Helicopter ride around Oahu
* In collaboration with the Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber, all thoughts and opinions were my own.
It was an early morning wake up call from the friendly phone service at the Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber, oh yes I did ask for that 6am wake up call. What am I doing again so early in the morning, I asked myself in a half daze – oh yeah, I’m booked for a morning helicopter tour around the entire island of Oahu. I quickly sprang out of bed, excited about the morning flight that I would be taking very soon. In my opinion, I think one of the best ways to see Hawaii is definitely from above on a helicopter around the island. The tour with Novictor Helicopter takes you all around the coastline, through the Pali (mountain areas) and many stunning landscapes around Oahu. It’s a fun and thrilling ride that everyone needs to experience when you visit Oahu and see how spectacular and colorful the island looks from far above.
A morning helicopter ride around Oahu
The first thing I learn when you are flying on Novictor Helicopters is that there are no doors around you and you are completely exposed to the outdoors. Let me say that the experience can be both exciting and extremely frightening at the same time. I also had the privilege of riding up front with the Novictor pilot and if you are a thrill seeker and not afraid of heights (which I am) then riding up front is an amazing flying experience. Needless to say I didn’t know what was in store ahead considering the last time I took a morning helicopter tour at the Grand Canyon, which was fairly tame in comparison to this experience. Flying above Oahu island is a totally different experience where you can see and feel everything: the winds, updrafts, the pilot adjusting every minute movements to the helicopter – it can leave you scared witless and at the same time in awe of the amazing views that you will be seeing.
Getting ready for take off
The helicopter terminal is at the opposite side of busy Honolulu international airport. Once inside the terminal, we are given a quick orientation going over some safety measures and protocols to observe during take off, the flight and final landing. After the instructions, we put on our life vest, a yellow pouch I’m carrying to be used for any emergency water landing (I’m sure we wouldn’t be using this right?) Then we board a golf cart to the tarmac where the helicopters are staged. Fortunately, we are allowed to take some photographs of our helicopter, ours is the red helicopter (above with no doors). We follow the coordinator by walking in between the cones to the helicopter and individually climb in, get buckled in and then given ear phones to block out the noise. After a quick introduction to our pilot and clearance from the tower, we take off quickly along the coastline towards Honolulu.
Leaving Honolulu International Airport
Flying over Honolulu
I loved that the take off from the airport was slow and easy, then we quickly made our way through the port of Honolulu and city. The views around us were already spectacular with the harbor and downtown area unfolding before us in sharp details. Surprisingly, we kept heading up higher in altitude and the views of the entire area of Honolulu and then Waikiki were quickly coming into view and looking very, very small. It’s amazing to view everything from above Waikiki including the beaches, shopping venues and all of Waikiki’s historic landmarks. The entire area from downtown Honolulu to Waikiki looked quite compact when you see it from above, and all the crowds of tourists looked even smaller, like little ants crawling all over the place.
Entering Waikiki beach
Approaching Diamond Head crater
Next on the tour, we were approaching Waikiki’s natural landmark at Diamond Head. It is really amazing to see the entire crater from above, flying around it to see all the details of the crater including the interior which is completely green with plants and trees. While the pilot was sharing some interesting details about the crater, all I could actually remember was her saying that once we get around the crater, it gets a little bumpy ahead. And suddenly it turned more into a thrill ride and adventure. Needless to say after feeling the first major updraft, I quickly stopped taking any photos and tried to grab anything to secure myself in the front even though there’s nothing much to hold onto except for the window trim or the bottom of your seat. It was then that I realized how far up we had actually flew in elevation (note the full view of the crater).
A thrill ride at Diamond Head
While flying around Diamond Head, I picked up how much more sensory oriented the helicopter ride would be with all the winds swirling and turbulence adding to the overall experience. Even though I don’t consider myself afraid of heights, the feeling of all the wind rushing through the helicopter, the sudden turbulence and the pilot making all these quick throttle changes to the instruments were completely putting me off balance and slightly terrified at sitting in the front seat. I just realized at that moment – the pilot was in charge of every movement and decision in steering the helicopter to a secure a safe flying altitude around the crater. My mind was numb and all I could think of was that I hope we clear Diamond Head quickly into a safer flying zone ahead, which we eventually did when the pilot picked a stable flying zone for us to proceed. Glad that my camera and phone were fastened securely, I then continued to focus on taking some wonderful photographs of the experience and enjoy the rest of the ride.
