Maui is an incredible island with more scenic beauty than you could possibly imagine. However, a lot of this beauty is hidden away. The Dense Rainforest and mountainous terrain mean huge parts of the island are completely incessable. Huge Valleys, Plunging waterfalls and endless volcanic craters are all lost in the wilderness of the Island. However, there is one way to make these treasures available to all: A Maui helicopter tour. But which with so many tour providers available it’s hard to know what the best Tours for you are.
With Our Best Maui Helicopter Tours Review Page, we take a look at all the different tours and operators available on the island to bring you the best experience for your budget and tastes. First, we take a look at a typical tour then, look at which tours are available then a quick review of the different tour operators. Flying over Maui is a really incredible experience and our review guide should help you find the BEST tour for your vacation.
Our Maui Helicopter tours Reviews post will help you decide what tour to take and Which company to trust to safely and comfortably guide you around Maui’s hidden secrets for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. As Maui is the Honeymoon Isle these tours are very popular as a wonderful Memory Maker for your perfect Maui Honeymoon.
First, we will run you through the actual experience before looking at the available tours and options before taking a look at the different operators. Finally, we will give you some tips and address any fears and safety issues you may have.
Experience – Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours, Maui, and Molokai
All operators on Maui operate out of Kahului Airport. The Heliport is located away from the main Terminal Handily shown on this Map. Heading to Kahului on the 380 head down the new Airport road but take the exit signposted “heliport” before you get to the main Airport. Then just follow Kala Rd round until you see the signs for the Heliport. Then simply locate your provider before Parking up and heading on inside.
First, you will sign up where you confirm your booking and sign any waivers and documentation before getting a brief safety briefing. You will be shown how to use your personal Life jacket and familiarised with the aircraft’s safety features and procedures. Think of this like the Airline presentations you ignore … err we mean, pay close attention to… every time you fly.
You will then Be Weighed. Not to humiliate you, or shame you, but the weights are needed for the flight calculations to ensure even weight distribution and confirm maximum take-off weight is not exceeded. Believe me, the companies would love to forgo this embarrassing procedure but it’s an FAA requirement that all Weights and balance forms are properly filed!
You will then be assigned seats based on the computer’s weights and balances calculations, there is no bagging the front, despite it being a far and away better experience. Then you will be provided with your Personal Life vests and headsets before being taken out to the Helicopter(ECO-Star) with your Pilot.
This process is pretty much the same for all Operators and All tours but from here on we will talk about the West Maui and Molokai tour we took with Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tours Maui.
After our pilot acquired our flight clearance from Air Traffic control we Air Taxied away from the apron before heading for the Sky. The Flight took us North over the coast before turning west to track along the coast. As we flew along with the West Maui Mountains to our left we were treated to fantastic views of the rugged coast, deep Mountain Valleys, and the Cloud Forest. The pilot then began to take us deep into the mountain where few people venture. Remote prehistoric waterfalls plunged into the valley depths and the whole place had an air of the Jurassic about it.
The Mountains cause quite a bit of turbulence to the Pacific trade winds so the Chopper bounces around a bit in the Valleys but overall it was pretty stable. The calm relaxed voice of the Pilot made everyone perfectly aware this was normal. After a while exploring the valleys we headed for the tourist areas of West Maui, which is where we were staying. And then we headed out across the Pailolo Channel heading for Molokai. Unfortunately, we were out of Whale season, but during the months of November to May this channel is chock full of humpback and you get a fantastic view from a chopper
As we approached the Island we passed over the Mokuho’Oniki Rock. My tales of diving with hammerhead sharks their days before didn’t go down too well! Heading inland the remoteness was even more evident than in West Maui. There were remote settlements that have very little contact with the outside world, or so our Pilot said. This adds to the feeling of a lost world.
The Waterfalls here are incredible and some of the world’s tallest as they plunge from pool to pool in complete isolation. Finally, as we flew low over the landscape the horizon revealed the flight’s feature presentation, The world’s tallest sea cliffs. We barreled over the edge of the Sea Cliffs, the tallest in the world, as the ground fell over 1000 meters to the ocean below. A dramatic and fitting introduction to the Northside of Molokai. These cliffs plunge straight down into the Abyssal plain and the water is a deep dark blue, very different from the azure blue of most waters found off Maui.
From here the Tour heads back over the island taking a look at the now ex-leper colony of Kalaupapa, then over to the shallow reef and fish ponds of the south side of the Island. Before crossing back over the channel where we spent some time exploring the West Maui Condo complexes, where we were staying. It was nice to get a shot of our honeymoon home and the beautiful Napili Bay where we were staying.
We then followed the coast back to Kahului Airport and back to the helipad. If the weather is right the Helicopters can fly through the Olowalu Gap with stunning mountain views. But not today as the wind was pretty high. A few snaps with the helicopter back at the pad and we were done.
Most of the Operators offer very similar tours of slightly different lengths and costs here we highlight the most popular and talk about the pros and cons of each. We also list the durations and highest and lowest costs available.
