Kauai By Helicopter – A Great Family TourMarch 1, 2011 No Comments
Helicopters and toddlers…hmm. You’re probably thinking this might not be the best way to explore a Hawaiian island destination. And yet, taking the Ultimate Kauai Adventure Tour was perfect for everyone in our party – from adults to kids ranging in age from three to twenty. By taking a helicopter tour, we were able to comfortably explore the parts of Kauai unreachable by road or foot. Boats were out due to our children’s ages and safety concerns, which also ruled out the long hikes or hiking and kayaking tours to explore the unspoiled but difficult to visit, roadless Na Pali coast. So how else to see the remote and stunning Na Pali, the heart of Waimea Caynon, the often televised, dramatic Wailua Falls, or rich green Mount Waialeale?
Everyone has to make their own choice of course, but I can’t recommend highly enough the friendly pilot, the warm staff on the ground, and awesome adventure of swirling high above these fantastic sights. Along with the fabulous scenery, we were able to hear Hawaiian legends and island lore related by our pilot. Our family filled the helicopter, so it felt like a private tour. Yes, taking a helicopter tour is a fairly major financial investment, but it is a thrilling experience, and some tour operators offer substantial discounts for a full helicopter, or even free rides for the smallest children, those under age five.
We were nervous before boarding. None of us had ever been in a helicopter before, and we had safety worries. They were unnecessary. The good natured staff weighed us and then seated us in the ‘copter based on our weight and height. Blades already whirring overhead, we ducked inside the helicopter. The kids were all excited, not nervous at all, it was the adults and older siblings with the butterflies in our stomachs. We were strapped safely in, glass doors enclosed, cameras at the ready – and then we were smoothly aloft. We were also concerned about noise, fearing that the steady whirring of the blades could disturb toddler ears. But the noise canceling head phones carefully adjusted for all size ears truly did work. All nervousness fell away as our helicopter left from the airport area near Lihue, and soared upward. We had a great view of town and the tarot fields and lush gardens just outside of it at take off. The coast line looked beautiful from here, and we began to relax and enjoy the ride.
The little ones were absolutely exultant. They watched the scenery eagerly, and loved the sensation of ‘being like a bird.” The older kids loved the adventure too. In other words, the trip was a splurge, but it was also a true hit for the entire family. Instead of a long boat trek and worries about sea sickness and swimming safety, we were gliding across the most beautiful country side, with amazing views from all the floor to ceiling glass in the helicopter. The ride was forty five minutes, long enough to be thrilling and give us our money’s worth, but brief enough to prevent the smaller children from becoming restive. The seats were comfortable – one really could simply lean back and enjoy the ride.
Our first airbourne ‘stop’ was Waimea Canyon, which though smaller than its Arizona cousin, rivals the Grand Canyon for breadth and depth and in simple wow factor. To fly over lush green fields and broad aqua ocean views to reach this raw slice of red and gold canyon was an exciting transition. And getting a swooping, bird’s eye view of the canyon that we’d visited by car the previous day offered a fresh and delightful perspective. The little kids even said they ‘recognized’ some of the look outs we had seen the day before. Best of all was the sensation of going briefly in, as well as over the vast gorge.
Our next “from the sky view” as our toddle termed it, was of Mount Waialeale, which is called the wettest place on the planet. Having an average measured annual rainfall of forty feet makes this claim difficult to deny. The greenery was lush, and sweeping over it and then spinning past a series of waterfalls was another highlight.
But best of all was our sweeping view of the Na Pali Coast. The untouched, enormous cliffs with fan like folds was everything you see in photographs and more, and seen from an aerial perspective, the aqua sea, the emerald foliage, the tall, imposing cliffs and white sand beaches was so breathtaking that every one of us fell silent and spell bound. We took an afternoon tour, and the late afternoon sun made the coast line dazzle as we headed back toward the civilization of Lihue and the landing pad.
While touch down was gentle, the only caveat to taking a helicopter tour with a toddler is disembarking – you do climb out of the heli while the blades are still turning over head – not that your toddler is tall enough to reach them. Still, the noise and just seeing the blades spinning might disorient or frighten some little ones. Ours thought this was the most exciting part, and the only difficult moment was getting everyone to stand still in one place for a photo in front of the helicopter.
After the ride, we made one stop on land – the north shore’s lovely Postcards dining establishment. Located in Hanalei, this charming restaurant is housed in an old fashioned, plantation style dwelling painted in lemon and white. The restaurant neatly served our family’s diet – with vegetarian, vegan, and pescatarian options that utilized island-fresh, delicious produce and fresh catch of the day. What they don’t include on the menu is meat, refined sugar, or additives of any kind. Customizing dishes for our party was no problem, and roving ukelele musicians added to the festive atmosphere, making a wonderful conclusion to our high flying day.