Flying through the east coast of Oahu
Once the rough weather subsided after we passed Diamond Head, the pilot secured a nice and safe flying zone just off the coastline of East Oahu with some lovely vistas coming into view. I was more relaxed at this point spotted some spectacular scenery all around us. Flying along the coastline were small communities, harbors and islands with white capped surf rushing towards the sandy beaches. Closer to the shoreline were these beautiful shallow coral rings (photos below) dotting the entire coastline and creating these unusual and colorful formations in the water. Many of the towns were located closer to the water, leaving the mountain areas still untouched and in their natural state.
Expansive white sandy beaches on Oahu’s east coast
Gorgeous shallow coral reefs from above
The coastal mountains of the Ko’olau Range
Oahu’s green mountains and valleys
Around the coastal ranges of Oahu’s eastern side, the scenery becomes even more spectacular. The clouds all around the island were creating this dramatic light up on the mountains and spotlighting some magnificent images of the ridged cliffs in the Ko’olau Range. Even though it was getting cloudy up ahead, the beautiful light created dappled highlights throughout the Pali (coastal mountains). I couldn’t stop taking pictures with all this stunning imagery continuing while we flew along the coastline. It seemed like the views just kept getting more impressive as we pass through the eastern side of the island and up to the northern part of Oahu where everything is lush and green. I don’t think you could have asked for a better day for flying and taking pictures of this awesome landscape, although I’m sure this weather and dramatic views happen every day on the island.
Verdant green hills of the Ko’olau Range
Even though I was busy looking at all the magnificent landscape and clicking away with both my camera and cell phone, I was also trying to find the right balance up in the front so I wouldn’t disturb the pilot (it’s very tight with all the controls up in the front seats). Around us was an endless sea of greens and emeralds, it was quite dazzling to see and unexpected considering that Oahu has over one million people living on this tiny island. While we were starting to pass through some of the more turbulent areas around the mountains, the pilot maintained a cool level of calm, offering some historic details and trivia to what we were seeing around us just to keep us calm. Of course all of this was lost while I tried to take photos and try to find something I could hold on the helicopter without loosing my balance. Fortunately, I was able to take some decent shots from flying about the Pali in spite of the rough winds that were distracting me – it helps to have a digital camera that you can take unlimited photos. (I did have to erase quite a few blurred pictures that didn’t quite make the cut in this post, lol).
Approaching Pearl Harbor
Before you know it, the 45 minute circle tour is almost over and we do a quick pass around Pearl Harbor to check out some of the historic ships and landmarks around the harbor including the USS Arizona Memorial, which we passed through more slowly so we could take better pictures. I must say seeing Pearl Harbor from above gives you a better idea about how important Oahu’s past and present military presence is on Hawaii. The harbor is still a strategic operation for all the different branches of the military, while Honolulu harbor next door maintains an important function in moving cargo and food supplies to all of outer islands in Hawaii.
Flying above the USS Arizona Memorial
Decommissioned aircraft carriers in Pearl Harbor
Back to Honolulu airport
We fly around the perimeter of the airport and finally land back at the helicopter tarmac and walk to the golf cart. From there it’s a quick ride back to the terminal where the driver is waiting to take us back to Waikiki and our hotel. The ride back to Waikiki was fun with a friendly driver who stopped at different points along the way so we could take pictures of places we saw from above including Ala Moana beach and the Ala Moana shopping center.
Back to Waikiki
The entire experience with Novictor Helicopter tours was really first class. I loved how the service is streamlined and timed perfectly from the pick up point, an efficient check in process and safety briefing, then the ride to the helicopter and actual tour. Well after all that excitement, I couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel at the Holiday Inn and slow it down a few notches by taking a nice long morning nap and then a dip in the pool. If you’re wondering what my stay at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber was like, check out my post here . I have to say, it was perfect for just a weekend getaway.
I had a fantastic weekend getaway on Oahu at Waikiki. I hope you enjoyed this quick review of my post covering a Helicopter ride around Oahu. Please do share the post with any of the social media buttons around the post, if you enjoyed reading the article. If you would like to do a fun getaway to Waikiki, you can check out the hotel and features of the Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber here. Also, if you want to take the same amazing helicopter ride with Novictor helicopters, you can check out their website here.