West Maui Waterfalls
- Cost – $240
- Duration – 45 Mins
This used to be offered by more operators but has been dropped in recent years as it didn’t really represent great value and some of the routes became more restricted. The premise is pretty simple the tour heads into the valleys of the West Maui Mountains to explore the hidden gems and lost waterfalls in the area. An area that is not even accessible to Hikers as the delicate nature of the ancient cloud forest has meant hiking is forbidden.
While this is a great tour, you get to see a lot of it plus more with the next tour. This is why few operators still offer this route and we would
West Maui Mountains And Molokai
Our Favourite Tour Option!
- Cost – $234 – $399
- Duration – 45 -65 Mins
We have explained our Blue Hawaiian experience of this tour above so we won’t get into it too deeply here. But it is our Favourite Option and really showcases the best of Maui County.
The Sea Cliffs of Molokai are genuinely staggering and a really unique experience. After all, they are the tallest sea cliffs in the world and the sight of the lush green forest plunging into the deep blue Pacific is genuinely mid-blowing
This very popular tour is offered by all operators. Air Maui offers a Staggeringly cheap $138 Express Tour from Toms Barefoot tours. Blue Hawaiin offers a longer more comprehensive tour for only $259 in an A-Star ($289 ECO-Star). for $450 Sunshine offers first-class seating in an ECO-Star, which is a lot of money! But their FX Star Open Seating is $285. Pacific Helicopters will take your doors off from only $324 and will be an experience to really remember.
Pacific Helicopter Tours – West Maui and Molokai – R44 $299 – DoorsOff + $25
- Cost – $234 – $349
- Duration – 40 -60 Mins
The Hana/Haleakala Tours take you up to the alien landscape of the Haleakala crater where you will explore the incredible Martian-like vistas as you fly down into the crater. The tour then takes you over to Hana and the dense remote rainforest with deep valleys and thousands of waterfalls. Anyone who has driven to Hana would be amazed by the number of waterfalls that the road passes but the amount of falls that are beyond the reach of earthbound folks
- Cost – $327 – $429
- Duration – 60 -70 Mins
A combination of the West Maui Tour and the Hana/Haleakala Tour Gives you a full taste of the island in one tour. You miss Molokai’s incredible Sea cliffs.
Who Needs Doors?
Some Operators offer a Doors off experience. This is a truly novel way to experience a flight as the safety bubble that is provided by the cabin is shattered. The increased vision and exposure to the elements really amps up the excitement but can also add to the fear factor if that is a worry for you.
Photographers will get MUCH better shooting opportunities by choosing
Pacific Helicopter Tours – for $25 extra any of Pacific Helicopter Tours can be done Doors Off. The Robinson R44 is a small 4 Seater Helicopter and these are very exciting tours with great views from every seat!
Another Option most operators include is a landing at some point along the tour to get out and experience the normally remote setting while enjoying the provided refreshments. This adds a luxurious exclusive feel to the experience of being whisked off to a private location to enjoy a glass of fizz in secluded private surroundings. We don’t always feel these are great value though, we go on helicopter tours for the flying.
We are big fans of the West Maui and Molokai tours. Not only is it one of the cheapest tours it also allows access to views and locations that a simply unavailable without a helicopter. While the Views of Haleakala are incredible you can visit the crater by car, again the Rainforests of Hana can be seen on a drive down the Hana Highway. Yes, we know the Views are far superior from the air but still, you get a taste.
With the Trip over to Molokai, you are witnessing the incredible sea cliffs that are just not realistically accessible by any other means. And the only tors that head over to Molokai are the Specific ones, the whole Island Tours only cover Maui! Also in Whale Season, this is your best chance of seeing whales from the air!
There are 3 main Aircraft used by Maui’s Helicopter tour operators. The A-Star (AS-350) the ECO-Star (EC-130) and the Robinson R44
A-Star – AS-350
- Operators – Air Maui, Sunshine (FX-Star).
The A-Star Helicopter is a true workhorse of an aircraft. As a type, it has clocked up millions of air miles and has served faithfully for years. This is a 7 seater helicopter including a Pilot. So there are six passengers 2 in the front 4 along the back. The Choppers are aging a bit but they are still great aircraft. If you are looking for a budget tour they will serve you very well.
ECO-Star – EC-130
- Operators – Blue Hawaiian, Sunshine (Whisper-Star), Maverick.
The ECO-Star is the A-Stars replacement. It’s essentially the same aircraft only more modern. From a passenger’s point of view expect a slightly roomier cabin, better seats, and a less obstructed view. They are quieter, but with headsets on this won’t matter really. We feel the ECO-Star is an upgrade worth taking. There are considerable technical upgrades that make for a more stable flight and the whole purpose of a helicopter tour is the view so it makes sense to get the best available.
