After 2 years of living on the island of Oahu I was sure there was no better way to soak up the island paradise than sitting with my toes in the sand on the beach in Waikiki sipping a perfectly poured Mai Tai from the beach bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. That all changed recently when I learned about seeing the beauty of the island from the air in the comfort of a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter.
For more than 25 years the aerial tour guides of Blue Hawaiian have been providing a bird’s eye view of all Oahu’s famous attractions as well as sharing some of the island’s inland natural beauty; which most visitors never get a chance to see. Here’s a look at what you can expect to see when soaring through the blue skies of Hawaii while listening to soothing Hawaiian music.
Making lift-off from just next to the Honolulu International Airport, the tour begins by passing over the Aloha Tower and Ala Moana Beach Park. From there the helicopter floats above the world famous beach of Waikiki, home to the crystal clear waters where Duke Kahanamoku pioneered surfing. To the south, Waikiki is framed by a backdrop of Diamond Head crater which got its name back in the 19th century when a British solider mistook the glimmering crystals embedded in the rocks for diamonds. A climb to the top offers an unreal panoramic view of Waikiki.
Snaking along the coastline, Hanauma Bay pops into view next. The beautifully blue waters are filled with turtles and all types of tropical fish swimming throughout the reefs, perfect for an afternoon of snorkeling. The bay is also a nature preserve and was the first marine life conservation district in the state of Hawaii.
Flying over the lighthouse at Makapu’u Point and right over Rabbit Island, the whirlybird tour guide glides past the turquoise blue waters of Waimanalo Beach and over to Kailua Bay. This area has some fantastic hiking, and two great trails to hike are the Kaiwa Ridge (Pillbox) Hike just behind the beach and the Olomana Ridge Hike which climbs 3 peaks of the Ko’olau Range and has some amazing views looking back towards the beach.
Passing over the famous sandbar in Kaneohe Bay, the chopper turns inland and swings around the back of the Ka’a’awa Valley. The backdrop of the Ko’olau Mountain Range and tropical greenery to the right and left has made this valley a Hollywood favorite for movie shoots. Some notable movies filmed here were Jurassic Park and You, Me and Dupree. For a great up-close-and-personal exploration of the valley, head to Kualoa Ranch to explore it on horseback.
Just around the corner from the Ka’a’awa Valley is the isolated cove of Kahana Bay and Punalu’u. The area is well know for its fishing and used to be a native Hawaiian fishing and farming community where sugar cane was grown.
Climbing up the mountains and heading westward, the next stop is above the Sacred Falls waterfall. The hiking trail here closed down in 1999 when a landslide killed a group of hikers, however, people say if you start early enough in the morning you might get lucky and enter without running into any security. From the air this water-fall is stunning, I can only imagine what it must look like up close at the ground level.
Exiting the Sacred Falls the next destination is the epic north shore. Approaching the northern tip of the island is the village of Kahuku. Equally as amazing as the views that can be seen from the air, the famous Kahuku Shrimp trucks will amaze your taste buds. A day exploring the north shore is not complete without stopping for a shrimp plate lunch served from one of these colorful trucks.
Cresting the northern tip of the island is the famous Turtle Bay Resort. This sprawling resort is best known for the turtles that swim up on the shore and also for being the location where the movie ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ was shot. The resort also offers phenomenal massages from inside bungalows overlooking the ocean.
Passing the north shore’s majestic Pipeline Surf Break, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay, the ride follows the shoreline towards historic Haleiwa Town and Waialua. From high in the sky you can see how vast the island is and just how important agriculture is on the island.
Hawaii is famous for its pineapple, so circling over the Dole Plantation is a must for any aerial tour of Oahu. From high above you can see the expanse of the pineapples grown here, as well as the world famous and world’s largest pineapple maze. Next to the maze is the Pineapple Express, a vintage-train which takes visitors through a 2 mile narrated tour of the grounds.
Sharing some brief World War II history, the pilot pointed out remnants of bomb attacks on a runway while flying over the Wheeler Air Force Base, which was an additional location where the Japanese attacked the island. The chopper then cuts south through the center of the island, over Wahiawa and down towards Pearl City. The tour wraps up circling above the heartfelt memorial site of Pearl Harbor. Sitting above the monument you can see the historic ship, the USS Arizona, which was sunk on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked the island.
The next time you find yourself in the land where Aloha began, and are loving it more than Elvis loved Blue Hawaii, I highly recommend touring the skies with Blue Hawaiian. Seeing the island from the air offers a totally new and amazing perspective of this beautiful island paradise.
How To Get There
If driving from Waikiki:
– Take Kalakaua Ave. to Ala Moana Blvd
– Continue straight and Ala Moana Blvd. turns into the Nimitz Highway (92)
– Follow Nimitz (92) to Lagoon Dr and turn left heading under the overpass
– Follow Lagoon Dr. to the 3rd right turn which is Kaulele Place
– Turn Right on Kaulele Place and drive straight to the end of the street and go through the gate
Another option is to call Blue Hawaiian at (808) 831-8800 and they can make arrangements to pick you up at your hotel.