seat while my wife was to my right.

Originally I was supposed to sit near the open door but I said “nope” and luckily they let us switch. They weigh you when you get there and assign seats there to distribute weight evenly.

The door seats are cool but I didn’t want to have to look straight out and down if I could help it. The middle seat is still awesome since the windows in front are large and go all the way down to your feet so you can see everything.

The first few minutes were a straight forward push towards some hills ahead. Once we crested those, we were greeted with the first of many awesome sights.

The first waterfalls began to appear as we got to the middle of the island. There was lush greenery everywhere and these were all in areas you wouldn’t get to see normally; that’s why the helicopter tours are so popular here.

And the waterfalls, they were everywhere!

It was around this area that I started to get a bit nervous, fear of heights and all.

When you sit in the middle, it’s not so bad initially since you can just look ahead.

However, since the pilot wants to show both sides most views, he does some turns in certain areas. Those turns mean that the helicopter is no longer pointing straight ahead but pushing to either side. If you happen to look down the door when the helicopter is tilting as it turns, you get a nice view of the ground through the open door.

It’s an open door helicopter after all! And let me tell you, It’s FREAKING SCARY if you’re not a fan of heights.

I grabbed at my seat cushion and started to feel my palms sweat. My feet dug into the ground below me and my body tensed.

Still, I didn’t panic or anything. We were strapped in and I never felt unsafe. However, that fear and anxiety certainly didn’t disappear. It was one of those situations where I was a bit scared but then also looking out and seeing things like these.

Every time we would turn or crest a hill, I would just look on and say “wow” to myself.

Through all this, the pilot would tell us facts about the area and check in through the headsets we were wearing.

“You guys doing all right?” I just nodded and held on to my seat.

The next stop was Waimea Canyon.

That had waterfalls too. The pilot would point these out then bring us closer for a look, turn us around so the other side could see it too and move on.

After that waterfall, we turned and did a straight shot through the canyon itself.

The views here just took your breath away. It was absolutely amazing. Look at that thing, it’s huge and awesome!

The best part about the open door helicopter is that the wind blows in so you can feel the air around you while you move through these vast landscapes. If you get motion sick, the cool air flow helps with that.

We approached yet another beautiful waterfall, a bigger one this time and hovered around taking pictures.

After that, we turned and flew through the open canyon again.

At this point, we were near the edge of the canyon and rose up to around 4000 feet before dropping down and heading towards the Na Pali coast.

I was bummed we didn’t get to see the coast during our catamaran trip. However, seeing it in the helicopter was enough to make me forget about missing out then.

It’s just beautiful. That cave in the middle rock face was used in certain movies; you know the ones that have a plane flying through a tight space? Our pilot made a joke about flying through it and I laughed nervously. I was still holding on to my seat at this point and my palms were wet.

However, I was getting a bit more used to the heights. The ride wasn’t too bad; it was very smooth with some minor bumps here and there as we changed air currents or moved between cliffs.

Note that most of these pictures were taken by my dear wife. The open door seat is the place to be if you want to take pictures. Otherwise, you’ve got people to both sides and the windows obscuring the view a little bit.

We spent a good amount of time on this coast line. The pilot pointed out some caves that are used in boat trips when the seas are calmer.

As we moved on, he also pointed out the 11 mile hiking trail that can be used to get to some of the private beaches here.

Near the end, he did a full 360 so we could take a final look at the coast before moving on.

We really had a beautiful day to enjoy the scenery.

The next stop was the north shore which is partially shut down due to the storms last April. We cut back inland to see more waterfalls and greenery.

The north short is the wet part of the island. It gets anywhere from 400 to 600 inches of rain a year which creates tiny waterfalls everywhere.

There were many spots where you would just turn and see beautiful landscapes with various rivulets of water flowing down them.

We followed the river and began to head up again.

As you start approaching the taller mountains, you start to see the mists envelop them and it’s a really beautiful sight.


The pilot took us into this darker area on the side of a mountain that emerged after a turn. The air here was ice cold for a few seconds as we hovered and looked at the stained mountainside surrounded by cliffs.

It was quite a sight and looked a little bit like tears. The lush northern landscape waved goodbye as we headed back to the airport.

Overall, this was a 10/10 experience with a 7/10 on the fear scale. It’s expensive and only about an hour but totally worth it.

If you’re not a fan of heights then you should still do it. It’s awesome, unforgettable and the pictures won’t do the experience justice. If you’re deathly afraid of heights then I would probably skip it.

There were so many spots that took my breath away. It was scary, palms were sweaty, knees spaghetti but it was SO worth it to go.

For those wonder, this was a Jack Harter tour. I would recommend the open door one as I don’t think it would be as memorable in a regular helicopter. The open door helicopter atmosphere, the air around you and the ability to see EVERYTHING was amazing.

My legs were a bit wobbly as we drove back to Poipu for lunch.

We stopped at the Beach House restaurant for lunch. I had fish tacos and my wife had a pork sandwich. The food was decent, nothing amazing but the draw here is the view.

That’s the view standing up from my seat. They should trim the bushes so it’s like that when you sit too. You can also go outside and sit on some patio furniture while you wait for the food to be ready.

The sun sets out here so the views at dinner must be amazing. They know this so the prices are pretty high but they’re a bit more reasonable for lunch. However, since the views everywhere in Hawaii are amazing and the food is just OK, I’d probably pass on this one next time.

We made another quick stop at spouting horn to see if high tide brought on a bigger spout.

Verdict is that it was a bit bigger today.

We also took down a Pokemon Go gym while we were here. We are cool adults!

On the way back, we stopped by Waikomo Shave Ice, a little truck near Da Crack to get some shave ice. BTW, the line at Da Crack was huge again!

The shave ice was a revelation! This one was a coconut, pineapple flavor with a pineapple and coconut cream topping. It looks and tastes delicious.

I’ll definitely need to have more shave ice before we leave the island.

We also made a quick stop at a nearby farmer’s market.

There were about a dozen stalls there and we picked up a few things.

Four starfruit for $1, a dragon fruit for $2.50 and some chocolate chip banana bread for $5. What a a nice haul.

I’ve had starfruit before but found that it lacked flavor. I cut this one up to give it a try.

I guess the lack of flavor when I got it back home was due to shipping times because this thing was good. Think of a juicy mix between a lemon, pear, apple and grape and you’ve got a starfruit; quite good and we still have two left.

We had dinner plans at 5:30 so we hung out a bit before heading out.

On the way, we made a pit stop at Wailua Falls.

It’s one of those stop, get out, take a picture type of things. I’ve read there might be a way to hike down to it but we’re old and not seeking thrills so we moved on.

Dinner was at JO2 in Kapaa and it was quite delicious.

The highlight was the braised beef cheeks.

The meat was so tender and delicious! My wife’s lamb was great too. The dessert, a molten chocolate cake was quite fantastic as well. Highly recommend this place!

After that, we headed home, showered and slept. It was 8 P.M. The Hawaii party lifestyle!

I’m up at 4 A.M. again writing this post. The plan for today is to check out Waimea Canyon and do some hiking. We saw it in the air and now we’ll see it on foot.

I’m still coming off the high of the helicopter ride. What an awesome day.

Related : Hawaii Diaries #6 – Exploring Waimea Canyon


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.