- Operators – Pacific Helicopter Tours
The R44 is completely different from the Star aircraft. Smaller, lighter, and more nimble with the opportunity for doors off experiences. It’s also a 4 seater so if you are a couple there will be only you and the Pilot. This is a big plus or us. Again this is a very popular helicopter that has a long proven track record of safety and reliability.
Blue Hawaiian has been operating Helicopter tours on the Hawaiian Islands for Decades. They have a fantastic safety record and are renowned for their rigorous safety-minded operation. They have excellently maintained helicopters and their tours and prices are very competitive.
Air Maui is a budget operator and only has a fleet of A-Star helicopters. They only operate on Maui and know the islands very well. They also are the only operator to offer A-Star doors off tours.
This is a National operator with Tour companies in a number of States. This leads to a very slick well-run operation with top-rate Helicopters and competitive prices. We dislike the practice of charging extra for the front seats. However, if front seats are a MUST paying the extra will guarantee that!
Maverick is another national company operating in a number of states and locations. Again this is no bad thing. and Maverick offers a good service. They are ECO-Star only so appear expensive but are almost on par when compared like for like with other ECO-Star tours. Their tours all have unique sounding names but they are just the usual offerings as per the other operators.
The first four operators mentioned are all fairly similar. The same helicopters, similar tours, etc. Pacific Helicopter tours are significantly different. For one the R-55 helicopters are completely different. being 4-seat lightweight aircraft with the ability to have the doors off. They also offer a couple of tours the others don’t such as 3 islands (Maui, Molokai, and Lanai) and West Maui Mountains.
Their prices are higher but so much considering you are essentially booking a private tour!
We have always chosen Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Mainly due to the reputation and safety record. You just feel in very safe hands. But it’s a close call. The Big 4 are very similar and you can book confidently knowing you will receive a great service. There are just no cowboys in this sort of industry as it is just so heavily regulated by the FAA any dodgy operation will be quickly exposed and shut down.
Pacific Helicopter tours are also a good bet. Their R-44’s are just such a different experience. However, It’s not all good. The R-44’s offer a much bumpier ride than the bigger choppers and the doors off is certainly an exciting experience. if you are looking for a relaxed sightseeing tour a doors-off r-44 is not for you. It’s more of an adrenaline ride. Which is great but it’s not for everyone.
The biggest tip is to wear dark colors. The windows have a terrible habit of reflecting light colors and obscuring the View. Especially a problem for photographers. Darker colors limit this problem.
Try and book in the morning if possible. Cloud and wind increase as the day goes on making the flight, less comfortable and less enjoyable. Very early morning is not recommended though due to higher amounts of cloud. Somewhere around late morning and mid-day is the sweet spot between any cloud burning off but the winds not yet picking up…but remember where the weather is concerned it’s always a gamble!
Apart from Sunshine who charges for front seating your choice of seats is always a gamble. Obviously, couples and groups are seated together. But Front or back is down to a computer. It’s supposed to be for weights and balances but the reality is it’s often just potluck. No amount of complaining will elicit a change as that would obviously be unfair to the swapped passengers. Yes, the Front seats are better, but the back seats are still really good. The elevated position means you are still looking out the front end and you have a large side window to look out of too. The left or right side is pretty irrelevant as any impressive sight or vista the pilot will ensure both sides get a good look.
I have a bit of a fear of heights and flying. I have spent a lot of time in light aircraft and large aircraft for that matter even flying them solo. I have never really got over the fear of being in the air. In the ECO-Star it wasn’t an issue, certainly no more than being in a large commercial airline. A helicopter feels very different from an airplane which feels like you are flying a Helicopter is more like a floating platform. and personally, I find that far less fear-provoking.
If you have a severe fear of flying or heights then this is probably not the experience for you. But if you are only moderately nervous then the Helicopters’ stable platform provides a quite relaxing experience. While there is a little bumping caused by turbulence it’s not severe and the pilot will tend to avoid bad areas. If flying on a commercial just causes you no issues then you should be fine with a helicopter tour. Seeing as nearly everyone arrives on Maui by plane, you should be OK.
All Helicopter operations out of Maui are subject to very strict safety concerns and accidents are incredibly rare. These operations fly hundreds of thousands of tourists every year-round Maui and the Helicopters themselves as a type have millions of safe hours of operation. We have read in guidebooks and online about how these can be dangerous, pointing to the odd incident a year. The reality is the Aircraft are used all over the world with a fantastic record and are subject to the most stringent of safety checks and inspections. You are far more likely to be killed on the drive to the heliport than you are on your tour. And FAR FAR more likely to have an accident driving to Hana. The Ocean in Maui Kills Scores every year but the beaches are still packed. No activity is 100% safe but Helicopter tours seem to cop for more flack than they deserve.
Have Your Say
Let us know if you have taken a Helicopter tour of Maui? Or anywhere else for that matter? We love hearing about different activities all over the world to see how they compare. Or if you have any questions or comments at all on our post please just leave us a comment below. We would love to hear from you or recommend a tour for you personally.